Impact of Leadership on Guild Success in Everquest II (MMORPG’s)

Is there an Educational Context?

I have watched Guild leadership in Everquest II with growing interest over the last  couple of years.  With my recent interest in the use of Second Life as an educational tool, i have reflected on the learnings inherent in EQ2 that occur without the tacit knowledge of the gamer.

The Autocratic Leader

The role of Guild leader is a pivotal one for any guilded gamer.  The leader sets the vision and direction of the guild and should embody the values and behaviours that are expected by members.

I spent the full 70 levels when I started this game with a Guild on Najena server (dominantly Australian membership).  I joined a guild that had a number of real life friends and was in a state of turmoil.  The previous leader had left the guild leaving a variety of logistical and social issues behind him.

In context of leadership style (while I never met him) this particular leader was from all accounts highly autocratic and dictatorial about how people should spend their game time.  His interpersonal skills were lacking and frequently the cause of tensions and friction within the guild community.  It turned out that several senior members left the guild to join others.  This is a clear example of a very strong and abrasive leadership style, lacking in emotional intelligence and empathy almost singularly being responsible for the dismantling of a previously stable community.

The directionless leader – without influence or strategy

One individual who remained in the guild offered to take over leadership.  His leadership style could not have been more different.  Very relaxed and laid back.  He appointed a couple of officers to assist, whom, did not take on a lot of operational responsibility.

While some players came back to the guild during this period, the leadership was not strong, decisive, and setting direction and having goals for players and members.  This was a continual source of frustration for remaining and new members to the guild.  The leader began creating other characters and playing them regularly.  Several of these were guilded with his leader character, and thus leadership became less and less visible.

Attrition grew to such a point that earlier this year, I went 2 entire weeks spending a lot of time online and did not see a single other guild member log in.  A very lonely place indeed to be, when community involvement is more than half the attraction of the game.

The Shift

With reluctance about 9 months ago I shifted to another guild.

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader with Personal Influence

Wow – some difference.  A 25 year old guild leader with interpersonal and social skills,  The difference in leadership style and the resultant impact on the guild community was noticeable.

There was a large number of guild members whom would walk over hot coals for their leader and everyone wanted to be involved with him at some level.  A vibrant and thriving period.

Over a 6 week period however  a remarkable thing happened.  He was unavailable to be online due to family crisis and in this period, instead of stepping up to the plate to assist, many officers and senior guild members overtly left the guild, to the point where it was a shell of its formal vibrant self.  The removal of the presence of that single person had a devastatingly negative impact, to the point of few people logging on regularly.

I had numerous discussions with him out of game during this period and he as a burnt out, tired and jaded young man, to the point where he was considering either leaving the game altogether or moving to another server more appropriate to his time zone.

Distributive Leadership

He came up with a model of making 3 of us guild leaders in the interim.   What he was doing without realising was creating a distributive leadership model.  As well as having 3 guild leaders, we also have a large number of officers that have very clear and accountable responsibilities.  There is now generally always a guild leader on (one on each continent of Australia, America and Europe) and a raft of officers.

A communication system between the leaders and officers has been set up and the burden of leadership and administration is now shared between approx 8 -9 individuals who are all committed.

The guild is growing weekly by about 10 players who go through a formal probation process, and our guild community is bigger and more vibrant than ever. Why?  Clear leadership; setting direction; clear values and behavioural expectations; emotional intelligence; willingness to take advice; empathy; and the creation of a fun place to be.

Conclusion

To conclude: the success of a guild in EQ2 is pivotal around the leadership model.

I am not entirely sure this young man really understands the leadership behaviours he models or if they translate into his real life.

EQII: Background to my context

I intend on writing a number of posts on social interaction in the virtual world environment (have half written some already in fact).  The type of Virtual World’s that are more typically found in the educational context currently, may include Second Life (not a fan myself – very primitive IMHO) , Entropia Universe and Sims Online.  In particular, I am interested in aspects such as leadership, conflict in Computer Mediated Communications (CMC’s) and other interpersonal interactions between avatars.

Before I start posting, I thought I might give a really quick overview of the MMORPG that I am involved with.

A quick down and dirty background to Everquest II (EQ2)

  • EQ2 is what is known as a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG).
  • Has been available by Sony Online Entertainment since 2004,
  • MMORPG’s were worth close to half a billion in 2005 and growth is still expanding,
  • Game is based on character progression ie levelling your character.  At date of writing, level is capped at level 70.
  • Leveling occurs through completing quests which may include fighting monsters and other forms of achievement.
  • Players are associated with a Guild – an online community that collectively works to level each other, complete quests with special rewards, and level the Guild for bonus rewards.
  • Guilds have different ranks, ranging from Guild leader, officers and down to recruits.
  • Guild membership may be based on a variety of criteria.

Myself

I currently have 5 characters (also referred to as alts or toons)

MAIN: the principle character

Luthienn – Level capped at 70: Fury, member of The Dying Sun on Najena server.  Currently 2 IC guild officer progressing to Co-Guild Leadership in next month.

Luthienn

ALTS

LuthyennLuthree Luthevil

Guilded alts have all privileges pertaining to the main

I hope these posts will be of some interest to the readers out there, as it is for me belonging to this virtual world.  I derive a lot of personal value from observing human nature in this environment.