If you are new to the D-Mail series, let me take a quick second to bring you up to speed. This article series is all about building communities. The core tenet is that strong communities benefit both players and developers. We all know that when communities fail--often in spectacular ways (at least to those directly), players quit gaming, and that hurts everyone, including the developers. In the first two D-Mails, we explored some ways that developers can encourage and aid the growth of strong player guilds, clans, and communities. We will certainly touch on many more ways and ideas in upcoming D-Mails. However, I don't want this to be a one way street. We as players have responsibility in this as well.
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style="font-style: italic;">Recruiting people with the same goals can help reduce drama and build community.
In D-Mail #2, the responses by the readers had a clear themeone which I also believe in passionately. That theme is: good recruiting is the core of a successful guild/community. You could say it the opposite way: when you recruit anything with a pulse, you ultimately set yourself up for failure. So in today's D-Mail we will touch on both the good and bad practices of recruiting and explore some of the common pitfalls that can impact the success of your community.
Having led a massive guild (with more than 620 active people in the major games we play today and over 1000 members in total) since 1996, I have some experience with recruiting. In fact, I have made just about all the mistakes you can make with recruiting. Yet, I have been fortunate enough to have lived to tell about it. We were lucky that we were founded and made most of those recruiting mistakes when MMORPGs were in their infancy and player expectations were much different from what they are today. As such, those mistakes didn't cause a catastrophic implosion, and we were able to learn from them and adapt the recruiting process into the very detailed process that exists today. Unfortunately, I see many of those same mistakes happening every day around us. In today's MMORPG environment, those mistakes often do cause the death of a guild.
The premise behind the right recruiting policy is simple: If you do not recruit people who have the same goals as your community, you are simply creating a ticking time bomb that will probably go off at a very inconvenient time. Guilds exist for different reasons, from power-gaming to casual raiding to PvP to socializing to quest support to crafting to role-playing and other such reasons. There is no "one size fits all" rule for exactly who you should recruit other than to say you need to recruit people whose goals are exactly in line with the purpose of your entity. That is the golden rule of recruiting.
Now, I did say this article was primarily about player responsibility and not aimed at developers, but a topic for a future D-Mail will be how developers can support communities by having content that does not pressure players into breaking that golden rule of recruiting. In a great many of the MMORPGs out there, players feel pressure to have "X" number of people in A, B, C different classes/roles in order to defeat the content. That pressure often leads to poor decisions that violate the golden rule of recruiting. That doesn't relieve players of the responsibility to make the right recruiting decisions but again, the more developers can do to support community stability the more successful their games will be. It is a win-win when the game promotes community development. Well dive into this more deeply in a future article.
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style="font-style: italic;">By following a few recruiting rules you can avoid a lot of drama.
So, back to the topic of our responsibility as players for having a good recruiting policy, we have all seen the phenomenon of recruiting someone to the guild because we "have to" and not because they are the right person for our team. You can see that manifest itself in a variety of ways. It can be "we need more XXXX class/role!" and off you go and add the best ones you can find without regard for how they will fit in or what their focus on loot is and how that meshes with your loot policies or how their style of play meshes with how you run raids or PvP. It is critically important to properly evaluate every new member before adding them, especially when you are plugging them into an established team.
Often one bad apple plugged into a good team will have two results. The first is that the bad apple will quit, sometimes in an explosive manner and sometimes dragging friends they made in the guild with them. Second, that explosion can take out a couple of your good members as they either lose confidence in the guild's leadership to make good recruiting decisions or they simply have such a poor experience with the person that they go elsewhere seeking a more positive environment. So while taking the time to find the right people to fill niche spots can cause your current progression through a game to slow down or even stop, in the long run it will prevent far more serious issues and keep your community more stable.
Another way that bad recruiting methods pop up is with the mindset that "in order to do XXX content we need YYY people." This is often the issue that plagues new guilds, especially those that form once an MMORPG is already established. The challenge in that scenario is that players within the game have an expectation of doing certain content. As such, a problem mindset can occur where it is believed that unless a critical mass of players is reached very rapidly, the fledgling guild will cease to exist. This is not unlike the pressure a new business feels to turn a profit rapidly, except in this case the 'profit' is completing the content. The key difference is that there are no creditors beating on the door for loan repayments when you are founding a guild. As such, you can take as much time as you want to get things right.
Simply put: If you take anyone with a pulse in order to reach 'critical mass' for game content, what you will instead achieve is critical mass for an implosion. If a long term, stable, successful entity is what you are seeking then it's far better to take your time and recruit only the exact right people for your style of guild and for your goals.
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style="font-style: italic;">Finding the right people for your niche can help foster a healthy community.
When all is said and done, it really doesn't matter how the game is designed or what tools the developers give players to grow and strengthen their communities if the community itself was not built upon a solid foundation of good recruiting. So while we will more than cover all the things developers can do and should do in order to help themselves by helping us, the success of any organization starts with finding the right people.
In order to attract the right kind of people you first need to know what those people want and expect. Any aspiring Guildmaster (or any current Guildmaster who is having issues of high turnover or guild drama...which, unfortunately, is a huge percentage of guilds out there today) should take the time to really assess the following:
- What is the purpose of your guild?
- How do you plan to achieve that purpose?
- What sort of player do you need to achieve that purpose?
- How can you identify that kind of player before you guild them?
If you can answer those questions then you can build a profile of what the exact "right" guild member is. If you are an existing community, you need to ensure the current members buy into that profile because current members become the very best tools in your toolbox to find the right people and eliminate the wrong ones.
Once you know what kind of players you are seeking, you can then dig into your toolbox and assemble the right tools for that job. There are probably more tools available to you than you really need to use. The idea is not to toss every tool into the mix that you can but instead to use the right tools in the right way to attract the right people. The 'buckshot' approach often leads to mistakes, which leads to drama, which leads to turnover. You want to be more surgical about your plan and that requires some thought and planning.
Some of the tools you can build your strategy from include:* Website recruiting (i.e. making an attractive site that extols the virtues of your group and why being a part of it is the right move for a player).
- Forum advertising - Using the common forums for the game(s) you are playing and advertising your guild there. You may want to construct a post that is used by you or your members that would resonate with the kind of people you are seeking.
- Membership referrals - Members of your guild referring someone to you to join. This is effective if your current members understand and agree with the profile of future members you are seeking.
- Application Questionnaire/Interview - A series of questions designed to let you better know the person you may be adding before you let them join.
- Game Specific Requirements - Depending on your goals you may need certain things to have been achieved in game before a person can join.
- In-game Events -Sponsoring something in game to attract potential recruits that allows you to see them in action, a sort of "try before you buy" approach.
- In-game Probation Perhaps having a recruiting entity you can put potential new members into for a probationary period where they are somewhat separated from your core guild but in a place you can better evaluate their fit for your guild.
Those are some of the more common tools you can choose from. Not all of them apply to every recruiting situation. Not all of them should be used concurrently. However, you can pick and choose from them to build a strategy that works for your group. Once you build the strategy, stick to it and avoid bending it to serve a gaming related purpose.
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Break the golden rule and you could be in for some drama.
There is constant pressure in the gaming world to "bend" the golden rule such as needing X class or you can't do content, or needing YY more people in order to do certain content. However, there is never truly a bending of the golden rule of recruiting. You either adhere to it or you break it and if you break it, there will be consequences. You may decide the cost of the consequences is outweighed by the benefits of breaking the rule. That is why you are the leader of your organization. You make those tough calls. But always go into those calls with your eyes wide open. What is the purpose of your group? How can you achieve that purpose? Is breaking the golden rule really worth it? And if so, how do you explain that to your guild that you have drilled the golden rule into as you have asked them to seek only the right people.
You might think that all of this recruiting stuff is a great deal of work and it may not be worth the payoff. That really depends on the answer to the question you asked yourself about the purpose of your guild. If your purpose is to last longer than a couple of months then it's necessary for you to focus on this. By focusing on it, you reduce the drama in your guild making it more fun for your members, less stressful on you and you can achieve greater success in game. There is certainly an upfront cost in time and effort, but the long term benefits of recruiting only the right people will pay off.
When all is said and done, the success of a community is based on the strength of its foundation. The foundation is built upon the strength of your recruiting efforts. If you stick to the golden rule of recruiting - recruit people whose goals are exactly in line with the purpose of your entity - then you have a much better chance of having a solid foundation that can stand the test of time or that can support the weight of the goals of your group. No developer tools and no game design can save your guild from building on a poor foundation.