Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's all in the Details: Respecting the Chain of Command

Alone we are weak but together were are strong. The foundation of the Dominion is built on this concept. Every person has their place in the grand machine of the Empire. Synergy and cohesion are everything, and with it, we are indomitable.

As a rule of thumb, our society operates on the concept of a command hierarchy. At work, we follow the orders of our boss, while they follow the order of their superiors and so forth all the way up to corporate head. At school, we listen to our teachers and other faculty who in turn listen to school curriculum, school boards and the principle. In the military, soldiers follow orders from higher ranked officers or commanders. In sports we follow our team captains and coaches and at home we tend to follow the guidance of our head of household.

A flowchart example of a military chain of command. (Image from here)

This structure, in turn, follows us into our gaming experience. Guilds are managed by Guild Leaders and their officers and raids tend to be headed by an appointed raid leader. Therefore it only makes sense that this concept follows into our roleplaying experiences as well.
Solid synergy in your raiding team can help you to accomplish great tasks! (Image)
I have found, in my experience, that it is this very concept of the chain of command that can make or break a guild and the roleplaying structures within. This is largely because the command structure is only enforceable to a point. See, within our own society we have very real concerns or fears for disobeying these structures. If we don't listen to our boss, we can be fired. Military personnel can be dishonorably discharged and you may be let go from your sports team. These are very serious consequences that can often be very difficult to recover from. In a guild, one could always be suspended from a raid team, “punished” in roleplaying terms or even kicked from a guild. However these aspects are much easier to recover from. You can always find another guild or heck, even change servers to distance yourself from old issues and often times your consequences will very rarely follow you.

So if not listening to this chain of command garners you only 'irritable inconveniences' then why should you put up with it? Why should you listen to your guild leader or your commander in your roleplay? You are just as good a player as them, right? You know how to play your class well and you are a talented roleplayer too, so why should you have to bow down to them? It all boils down to one word really: Respect.

Just because I am completely confident in my own abilities does not mean that I am above the chain of command. I respect the structure of the ICI and adhere to the orders of my superiors without question. I bow my head to the experience and knowledge of my handlers as many others of the Dominion bow theirs in my presence. There is no shame in this. We all have our part to play in this Empire and our cohesion makes us stronger for this.

In our world of gaming we adhere to these structures out of respect. We give our guild leader our attention because we respect the time and effort they have put into creating and maintaining their guild. We listen to our raid leader because we respect that they have put in extra effort to understand the content for not only themselves, but all the raiders present and are able to call out cues for us. In roleplay, we follow the orders of our “superiors” because we respect their efforts to playing that type of a role and we understand that it helps the unit as a whole. In return, these people we respect show us /their/ respect by treating us fairly and politely and by not taking advantage of their position solely for personal gain.
I cannot possibly express properly the utter irritation I have found in guilds where this mutual respect is broken, particularly in the realm of roleplaying. The one big thing to remember is that, when this respect is lost, it doesn't just harm the immediate people involved. It harms /the whole guild./

In some of my earlier days in World of Warcraft, I roleplayed a shaman in a tribal themed guild. As a new member and an aspiring healer and spiritual leader I was very careful to identify the chain of command within the guild and give them the proper respect. For the most part the tribal chieftain and his council of elders were very approachable and fun to interact with. They actually were quite respectful to the newer members and rarely lorded their position over them. The problem came with some of the higher ranked members who had been a part of the guild for a long time. When dire situations arose within our guild's storyline there came a time for the chieftain to pass out orders to his braves and other officers to react. However, rather then accept and move on with the story, many chose to argue and butt heads with our leader. Now mind you, this was perfectly in character for some of the members and if it had been used respectfully on both ends would have made for some interesting roleplay. Instead it began a viscous cycle that slowly spread a poison that killed the guild over a long period of time.

As these members began to argue with the guild leader, they created a dissonance both in and out of character. As the arguments continued the newer members, such as myself, had no idea what to do and ended up standing around awkwardly while events happened around us. Rather then reaching some sort of conclusion in character or some sort of compromise for the moment, those who were fighting, let their words leak into our Ventrilo channel and began to fight, making everyone feel sour about the entire encounter. Popular members making cries for attention were being followed over our appointed hierarchy leaving long time members wondering why they bothered trying to earn or play their roles if it amounted to nothing when it mattered. Ultimately the entire plot fell apart and most people logged out feeling very frustrated.

Rather then address this issue, the guild attempted to bury it and pretend it never happened. But the damage was done. There continued a sense of disconnection with the officers, our guild leader and our newer members that was very difficult to work around. People began to feel nervous to talk to the “angry chieftain” or officers who would expect people to follow their lead would suddenly abandon their agreed to responsibilities and ignore their charges in order to roleplay with others they preferred. When offered a chance to step down in order to better enjoy their roleplaying experience so someone more willing might take their place, large fights would begin that would once again leak into our OOC chat channels, leaving everyone even more uncomfortable.

After about six months of some good times and bad times, my shaman finally made her way to the position of Head Seer, which amounted to roughly the second in command for the guild. I was so excited at first. The old Seer had run into many real life responsibility keeping them from the game and I had proven myself a favorite of many in the guild. I was ready to really help and finally in a position where my words and ideas might carry a bit of weight in helping to turn the guild's issues around. Sadly though, this never really happened. Our leader was so burned by previous issues that my more aggressive, no-nonsense opinion tended to make him nervous that I was stepping in on his territory. Over time I began to have to find specific ways to share my opinion so as not to offend him, making me feel frustrated and undervalued. I began to notice all around that many of our officers and higher ranked members felt so threatened that no one would listen to them that they would focus more of their time on trying to feel some inkling of importance that they would often ignore the others who really wanted to play with them and needed their support to also feel valued.

As time passed I found myself and precious few others were the only people investing time and effort into our newest members which literally resulted in a queue of people for me to interact with daily that often took all my free time up. Suddenly my game was becoming a second job. While I should have felt honored or important, I only felt frustrated. Many of them just wanted me as a means to move their own story-lines along, not to include me or I felt obligated to cover up for the negligence of other officers. When a whole new slew of fights broke out between the chieftain and other members over in-game consequences for ignoring the chain of command our guild leader finally snapped and stepped down, placing the guild within my hands.

I was so irritated and sad that what should have been a great honor felt so hollow and empty. I immediately put up set rules for the guild and tried to explain to people why we respected each others roles and how that helped the entire guild to work together. Things smoothed out for a small while until yet another fight broke out. When I tried to impose consequences on a member who was /finally/ willing to answer for their actions the guild leader and other officers grew angry that it wasn't severe enough. When I finally snapped at all of them trying to explain this was JUST A GAME, they still argued with me. I immediately dropped the guild and quit WoW, desperate to reclaim what had once been a means to relax in my free time.

As soon as the concept of respect for our hierarchy and each other failed, the entire guild slowly poisoned itself to death. With good communication, people being willing to discuss their issues politely and people willing to give and show this respect to each other, I believe this could have been avoided.
People forgot that the arguments and issues didn't just hurt each other, but the entire guild and everyone involved with us.

How pathetic...if the citizens of the Dominion behaved as such we-

But this isn't the Dominion, this is a /game/, Hawkens. Many of the actions created by people were understandable. People want to feel at least somewhat important in their story-lines and not always under the foot of someone else. They want to feel like people will care about what they have to say, especially if they worked hard to earn a rank within their guild.

What I really want to drive home with this blog is that the chain of command can be a very powerful and necessary tool for guild cohesion, especially within roleplay. But ultimately it all lies upon this one concept: Respect. When we respect the people around us, no matter their class, role or story they will feel appreciated, have fun and will return that respect. Even if they don't, we can feel better for having made an effort to benefit those around us. Happiness is infectious and, as we spread these ideals, we help better not just us, but the entire community around us!

It takes all of us. (Image)

Thank you once again for joining us, dear readers! As always feel free to leave comments and suggestions to either myself or Agent Hawkens and we will reply as soon as able.

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