Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

I thought that it started when our most recent tank recruit went missing. Voss pointed out that actually, it started when our DK tank stopped raiding about a year ago, and thereafter followed a cascade of turnover such as we’d never tackled before. Constant recruiting is wearing on a team, and the subsequent struggle as new players joined and the recruitment pool shallowed have made this a fairly hellish year for one small tens guild. Obviously, I can’t claim to speak for all guilds, and never have. I’m sure many guilds have had great years, and I’m happy for you. But not in this post, because this post is all about me, and my guild.

Players dropped out one by one, with expressions of regret. They weren’t leaving for greener pastures, they were just leaving. “Tired of raiding,” “Not really feeling it,” “Would rather be doing something else.” I used to say to Voss jokingly, “We’ll stop recruiting if we lose x number of players at a time, or we’ll stop recruiting if we lose x percentage of our original team.” (I never followed through on that, by the way). Each time we lost someone, I’d hit the forums and WoW Lemmings. I’d refresh tirelessly throughout the day in-between work I was doing. I’d write personalized messages to convince people that BT was the guild they wanted to be in. For the most part, it worked. But it was like a full-time job. I spoke to potential applicants, fielded questions, did my best marketing pitch. I was always positive about the guild, and always happy to bring people to it, because I believed in the small community we’d made and wanted people to join it.

Meantime, our progression started slipping. From a One-Light and a Tribute to Insanity to an H LK guild we slipped – to a 7/13 H guild, then a post-nerf 6/7 H guild, and finally, in this tier, a 0/8 H guild. Vosskah was right – the missing tank was only the last straw in an uphill battle I feel I’ve been waging all year, a struggle to stay above water.

I’d committed to raiding Dragon Soul despite a deep tiredness that was underscored by the loss of my Grandfather at the end of November. It caused me to question many things personally – was I spending too much time on what is, ultimately, a video game? Did I want this to be such a major feature of my life? Could I reinvest my energy in another area? Who would I be if I wasn’t the guild leader of Business Time? How central was it to my identity? And more importantly, to me, how could I let everyone down like that?

It was a question that pushed me to start out in Dragon Soul even though I was tired, even though I knew I wasn’t doing my best as guild leader any more. I wasn’t logging in as often as I should, I wasn’t pursuing applicants as aggressively as I should. I wasn’t keeping up with the standards I had set for myself, and when our tank failed to show up for last Wednesday’s raid, I had a sinking feeling. A day went by with no word from him, two days. We still hadn’t heard, and I realized as the weekend loomed, two facts:

He wasn’t coming back.

I didn’t have the heart to replace him.

In a moment, just like that, I was done. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, as if a lethargy had settled over me. I knew that if that’s how I felt, I had to come clean to the guild and tell them exactly how I felt. So I did, in an epic post that will remain for BT’s eyes only. I talked about our struggles, I talked about how damn proud I was of them, and more than anything I told them how sorry I was that I just didn’t have any more left to give. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, and I couldn’t even clearly articulate what had driven me to this point. I knew that by posting it, I was acknowledging the possibility that the guild would disband, or at least dissipate. It was a hard realization, but it was a choice between the dissolution of the guild and the continuing impact on my personal life and I think, my health. Please note (because guildies do read) that I have to write this for myself, to get it all off my chest and to sort through it, and none of it is meant as an accusation or a criticism of the folks in BT. Of course they aren’t perfect, and neither am I (duh) but really, there’s no hindsight ‘if only this’ or ‘if only that.’ Burnout happens. I think that ‘victims’ of burnout are probably often to blame because they failed to delegate properly, or even to give warning signs that they were feeling that way. That is absolutely my failing. I’m a firm believer that strong leadership doesn’t show weakness because as soon as you show signs of faltering, the entire team begins to doubt. In this case, I did us all a disservice because there was little warning. I posted that I needed some help, around the end of November, and then the beginning of January I was saying: I need to not be guild leader.

I blithely pretended that our slow progression through heroics didn’t frustrate me. Of course it did, it frustrated all of us. What we were selling (a hard mode progression guild) wasn’t matching up with the reality: a guild that did hard modes but not all of them, and lately, a guild increasingly struggling with hard modes. Our new tank was very green and hadn’t done hard mode raiding at all. It was evident that he would have to learn, even before he disappeared. Underscoring all of it, I felt, was a sense of ennui.

Forums that used to be hopping with activity in the strategy threads slowly dwindled to very little discussion. Mumble grew silent on progression nights. Voss admitted to me that he didn’t have the interest in hard modes that he’d once had, and I had to admit I felt the same. Was Business Time doing hard modes because we liked to do them, or were we trying to do them because they were what we’d always done? I asked myself this and many other questions. In the wake of my massive forum post, a few guildies spoke up. They wanted to have a meeting so that we could talk about what I’d said, and what the potential outcome might be.

I prepared for the meeting with open eyes: There were three potential outcomes to this kind of guild shakeup.

1) Someone could step forward and assume leadership of the guild, with the realization that it would take a lot of time and work and recruiting. With Vosskah and I ceasing raiding, at the least, they’d need two new tanks and another DPS and a healer who’d also declared his intent to slow raiding.

2) I considered this a compromise between the two options; Business Time could decide to go casual, scale back our raiding operations significantly, and no longer attempt hard mode progression.

3) We could cease all raiding completely (effectively an end to the guild).

Option two was my favourite, and I even admitted that in light of the reduced requirements of option two, I would be willing to remain guild leader. We wouldn’t really recruit except friends and social members if folks had anyone they wanted to bring aboard. Every single guild member attended the meeting, and every single guild member voted for option two. (I am not so secretly pleased that, like a true DPS, I tricked my guild into spamming “two.” That might only be funny to me.)

So from there we had to figure out just what shape option two would take. Would we raid on the same day? For the time being we’ve agreed to make it a variable day based on availability each week, as well as tracking who has to sit (because we still have a roster of thirteen) so that nobody has to sit unfairly. This week we’re raiding Monday, and I’ll admit, it feels completely weird to be writing this on a Wednesday. Wednesday is Raid Day. All night I’ve been wandering around a bit lost, cooking supper at a leisurely pace, browsing the internet, chatting with Voss, and letting it sink in. For two years, we were raiding any two to three days of Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He’d come home, we’d cook supper hurriedly (or I’d have it ready beforehand) and we’d race to be online a half hour before raid time. Even on a night when we were on standby, we’d often check in to make sure we weren’t needed. We’d check the forums for any “I’m not going to be able to make it” messages. We’d prepare the raid roster, although in recent weeks that task has been assumed by another officer. We’d talk about the roster and any difficulties. Every day may as well have been an “officer meeting.” I don’t feel at liberty to go into Voss’ personal reasons, but we were both exhausted.

What made it even harder though, was that we were tired of the raiding, not the people we were raiding with. I think many hobbies do have an expiry or a limited time on them. Gaming in general is a life-long hobby for me. Even WoW itself I have played for almost four years now. I couldn’t turn my back on the raiding without feeling that I was turning my back on ‘my guys.’ So to say I was absolutely astonished at the guild meeting is putting it mildly. I steeled myself to this decision. I wrote the post. I sat there crying for five minutes while my mouse button hovered over the “submit” button, feeling like I was pulling the trigger on something I loved, that had been a huge part of my life for two years.

I was pretty shocked when I decided to turn away from my guild, and they wouldn’t let me.

We went down the list of people, giving each a chance to talk about their feelings and goals. Many admitted that their life circumstances had changed since we first started raiding. Their enthusiasm for hard mode content had waned, their time available to play the game had been reduced, but they still loved playing with all of us. “I love you guys,” our rogue declared.

“You’re going to make me CRY,” I admonished them all. (Cry AGAIN, that is).

“Yeah, we actually agreed to do that beforehand, it was an e-mail FWD titled, ‘Let’s see if we can make her cry.'”

*pause*

“Voss was in on it.”

I don’t want to get into my feelings about hard modes in general, encounter design, or why I think Ulduar was still the best raid I’ve ever done. Perhaps that’s for another post, and anyway, that strays into “maligning the way other people play” territory. I still respect hard mode raiders, it just took a great loss and a potential second loss to make me realize that I’m no longer one of them. I don’t have the drive to succeed at that level of content that I once did, and you know what? For the time being, I’m okay with that. Ironically, considering my last post, we had just as much fun messing around in LFR last week when our tank didn’t show up. We like the time spent raiding together, and that’s not dependent on the content we’re doing.

All of this to say: I’m still a guild leader. I’m now the guild leader of a one-night-a-week, social and casual raiding guild. It feels a bit odd, but I’m sure it will grow comfortable over time. I don’t know what the future will bring – there may come a time when commitments or other interests drag people away from the game altogether. But as I told Business Time at our guild meeting, even if they quit to play Diablo III: Battle.net allows us to play that together. Those who are playing SWTOR have made characters in our little sister guild. I have a lot of the guys on Steam. If I’m playing any multi-player game, I want to be doing it with them. If that’s what I take away from this game the day the servers go dark – friends that transcend any particular game, any specific pixels – that’s more fortune than any person could ask for. I’m humbled, I’m proud, and as of this week – I’m also casual. It feels good.

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Comments on: "Business Time, Hard Modes, and the “C” Word" (32)

  1. Damn it Vid…I’m crying right now :c

    I can’t really think of much to say tonight, as it’s been a long evening for me, but I wish you all the best!

  2. It’s always important to take a step back and realize things aren’t how you’d like them to be. It’s good to see you did, Vid. Frustration is a slow and painful way to ruin anything. I’m glad you rid yourself of it before it was too late and bad things happened. The path of being casual is interesting, and I’m finding myself in the same position. May the winds be at your back as you travel down it.

  3. /feels that pain

    We’re (the collective we of my guild) all in different places than we were when we started playing WoW, when we started raiding, when we started in the guild, etc, and it took a *lot* of time to realize that fact. We were a 25 man guild in BC & LK, one of the best Horde-side for BC… and fairly-good during LK (and I think this is the part where the realization just hadn’t set in yet). Guild leadership was just damn tired of trying to twist arms, beg, and bribe to get 25 signups every week, and I think we finally just sort of had that lightbulb epiphany a couple of weeks into Cata and basically retired as a 25m raiding guild. Now we’re a 10 man casual guild that really wants to get our HMs down, but even still, it feels like we’re sliding every so slowly away from that, too.

    I’m glad the affection for your group is still so solid, that’s amazing and feels like it can be hard to hold on to in this game sometimes.

  4. Yup, there’s my torrent of tears. That was lovely – sad but with a happy ending.

  5. “Ennui” seems to be the word for the times. SWTOR may not be a WoW-killer, but it seems to be a guild-wrecker. Not to say this is the case for BT, but collectively it does shallow out the talent pool, even if it doesn’t outright cause attrition in a guild.

    I am, however, very glad that I can keep this blog in the “active” folder of my blogroll. Far too many have gone silent or moved on. It’s nice to see some familiar faces around.

    Hope casual raiding suits you and yours!

  6. good choice. good transistion to more or to less. sometimes it really is just about having fun with the group (community) you’ve gotten to know through time working together and holding onto that actual REAL reason to be playing…..u might say: “i am getting together with a group of friends to play a game tonight. yes, we have a great time every wednesday!” or u might say: “i lead a raiding guild, we have to… and…. to stay ####. fun? often but frustrating too.” wow has evolved so we must also.
    you and your guild have chosen to keep what is valuable. i was in a similar situation before wrath and we chose number three. it may have worked out for some, but for most it was the loss of exactly what you have kept that made finding a new “home” or “reason i play” so difficult for the varying durations that some stayed playing.
    good luck to you and happy raiding!

  7. “Voss was in on it.”

    I laughed out loud at that line.

    You have to play what makes you happy. And sometimes it’s not just choosing the right character, but choosing the right activities, the right schedules, the right commitment.

    Congratulations to you both. Casual isn’t a dirty word. :)

    (Neither is twinking, come roll some 70s!) :)

    • I snickered too, Cyn.

      Vid, don’t beat yourself up over trying to hold back the tide. You made the right choice. There will be more choices to come as life goes on, and you might find that you’ll have time for other things.

      Raiding is a choice. Playing is a choice. We are shaped by the choices we make, and who we spend that time with. If you derive as much pleasure forging ahead and going casual as you did when you were running Ulduar hard modes, then you made the right choice. The Vid of two years ago wouldn’t have made the decision of the Vid of today, but that’s because life happens. Things change.

      Besides, you’ll have plenty more time to play games such as Pathfinder or Burning Wheel or even a game like Pandemic. ;-)

  8. Awww, Vid. ((hug))

    I am sad for you that it has come to this, but glad for you in how your guild responded. I hope that you can start enjoying raiding again instead of being wearied by it.

  9. I had to retweet it because I always admire your ability to admit hard things. Reading your post really stirs emotions in me, because they are coveyed so well. And truthfully.

    I don’t think casual is a dirty word. Times change. You never know if in 3 years you will be thinking of going hard modes again, but for now when I read your post it was almost like you kept at it for the memory of the good times, like that was what was expected of you.

    Accepting your change and being satisfied with it is harder than quitting the game, I think. I think you are courageous Vid. You have once again inspired me with your ability to stand up and I thank you for the inspiring and evoking read.

  10. Well done Vid – it was a brave thing to do and you got the best outcome, I believe!

    I was going to write a lot more sharing my similar move – although I still haven’t formulated it quite so eloquently even in the confines of my head. My transition was from aspiring to be where BT is heading to an even more casual affair! Long live LFR in my case. But I’ll keep it short by saying that I can really recommend changing to a play-style that suits you and your guild – I’m probably enjoying WoW more because I can take part in so many different forms of the game! Enjoy!

  11. This is such a common subject nowadays that’s it’s almost considered normal with the problems so many people are having these days with numbers, feeling burnt out, having enough people on and recruiting. I wish you guys lots of good times together in the future as a more casual Guild. I don’t think I could hand the reins over for my Guild to another since it’s conception arose from a very personal notion.

    Isn’t that what it’s all about though. To gain lifelong friends even if they are on the other side of the world.

  12. IMHO, you handled the whole situation with grace, and you deserve major props for your honesty and your compassion for your guildies. Just keep in mind that it’s a GAME, something to have fun with, to relax with, to enjoy. If it’s not fun anymore, if it truly becomes a CHORE, then there’s no shame in shaking things up. The response from your guild members just proves my point about the leadership qualities you’ve displayed. I hope that one day I can be in guild with a GM a great as you are.

  13. I think your health and happiness comes first before the game. Being casual isn’t anything bad, it just a different way of playing the game. I hope you can start enjoying the game again soon. /hugs.

  14. Isisxotic said:

    This is a great post. We’re on Moonrunner, too, and every time I see someone in Business Time, I just smile. I’m really glad to hear that you’re still able to raid together as a group, even if the setting is different than what you expected.

    Our guild had only one of our four healers on Tuesday night for our raid. And I’m good, but I can’t solo heal Dragon Soul! So we took what we had, and went into LFR. And ya know what? It was a blast, because the group of people we have are amazing.

  15. I applaud and admire your strength, Vid. I truly hope you and Voss continue having fun :)

  16. I was in much the same boat. I’m really happy you and Voss have found peace with your place within the game again and are enjoying yourselves oncemore. Getting that stress monkey off your back is so very liberating!

    The passage particularly spoke to me: “it feels completely weird to be writing this on a Wednesday. Wednesday is Raid Day. All night I’ve been wandering around a bit lost, cooking supper at a leisurely pace, browsing the internet, chatting with Voss, and letting it sink in.”

    The last two weeks have been super weird for me on what would normally be raid nights. This new found free time I suddenly have was very confusing initially, but I think I’m very comfortable with it now. The oddness will pass with a short amount of time. :)

  17. Ullariend said:

    As a member of Vid’s guild, I am happy with the decision we made.

    I could definitely feel the WoW raiding formula starting to wear thin, I had less patience with each patch in Cata, and did not feel excited about hard mode progression in Dragon Soul. I was still having fun, and would have been happy to keep going with raiding as we had been for a while longer. But it wasn’t really because of the game anymore. I didn’t mind the game, and it was something to organize activities with people I really like around.

    I do feel a sense of a loss of identity. Even if it wasn’t something I talked about, I thought of myself as a “raider” and took pride in what BT has done. It’s not really an upsetting thing, but its a really weird feeling.

    I am still apprehensive that there will be a summer camp type thing where we all promise to write all the time, then slowly drift away. I guess at worst that w

    Without the raiding commitment keeping me up to 11pm multiple nights a week, I am looking forward to starting to go to bed earlier so that I can get up in the mornings to exercise before work.

    • Ullariend said:

      I also have to say that I’m really grateful for the way you handled everything with your need to change direction, and that you didn’t just try to keep plugging along when your heart wasn’t in it. That would have not been good for any of us, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for you doing something that wasn’t good for you.

      The same goes for all the other BT members. A twitter exchange I saw Vosskah have made me smile. So many of us were raiding to keep the group together when our hearts weren’t in the game, making us selfless morons. Someone else replied with “I think you misspelled devoted friends”

      And that whoosh you heard was the whole spamming number two thing going over my head

  18. Vid, you’re a class act, and you handled this situation with class. Keeping the people together is far more important than achievements. And you’ll still kill Internet dragons…you’ll just kill them at a slower pace.

  19. Welcome to the dark side! We have cookies. (Casual raiders that is)

    Ever since I found your blog, in the back of my head I was wanting to be a part of it. I love tanking and I think you guys would provide the perfect place for me to do hardmode content… but then I remembered why I still play WoW, and that is solely because of the people I play with.

    A lot of people that are new to WoW or have not raided with a close group of friends don’t understand why we prefer to bring friends only into our guild.

    Progression bring pressure that only turn into excitement when it can be done. The moment that you don’t have everyone 100% committed to that goal, you cannot move forward with it. You can replace a tank, but you cannot replace a voice of calm, or that person that goes the extra mile and seem to always hit the right cooldown at the right time. You also cannot replace the voices that make a wipe seem funny rather than a waste of time.

    I think you will enjoy the game tons more, you will still raid, you will still probably eventually do hardmodes, there will just be no pressure. There will be more alt runs… it will be a lot more fun.

    On another note, I cannot wait for you to post on (I don’t want to get into my feelings about hard modes in general, encounter design, or why I think Ulduar was still the best raid I’ve ever done. Perhaps that’s for another post, and anyway, that strays into “maligning the way other people play” territory.”)

    I am very curious to hear your take on that.

  20. Mugician13 said:

    De-lurking to say, I’ve enjoyed all your posts, and I’m glad you’ve settled into a spot where it’s fun to play the game again.

    I’ve never led a guild, nor been a “hardcore” raider. Big reason being, it seems a lot like a second job, I play this game for relaxation, and generally speaking, jobs =/= relaxing.

    World of Warcraft is a game. When it stops being fun, it’s OK to quit playing. That or, change the rules so it becomes fun again.

    Now that you’ve changed the rules, and the weight of responsibility is off, you can enjoy those nights off. Hell, make it 3 nights in a row, settle in with the Voss & some popcorn, browse the Internet, queue up some good stuff on Netflix, clean the kitchen… do what your soul tells you needs doing at the moment. You’re not letting anyone down if you do what’s right for you.

    (( An’ when ya all gettin’ ta be feelin’ like it, ya done got dem friends in Azerot’ ya can hang wit’ an’ have some fun dere, too. ))

    Regards,
    ~~Jajiko, Sentinels server.

  21. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails”
    -Bertha Calloway

  22. Sorry about the flaky off-tank position. Not being able to raid because of a missing person who doesn’t show up with no warning is the worst feeling in the game for me.

    But on topic, I’ve been feeling something similar since we killed Madness.

    Do we really want to wade into Heroics? Do I want to go through a progression run all over again? So far we’ve avoided it, but I feel of two minds about it.

    On the one hand, I want to wreck hard modes like nobody’s business.

    On the other hand, I kind of like feeling like I don’t have to worry about progression and we can just knock out DS in a single night and do some H:T11 for fun. Like Sinestra or something. Beer’n’raid kind of thing.

    Maybe something is in the water. Who knows.

    The one thing I don’t get is the whole “WoW is a game” thing, and I know for sure that Hardmode raiding isn’t fun for a lot of people. I’m SO GLAD you didn’t write a “I’ve had enough” post but rather a “it might not be for me anymore” post which is awesome. Often times, these posts become a “I’m kicking a drug” post which makes feel like shit from reading them. But this was more of an amicable break-up which is bitter-sweet but doesn’t turn the stomach of people who’re in a relationship still.

    If that makes sense.

    I’m’a stop typin’ now.

  23. That was a touching post. Its hard to quit something that has been such a large part of your life. I basically left wow (I still play, but pretty much play it as a solo game). You have to do whats best for yourself long term. It sounds like you love it and love the relationships. Games should be fun. Hopefully it will be fun for you again. . .

  24. If I substituted key words like “raid” and “guild” and exchanged them with the jargon from my professional life, all I can say is, I understand. I’m not trying to be a dork, but I can’t shake the image of ruby-red slippers and feeling of being home all along…cheers to your wonderful post.

  25. Long time reader, never commented before (except in my head!) but your questioning “was I spending too much time on what is, ultimately, a video game? Did I want this to be such a major feature of my life?” is almost word-for-word what I’ve been thinking about the game and raiding lately too.
    Added in to that, the fights in Dragon Soul just don’t seem that interesting and hard-modes have the extra ‘why are we doing this – we’ve already saved the world once already’ factor. Especcially when the first quest rewards of Pandaria will probably be gear upgrades…

    Thanks for sharing this – hope it all works out and you continue to share your great blogs and artwork with us!

  26. [...] Manalicious, recently wrote the post, “Business Time, Hard Modes, and the “C” Word“  I was reading this post late one night, sitting in my dorm room when three lines she wrote [...]

  27. [...] and worth it.  Vidyala summed it up in a post of hers over at Manalicious, rightly titled “Business Time, Hard Modes, and the “C” Word“:  I still respect hard mode raiders, it just took a great loss and a potential second loss [...]

  28. [...] Beru and “Winds of Change.” Fannon and “Encouraging Infidelity: On Burnout And Blood Bowl.” Vidyala’s “Business Time, Hard Modes, And The “C” Word.” [...]

  29. [...] quite ready to move Production Company over into the previous guild category. I look at Vid’s transition to a weekly raider with hope, and try to rest the nagging worries that accompany such [...]

  30. [...] the last few months, countless Guilds and bloggers I follow have written about this. Vidyala wrote about it a few months ago, more recently Jaded Alt and Dragonray too. I spoke about the [...]

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