When I agreed to join the guild WTF, after Burry begged me into it, I knew I was about to become part of a more “prestigious” group of players within our tiny game. As such, I couldn’t just be sent an invite. I had to be interviewed by a guild master.
Burry and I were joined by the guild’s founder, Kipsy, who asked me a series of questions, most of which I have long since forgotten. I do remember him asking, however, why I played the game, and what friendship meant to me. I remember thinking how silly it all seemed, but I answered the inquiries kindly and patiently.
I left some sort of good impression, I suppose, because he sent me an invite upon concluding our interview.
When I accepted, my chatfeed came alive once more with a flood of greetings from current members. One of the salutations came from a player named Strongpudding. When he spoke, Kipsy told him to come meet the new recruit.
So, Pudding joined us, and I already felt oddly nervous, as it turned out he was a very popular GM, and a pretty well known player in the rest of the game, as Burry explained to me through tells. He was also one of the guild’s founding members, and apparently had a lot of emotion and time wrapped up in it.
“Welcome to WTF. Nice gear.” He said, after inspecting Rih.
“Thank you.” I replied. I felt downright awkward once more. I had been required to allow the full inspect, to prove I had equips worthy of admission, and had forgotten to replace my privacy setting before Strongpudding joined us.
“I think you’ll be a great asset to our community.”
I nodded, in real life, thinking, “yeah. Ok. I’m sure.” But, I knew I had to play along in order to not immediately make enemies. So, I told him “I will certainly try.”
Strongpudding certainly seemed like a nice enough kid, even if he was way more serious about the game than I would ever be. As such, I didn’t want to offend him, or make him feel like he couldn’t trust me.
The first couple of days in WTF, I still kept mostly to myself. But, as the holidays rolled around, more and more members were spending more time online during work and school breaks. It became increasingly difficult to be the awkward, new kid in the guild, especially when the officers’s awkwardness ended up outweighing my own.
A couple of nights before Christmas, Kipsy asked me to join him on a mission, winding our way aimlessly through dungeons. We’d completed a few levels when he stopped me before the elevator ride down to the next floor.
“I’m thinking of quitting this game. To focus on my writing. And getting my girlfriend back.”
I dropped the charge attack I’d loaded and, in real life, raised an eyebrow at the little avatar standing next to mine on my screen. “Well, those are very good reasons, I think.”
“Will you read some of the poems I wrote for her?”
Oh boy. I muttered a bit to myself in real life. Oh, shit.
“Sure.” I typed to him, even though I was nervous about the idea. This was, after all, only the second time I had spoken to him. Ever.
He asked the usual question. “What is your Steam name?”
“Ah, I don’t have Steam. Sorry.” I replied, feeling a rush of relief since sure he would not type his highly personal poems to me via game chat.
Or he would. And did. He typed them. To me. In the chatfeed…. his indeed very personal poems for his girlfriend. All up in my chatfeed.
I pinched my mouth in an uncomfortable half-smirk/frown, not sure how to respond. This was something I would have been more than willing to do for a close friend, whether IRL or online. But this was a guy I barely knew. I inched Rih onto the lift as he wrote his poetry to me, no doubt subconsciously wishing that he would accidentally step onto it and activate it.
He got about twenty lines into his first poem that he wanted to share when he stopped, and said, “AFK.”
“Oh… ok…” I replied. “Nice poem though.” I tacked on as an awkward afterthought. But was relieved for the AFK. It gave me time to figure out what I was going to tell him, how I would respond to this super personal poem.
I waited. And waited. Five minutes turned into ten minutes. I started to get angry. If I simply left the party, I would lose some of my achievements and drops. I would have to wait for him to return. I suddenly got the feeling that I was being held hostage in an actual dungeon. He’d been gone for so long, he should have let me simply leave the mission, but his poetry kept me trapped in the dungeon, as I prayed for a miracle. I was too polite (too stupid), to simply start to solo the mission either, so I sat on my couch, facebooking, checking back to see if he had returned.
After fifteen minutes of AFK, he timed out, his disconnection meaning that I automatically was whisked up the elevator, back to the town square. That particular GM never came back online after that, as far as I can remember. I suppose he must have really gone after his girl. And, for his sake, I hope it paid off. And I hope he’s kept that shit to himself, and her, from here on out.
My involvement with the guild became inevitable though, when Strongpudding asked me to take a couple of recruits with me on a level two boss one evening. I obliged, despite knowing better. The deaths were many, and as, people frequently say, I felt, most of the time, that I was herding cats. I could simply not keep up with fatal missteps and after the first couple of rooms, I called a halt to our proceedings. I spent time explaining the best tactics, not just in terms of gameplay, but the ways in which they could anticipate attacks from enemies, and what they should avoid doing. I was calm, and tried to be helpful, reassuring them that I understood they were simply getting the hang of the game.
When I finally got us out of there, just barely alive, I returned to minding my own business, until Strongpudding messaged me about an hour later. “Those recruits loved you. They say they learned a lot from you. Would you be willing to help others learn how to play?”
I cringed. This was something I was not all that willing to do. I wasn’t all that good to begin with. The things I taught the two noobs were things anyone could learn on their own, over time. I had simply given them a small boost. But, not wanting to be a jerk, I replied, with the most enthusiastic response I could type: “Sure!”
Little did I know, I had set off a massive chain reaction that lead to Strongpudding and our officers establishing what they would call “The Academy”. Our guild was, as it turned out, going to become a “teaching” guild. Those of us who were long time members, vets, and officers would be expected to teach and “train” incoming recruits. I became the tutor for the level one and level two bosses and was assigned three new recruits as my pupils.
Just sitting here typing this, I get the giggles. I was so miserable with this setup. All I really wanted to do was play the game, troll some people who deserved it, and make fun armor. That was all I cared about. But, now I was saddled with helping three people understand the game. Repeating three times the same set of directions since they never seemed to be on at the same time. And the few times they were, they filled my mission parties, and drained my revving energy quickly.
One of my recruits, however, was Hops. She was a couple years younger than I, and had the same sick sense of humor I did. We tried to keep roughly the same hours of playtime, and did the most runs together. It was a few days after Christmas that we were about to do a level two boss, but were first laughing, lamenting our old age when we were approached by Connect.
“I’m sorry… can I go with you? I just never find people who are my own age, and I’d like the company of some more mature players.”
Hops and I agreed, friending him, and thus was born my friendship with Connect. As time went on, my recruits quickly became adept at the game, and moved on to other “tutors” or even other guilds. The only one that stuck with me was Hops. She, Connect, Narfle and I became a running group. Between the three of us, we got her the gear she needed to continue to play successfully.
As this group of four became tight-knit however, I became less and less likely to tutor any of the new recruits assigned to me. Much the same thing happened with other senior members in the guild. They met people they liked as they taught them. And, since we were using our own techniques to teach them, our running groups rarely failed at killing anything. Great for the older community of the guild, but for the new recruits, and Strongpudding, this meant there was a gap in participation.
A few times, our GM begged us to continue doing our “work.” I would make half-hearted attempts, but most of the time, I was getting PM’s from so many people, that I spent more time talking to people outside of my run than I did teaching those whom I was supposed to be instructing.
This went on for awhile, us members and veterans not clear on how much we were frustrating Strongpudding. Finally, one day, he had it out with us over guild chat. Telling us he was tired of trying to keep the guild up and running on his own, and that his grades were failing as a result.
Being an ancient fossil myself, I told him that he should remain calm. That if he was having issues with his grades, then he needed to stop devoting so much time to a game, and go study. We would be fine without him. Many of us, even the younger kids who had no real clue what they were talking about, encouraged him in this sentiment.
It wasn’t too long after that I logged on one morning on a day off and found that Strongpudding was gone from the guild list, and my friends list. There were two new GM’s (Carpal and Ari) in place, and the guild’s size had dropped from roughly 100 members to about 85.
“What’s going on?” I asked over guild chat.
The most senior of the two new leaders replied. “Strongpudding has quit the game. He’s left me and Ari in charge.”
“Right. OK. So, this just happened?”
“And… all those people left?”
At this time, Coon spoke up. “Yes. He quit last night, and everyone knew this guild is dead.”
I chuckled in real life. “Well, let’s not get carried away. I mean, it sucks but we’re not necessarily screwed. It’s a pretty strong group of people, really.”
“No.” Coon replied. “I’m afraid this guild is dead. And, I’m sorry. Bye, guys.”
With that, he left the guild, to a chorus of horrified “No!”’s and “What!”’s
“I think that was maybe a little melodramatic.” I commented mindlessly in Coon’s fresh absence.
“I don’t.” Some one replied, and left as well.
Despite myself, I laughed again. As an adult, I felt compelled to speak again. “OK. Everyone just calm down. The guild is going to be fine. If everyone will just stop leaving, we’ll come up with a plan.”
Next I addressed our new co-GM, Carpal. “So what is your plan?”
“Nothing. Just stop recruiting for awhile till everyone calms down.”
“OK. Sounds fair.”
I expected him to say more, but he didn’t, so I dropped the subject and waited for other members to sign on. As they did, the story needed to be repeated. As it turned out, none of us knew that this had been Strongpudding’s plan: to leave the game. That he was really tired of the responsibilities of guild upkeep. So, he had gone, at a down time, when the drama would be less.
I’m still quite sure he never expected WTF to fall apart. I know he thought his GM’s would get along and create a new guild, based off of the model they would hopefully come up with.
But, as soon as Ari logged on, he was panicked. I was the only one on at that point, as it was early in the morning. He blurted to me “Wait… I’m a GM! Where the hell is Strongpudding?”
I explained what happened, and it went over… not well. I imagined him in his room, throwing things, crying, pounding at the desk top, yelling “Why God, why!”
It was that serious for him. After about ten minutes, I got him to calm down; telling him the same thing I had told everyone: that everything would be fine. That I would help however I could in getting things stable, again.
I meant every word of it. And for a couple of weeks, I worked really hard at healing a every widening rift between Ari and Carpal. They both had such insanely different views of how to move forward, I began to wonder how Strongpudding hadn’t seen this mess coming from a mile away.
I exhausted of constantly stepping in to reprimand the swats they took at one another. I grew bored of convincing our newer members that everything would be fine. I grew agitated and more and more convinced that Carpal was actually crazy, and that this insanity was feeding into even small things, like how to handle a guild in a game.
At the same time, Connect was pestering me to leave WTF and join his guild, which was already essentially dead. But, I had already made up my mind. I wouldn’t be going back to any guild. It was increasingly apparent that I lacked the soul to be a productive member of any guild. I simply wasn’t invested enough and wanted the freedom to run with whomever I so chose. But I stuck in WTF as an officer for awhile, because I knew it meant a lot to Ari. And I’m not in the business of crushing kids’ dreams. … Well, not the well brought up ones’ anyway.
Finally, one morning, however, I pulled my own Strongpudding of sorts. I noticed Carpal had brought in two new recruits over night, so I asked him, “So, you’ve decided we should start recruiting again?”
This was something Ari had been insisting we should do since at least a couple days after our GM had quit the game. Carpal had maintained the time wasn’t right yet, that we should wait for drop outs to slow.
Without being able to do much, Ari simply complied with this plan though it made him angry, and a bit anxious. So, I was relieved to see the new members in the guild list. This meant my departure from the guild could be sooner than I expected.
Carpal still hadn’t replied, so I spoke again. “Carpal? You want to start recruiting again?”
Finally, he typed back to me. “No.”
I did the confused, skeptical sideways glance in real life, then said “So, who are the two new recruits?”
“So, you allowed your friends in, but you’re not letting us bring in new members who really want to be in this guild because they know it’s a good one?”
“Just don’t worry about it. We shouldn’t be recruiting right now.”
And even as he said this to me, another person accepted an invitation from him. Astounded, and nearly angry, I furiously tyed. “Um, so, you discussed this with Ari, then?”
“No. He doesn’t need to worry about it, either.”
I only wish computers allowed us the capability to reach through cyberspace and punch each other (and hug, too!), but mostly punch.
I would have punched him. Hard. I knew Carpal was older, and, like I said, nuts. So, all he was doing was intentionally upsetting Ari. His co-GM was just a kid who felt like he’d lost a best friend without a word or trace when Strongpuddy quit the guild and game. And, despite what one might think, or believe, I would and, a few months later did, become incredibly upset, when a good friend, Connect, left me alone in my game’s world, without so much as a proper farewell.
“So, only you are going to recruit, then?”
“I think so.”
I didn’t know what more to say. But, I do know that I didn’t like the fact this guy was getting to me, as I knew I had at least a few years on him. So, knowing that Ari would have Hops and a few other solid officers, I wrote him a quick note. I thanked him for really caring, and for being a great GM even though he was scared. I told him to have fun, and if he never needed me for anything really serious, to let me know: “But, I’m not a very good member of a guild in the end. I had to be nearly begged into applying for WTF. Right now, you guys need to sort out what is best for the guild. I’m not one of the people who can help do that. You need members who have a solid interest and devotion. I’m, admittedly, a bit too… absent to help you rebuild properly. Take care. –Rih.”
And then I left. The pressure was off, and I felt amazing. I joined Narfle in the town square and showed him my newly swinger status. I did a few runs by myself and enjoyed the quiet of my chatfeed, which only filled with news of what materials and items I picked up as I mercilessly murdered the monsters surrounding me.
Freedom was sweet. Numerous friends invited me, and pleaded to have me join their guild, but I was gunshy, and firmly decided to stay as far away from them as possible. I had no use for one. My friends were, for the most parts, spread out across several different homes at that point. There was no way I could choose one over the other.
Well, sort of. But that’s another post altogether.