We have entered back to school shopping season and last night we ran around hunting for pants. A nasty side effect of our collective weight loss is the fact that my wife currently appears to have no pants that will fit to start the school season. This manifested itself yesterday when she was trying to get ready to meet some of her teacher friends for a presentation. Of course panic ensued, but she managed to figure something out and as a result last night we began the process of trying to rebuild the clothing archives.
Yesterday I was having a long talk with Sevok about his interest in maybe joining us in the House Stalwart Rift contingency. Sev has been a longtime friend of mine, lasting well over a decade at this point and been involved in many of the previous incarnations of House Stalwart. The problem is he really does not want to start up in Rift unless he brings his wife with him. She on the other hand has not been in a Stalwart guild yet, and is extremely gunshy of guilds in general, namely because we both have a shared moment in our history that likely changed both of us in different ways.
Over the course of the last few weeks I have talked quite a bit about how tanking brings out my protective nature, so I thought I might talk a bit today about what exactly lead me to guild leadership in the first place. In many ways it is this exact same protective nature manifested in trying to create a wonderful environment for my friends to play in. Honestly the roots have always been there, but as an introvert I am always loathe to step up unless I feel like some wrong has been committed. I have a strong sense of justice embedded in me and equality that honestly should not have been there based on my upbringing… but that is a tale for another day.
I did not have the traditional “geek” upbringing of exclusion and ridicule at the hands of the popular masses. In fact I could have very easily been another one of the popular kids. I guess in many was from the outside it probably seemed I was one. I essentially had my geekiness grandfathered into the popular culture of my small home town. My parents friends ended up having what would essentially end up as our crop of “popular kids”, and as a result these were my play dates and birthday party goers all the way through elementary school. So as my geek tendencies manifested themselves for the most part they were just accepted as “me being me”.
My mother was a fairly overbearing sort that insisted that I be involved with everything. Essentially she was brought up in a poor household and had aspirational goals to be more than that and as a result ended up using me many times as the vessel of those aspirations. So as a result I was in 4H, an Eagle Scout, Team Captain of the Academic Bowl, FTA, Student Council, National Honor Society, and many more acronyms that I can barely remember. The result was frustrating for me, because I ended up in the local paper on a regular basis and everyone out in the community seemed to know my business. I want to say I was on 26 pages in my high school year book thanks to all the random organizations I was pushed into being a part of. I feel as thought my mother was trying to build herself a Kennedy… which I very much have no aspirations ever to be.
I could have very easily fallen in the kegger madness that was the life of a small town popular kid, but instead I took a very different path. My friends were essentially the geeky misfits of the town. The edgy art students, the math nerds, the show choir kids… all bound together to form a family of sorts. My mother was a home economics teacher, and as a result we used the small back room of her classroom as a private lunch room of sorts. In there would would plan D&D campaigns, play Wolfenstein on the 486 computer, and a lot of Chess and Pente. This room gave us a moment of sanity in a world that none of us really liked much.
The funny thing is… that as acknowledgement got around that these were my friend… these were my tribe of misfits… each of them started to get extended an invisible veil of protection. I was not a small guy, and at 6’4” the hooligans in high school seemed to fear me just by my seemingly powerful stature. Each of my friends reported getting picked on a lot less, or at least no longer in the form of physical confrontation. I had no clue when I started the little community that it would have the fringe benefits it ultimately did. To some extend it only caused me to expand the group and pull in other people. I feel like this is what started my “collecting people” tendencies that would serve me later.
When I got addicted to Everquest, I went through a couple of extremely unsatisfying guild experiences. The first was an extremely exclusive group that dated back to a bygone era of gaming. They were friendly enough and active enough, but they were also an extremely closed door society. If you did not go through the initiation rituals to join their secret society… you were forever treated as an outsider regardless of how long and how many games you had played with them. I went through the little initiation, but really did not see the world change much after doing so. The problem is… as I got my friends into these games… they were forever destined to be outsiders… or not allowed in at all. After seeing this injustice play out a few times I decided not to follow them into any new games.
While in Everquest I moved servers to play with a group of locals to Tulsa. At first it was an extremely awesome having a group of locals that I could play with an socialize with. However the longer I played and the more closely I got to the inner core of the guild, I started to see the same problem with injustice. Essentially to be a member in good standing… you had to do whatever the guild leader wanted of you… and more often than not this was to do whatever would keep his wife happy. I saw members miss out on rare drops for their epic weapon quest that would instead go to alt number 307 for his wife. If she wanted this rep from this zone… the entire guild was expected to go there and farm forever until she got whatever she was wanting.
If you were not in the inner circle, your opinion did not matter. When the wife had a falling out with a member, it was expected that the entire guild would shun them or else you would get kicked out on your ass as well. None of this sat well with me, but I was torn. My group of friends were still mostly in this guild, but I felt as though nothing about this situation was fair. Somehow I ended up as the sounding board for all the players who were sick of the leaders shit, and made some extremely deep ties within the “resistance” of sorts. As we moved on past Everquest and into other games I kept contact with the members of this undercurrent and in many cases they all ended up as members of Stalwart guilds eventually.
World of Warcraft was the next big thing on the horizon that I knew everyone would be playing. As a result I wanted to gather up as many friends under one banner as I possibly could. Prior to launch I started a brand new forum unconnected from any guild or game. Through it I organized all my friends from EQ, DAoC, Horizons and City of Heroes towards the goal of forming a new guild for World of Warcraft. Essentially I never wanted to end up in a situation like i was in the previous two guilds… either with abusive leadership or and elitist inner circle. After talking to some friends about it, I decided that the only way I could ever guarantee that, was to be the leader myself and keep it from happening.
So here we are roughly a decade later and there is still an active House Stalwart presence in several games. World of Warcraft damned near broke me for leading anything. As a result I took roughly a two year break from guild leadership, as I wandered around and joined up with lots of other pools of friends. I am extremely thankful to each person that sheltered me and invited me into their own organizations during this time. Sadly however in each new place I visited… there was something missing… and I would go back into my old ways trying to recruit everyone under a shared banner. I was missing my home, was missing my guild, and was ultimately missing the freedom to make an awesome home for everyone involved.
As a leader I have always tried to enable people to do awesome things and be awesome in the process. As a result I have always tried to keep things simple, only adopting the barest of rules that instill a sense of the larger community rather than a list of “thou shall not”. For the most part this has worked over the last decade. We have had a lot of amazing moments as friends and I have built more of an extended family for myself than a guild. These are all people that I talk to regularly outside of the game, when we travel I try and meet up with ones in the area… they are the family I chose for myself. Still to this day… I have an overwhelming desire to bring new people I meet that are also awesome into the fold.
I feel as though this post kind of developed a life of its own. I am not really sure what I intended to right. To some extent I was writing so that Sevok’s wife could see that our time spent in the horrible EQ guild had adverse effects on both of us. I just chose to take that bad experience and roll it into building a long standing family of friends and a much larger community. Hopefully this tale will be at least interesting to other people out there. I hope you all have a great weekend. I desperately need a haircut so that is the number one priority on our list. Also hoping to coax my wife into another trip to the place where she found all those Legos.