Before we continue with this online gaming momentum we’ve built up, I want to thank all our Y3B supporters for your very detailed responses, subscriptions, and other participation. Just like with online gaming clans, social or competitive variants alike, contribution helps little sites like Y3B thrive! Our most recent discussions have spawned the Gaming Clan Series as a virtual workshop for video game geeks worldwide. I hope you all continue to enjoy this valuable online community-driven information!
Today, I’d like to discuss the major reasons clans stagnate or die (conversely, why they thrive). As you may have encountered yourselves, clan hoppers can cause many disruptions and doubts in a clan. Are they the main reason clans die?
(Hey, Nick, let’s make a funny cartoon depiction of a clan hopper with a hobo-style bag on a stick. This is the placeholder here.)Are Clan Hoppers The Symptom Or Root Cause Plaguing Your Gaming Clan?
I am guilty of being a bit unforgiving of clan hoppers at times but it’s usually only after repeated leave-return cycles or excessive tomfoolery. I’ve ran NoF for too long to put up with shenanigans and immaturity. I want my clan brothers and sisters to have fun, not babysit silly sots.
Regardless of our personal feelings in the matter, there’s no doubt that people leaving your clan can be discouraging and disruptive, especially to clannies that aren’t fully plugged in to your online gaming clan. The impact is even greater when a clan is small and said clan thrives on an MPOG (Multi-Player Online Game) with a struggling online community.
As much fun as it may be to point fingers and poke fun at clan hoppers, they are often a symptom of existing issues in a gaming clan and online community. Clan hoppers will do their thing because of or in spite of your efforts but you can mitigate the damage caused upon clan member departure. To understand a clan hopper’s motives is to better understand the culture and habits of online gaming communities. This is where proper exit interviews, documentation, and gaming clan meetings are especially useful.
SIDEBAR: Exit interviews are a great way to refine recruitment and member orientation. If clan leavers cooperate, you can learn quite a bit. Read on to see how you can dig deeper into major clan issues.
Google “clan hopper” and you’ll see some interesting SERPs. The results indicate that games with massive communities and loyal core users tend to have the highest gaming clan turn-over rates. I found the Runescape and GameNation discussions most interesting. Apparently, a gamer going by “Freak” averages one new clan every week or so. Hilarious? Nope, it’s more sad than anything else.
How the clan hoppers defend themselves can be pretty entertaining. Some clan leavers are good at making you buy into their BS so separating fact from fiction becomes tougher. Smaller gaming communities like those on the former ARC (now Spark) have a culture that seems to facilitate clan hoppers and encourage squads to form in place of principle-driven, longer-lasting social gaming clans. It’s a shame because active gaming clans bolster gaming and geek communities alike whereas competitive squads only exist to battle and win games. Sure, there is a need for all types of clan but the video game industry needs social gaming clan success stories to breathe life into dying video games and stagnant online communities.
In my experiences, online gamers leave clans for the following reasons:
- They are selfish and do not like commitment or work.
- They are only looking to build up their resume until they can get accepted into a “top-tier gaming clan” and become rockstars (SEE Item #1).
- They are not satisfied with their level of involvement, rank/title, and ego-rubbing in the clan (SEE Item #1).
- They only see gaming clans as a way to make friends or build up a list for future prospects when they launch their own clan (SEE Item #1).
- They experience major life changes so their priorities and schedules change. Life happens. This is understandable and acceptable so long as you communicate things as proactively as possible, rather than waiting for it to be addressed formally or publicly.
Surely, there are other reasons but these are often the underlying motivations behind clan hopping. Most do not consider nor do they care about the negative impact of their actions. It’s all about their personal agendas and goals, not those of their (temporary) gaming clans. In a few words, gaming clans are like stepping stones and mere diversions to the typical clan hopper.
Even though clan hoppers are in essence despicable, we have to consider their reasons and logic, digging a little deeper, even if they may be mere cop-outs or excuses…
Discerning Whether A Reason For Leaving Is Legit Or A Mere Excuse
The drama that ensues a clan hopper’s departure can get real ugly. It’s hard not to have hard feelings when you invest time (and money) into your clan members, only to have them show the ultimate lack of gratitude by leaving. Clan hoppers slap those of us that work hard in our gaming clans by essentially saying, “You’re not worth it.” Quite often, clan hopping is like a bad break-up. Can you still be friends? Well, it depends how you go about leaving and if you actually care about anyone but yourself (you left us.. HOW COULD YOU??).
*** Insert expletives and sad/angry emotes here. ***
The way I see it, if someone leaves and only shares their concerns after the fact, they are essentially fooling themselves and trying to buy their own lies. It’s almost like a serial killer or terrorist saying they served a greater purpose, just not as deplorable.
Speaking of the criminal mind, a clan hopper generally does not want to be seen as the bad guy. In their head, everything adds up or maybe they just don’t think and act on impulse. As a result, clan hoppers pass the buck rather than thinking about what THEY did wrong. Hey, it’s easy to play the victim card when you can absolve yourself and have closure. Who cares about others, right? Ummm, NO.
Sadly, sometimes clan hoppers present reasonable or at least plausible concerns, making others preemptively panic and doubt their gaming clan. The point you have to drive home for your fellow clannies is this: if this clan hopper had such concerns, why didn’t he mention them via appropriate channels and contribute more? You can’t just complain to make an issue go away.
SIDEBAR: Appropriate channel usage assumes clannies are plugged in, meaning they use clan-approved/furnished resources and systems correctly and consistently. It’s all about effective communication and respecting the chain of command. I can’t reiterate this enough: you can build the perfect system and structure but it’s all for nought if no one is adopting the complete system you put forth.
Everyone in a gaming clan has the responsibility of helping the clan progress. There will always be issues in a clan, especially a social gaming clan. Humanoids just do the darnedest things so, really, you have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
If your weakest link is not even participating beyond just playing a game or randomly showing up, the laziness can become a proverbial plague. The disease of so-called “casual members” can spread throughout your gaming clan like a rampant wild fire set upon kerosene-dampened toast fields (don’t ask). In this case, it’s better to break up with the potential leaver or clan hopper before they can dump you.
Even if you can’t circumvent the clan hopping before it actually happens, there’s always a way to keep things civil and draw value from the experience. This is a case where you have to look at the message, not the messenger. Wrong or right, building and executing an action plan upon clan departures, you can add more value and stability to your clan, and make it much harder for the infidels to make excuses. No easy outs for you moochers and fairweather friends – HA!
The Gaming Clan Break-Up: It’s Not You, It’s Me
The most honest clan hoppers admit they have their own issues to work through. They minimize problems by going public with their own faults and mistakes, taking ownership of the situation. This is rare but commendable. Sometimes, you just have to part ways because the relationship will not work. Accepting this can allow you to build up support outside of your clan and avoid the ugliness of a gaming clan break-up.
Try not to disparage clan hoppers, no matter how belligerent or caustic they are. There’s no need to put them on the defensive and give them more easy outs. No worthwhile discussions can take place when we play the blame game. Instead, ask the simple question:
What could we have done to better serve you?
Skip the interrogation and third degree. Sure, a social gaming clan is about the mutual exchange, not what is in it for any single member.. BUT you are providing a service, after all, so some level of selfishness is to be expected. It’s basic human nature. Clan members, old and new, have expectations and that’s what organization is all about!
Managing Expectations: Identifying And Meeting The Needs
You may hear me say this often but here I go again anyway: managing expectations is core to delivering your intended experience in any organization, creative work, or venture. You may have a very clearly-set vision but making that vision come alive throughout your efforts is tougher than it may sound.
Managing expectations is all about making promises and delivering on them. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of NOT making promises you know you can’t keep. Guarantees are conditional and continent upon proper end-user support and “usage”. To drive value in your “thing” (in our case a social gaming clan), constant research and development is needed to build and maintain momentum. All clannies have to come together to buy into the vision and goals of the clan. Contribution and participation keep things interesting, fun, and fresh.
Just think: what are your needs? What are the needs of your clannies? How do they align with the focus of your clan’s activity? Can you discern want from need? These are all critical questions to consider individually and collectively.
Managing expectations is at the center of any service industry. If you serve your fellows, you find fulfillment and add to the value and benefits of your group. Of course, if you don’t make the essence and plans of your group visible, how can anyone contribute or engage in the right types of activity? Productivity means doing activities that enrich our experiences.
In short, a successful gaming clan makes the expectations of the leadership and core members clear. In turn, the clan leaders and core members need to be aware of what is expected of them, then deliver. It’s an ongoing process of refinement, sharing, and mutual growth.
Big Egos And Personality Conflicts
We delved deeply into the clan hopper problem but there is an opposite extreme: the bad apples that do not want to leave or make it hard to “dump them”. Excessive ego can increase membership turn-over and overall dissatisfaction (that’s a bad thing, BTW). Everyone should come into the fray thinking, “What can I do TODAY to enrich the lives of my peers and colleagues?”. Instead, the average clannies focus on what they can get and how they can benefit from clan membership.
Being in a clan is like any relationship: you got to give to get. It’s not necessarily a 50/50 exchange but the clan’s size and scope of work definitely impacts how centralized power is. You want people to take ownership of key tasks and projects but you don’t want to leave the burden on a few people. Burning out can be uglier than a bad break-up.
Inflated egos can work in more competitive clans but, in a social gaming clan, it doesn’t really fly. You want to make sure you always have good people persons around to monitor interactions and minimize personality conflicts. You don’t want to have to police your clan but you may have to, at least to some extent.
Consider implementing some sort of human resources department. These will be the people that will survey clan members, monitor situations, and be proactive about the social aspects of your gaming clan. Observe and report, don’t just fight fires. Many issues can be avoided proactively. Again, if you find some people are just not a good fit, you need to meet privately, address issues, and see if there is a reasonable compromise.. Or just part ways all nice-like and stuff (I may have mentioned that already.. numerous times.. with good reason, I may add).
Don’t be afraid to “cut the fat”. You may be short on players and operatives for a while but, in the long run, keeping people around that “don’t get it” only hurts your gaming clan or guild further. Some geeks and gamers may be nice people but they’re not a good fit for your organization or they just don’t care to contribute in any major way. Unless these members have “paid their dues”, you may want to cut them off or they’ll set a bad example. As the old saying goes, lead by example (and get your core members and clan officers/leaders behind this).
Crazies And Vork’s Over-The-Top Organization
Almost every forums discussion or reader message I read mentions over-zealous members and “crazies”. As you may have seen on the geek-centric comedy web series “The Guild” (now on MSNBC and, eventually, YouTube and Netflix), Vork is one such leader. He’s got great intentions and vision but he is too formal in his methods so his guildies/clannies mostly ignore his policies and guidance.
Again, I can be guilty of this myself but only because history has taught me quite a bit. I think Vork just had problems in the past and tries to be overly-preemptive and even militant in his methods. Such an approach can turn off your more laid-back and casual members.
While you can certainly put together a handbook and member orientation materials, it’s important to get to the meat of your message and share the most important items from your resources. Not everyone will appreciate your hard work or even go through the full process and scope of information but the concise versions can keep everyone focused. Really, you don’t want people to have a reason to say, “Oh, I may have missed this.”
A few years back, we had issues with members not using their computers properly and essentally being lazy. They wanted information spoon-fed to them on a one-on-one basis which is unrealistic when your entire organization is over 100 or even 20 people! In a very RTFM fashion, I had all clan officers direct people to “check the forums” but people took it as a joke. The result? Problems that could have been avoided blow up all over the place because people wanted to act like they were above the law.
The rules apply to everyone. If your rules are to extensive, scale back to the absolute necessary items. You don’t want to be like Vork, bringing laminated presentations to clan meet-ups and citing guild laws at every turn. I’m not saying he’s a crazy but I can see why such an approach can make him seem like one. Heck, it’s hard to keep our passions from crossing the line into obsession and anal-retentiveness!
Just remember that leading and managing are very distinct things. Leaders inspire, guide, and lead by example. Managers are the bosses and supervisors we want to punch in the face or just tune out with our MP3 players. See the difference? Good.
Don powah trip, yo – it’s bad fo yo healf!
Other Reasons Online Gaming Clans Do Not Last Or Grow
We’ve seen that broken promises and broken hearts can hurt a gaming clan, especially if you’re a social gaming clan and place more value on people than mere game stats or records. The greater effort here is to take negative situations and flip them: make them into growth opportunities and view them as challenges, not bothersome problems. With that type of attitude, you’ll find that your gaming clan can conquer all sand recover from the most dire of times.
Online gaming clans fail to succeed or simply die because they do not think ahead. There is little or no building of forward motion and “big picture” thinking. Momentum is the operative word. You can’t “set it and forget it” in a social gaming clan. You need to build content, forge bonds, and drive value in new, exciting ways. These things will keep things moving along even when interest and activity on a specific front (say, Spark, IRC, Facebook, and Yahoo Groups) dwindles away.
I threw in the word “online” to be more in line with “community”. An online gaming clan assumes establishing a sense of community. Communities are nothing without interactive opportunities and total engagement. A successful principle-driven and principle-based leadership realizes this an tries to instill their belief and passion in others any way they can, every moment they can. Yes, it takes a concerted effort. No, closing your eyes and hoping won’t work.
A gaming clan can become stale like a loaf of bread when left unattended for several days. It’s not just the job of the formally-appointed leaders. Everyone needs to pitch in. Even the best systems will fail if they are not widely-adopted.
As always, have fun in all you do but realize that work is involved. Focus on the value and needs behind the work and everyone can get excited about it. That’s where the word “because” has the most value: attach reasons behind every action. Only once every social gaming clan member sees the value in all types of activity can they really believe in the system and be passionate. If you lose sight of the fun and spirit of your gaming clan, it will eventually fall apart.
Belief and passion is what keeps clans and any worthwhile organization going. Doubts and negativity is what kills them. Aim for a greater purpose beyond any single game or front to build an even stronger foundation. This is the legacy that social gaming clans can build for themselves through active collaboration: friends united by a central vision, core values, and guiding principles.
Do not compromise on your core values. A gaming clan’s core values is what makes them special and gives you direction. People either believe in these things with unrelenting passion, or they fizzle away into oblivion. If your core values are the heart of your clan, then, certainly, home is where the heart is. I’m definitely at home with NoF and I hope we can find more like-minded gamers and geeks to join us!
Let’s discuss the social aspects of gaming clans. Is your clan driven by people or activity? Are these mutually-exclusive in your eyes? Should clan members pledge allegiance to the leaders, the rockstars, or the clan as a whole? Is there a difference? Sound off, video game geeks!
Come visit us at N-o-F.com to discuss this and other video game geek matters with the Nipples of Fate – all geeks and gamers are welcome!