Thursday, September 17, 2009

Should Guilds be Democracies?

Every RPG MMO I have ever played has a guild system hard-coded by the developers based upon a dictatorship. Call that dictator the guild owner, founder, manger, leader or whatever the fundamental truth is that is that the person is a dictator. He or she may be benevolent, may love delegating authority, may even allow democracy to flourish, but the fundamental truth is that there is only one guild owner and they can sell their guild to anyone they want for whatever reason they want at whatever price they want and no guild member can stop them. Much of the social trauma surrounding Warcraft guilds comes from players who worm their way into positions of authority in the guild, ninja the loot, and quit or where the guild owner really does sell the guild out from under the members, essentially exploiting their work.

A broader perspective reveals the anomalous nature of this developer imposed structure. Real world guilds even in America are run on a social democratic model; there is nothing dictatorial about the American Medical Association (doctor guild) or the American Bar Association (lawyer guild) or the American Association of University Professors (educational guild). Even the vast majority of corporations work on a democratic model of governance, at least among the owners (stockholders) of the firm. Outside of single owner small businesses, there are very few examples of social organizations run by an all powerful owner. The guild system in MMOs has more in common with the philosophies of people such as Kim Jong Il or Fidel Castro than they have with modern Western sensibilities.


There certainly isn't any particular programming reason that guilds need to be dictatorships. While changing the programing at this stage in the game undoubtedly requires work, there is nothing in the code itself that prevents Blizzard from implementing a system where, for example, in order for someone to be kicked from the guild a majority of players active in the last week had to vote on the expulsion or where two-thirds of the guild members had to approval of the sale of a guild. It seems to me that guilds are designed as dictatorships more from a unreflected upon tradition than from any cogent deliberation.


Advantages to Democracy


One clear advantage to designing guilds as democratic entities is that it would shift the focus of social contention regarding guilds away from the chat channels and the forums and into the guild itself. If a member doesn't like the way they are being treated there is a tool within the guild to resolve those differences that doesn't depend on the whims of an owner. A member may still be bitter about having their guild sold out from under them but it seems like much less an injustice if two-thirds of their guild mates disagreed and voted to sell. Blizzard was having too much drama surrounding loot so they implemented a system of loot sharing. It seems rational that the solution to the drama surrounding guilds is a system of power sharing, namely democracy.


Another reason to force democracy on guilds is that it increases social cohesion. One of the theories is that drives developers to implement and enhance guilds is the theory that social grouping leads to greater loyalty which leads to sustained subscriptions and thus more profit. But as real world evidence shows, the social cohesion created by dictatorship is inherently artificial and disappears the moment that the central authority disappears. Developer supported democracy encourages organic social growth. Players feel empowered not only by their triumph over the fantasy environment created by the developers, they feel empowered by their contributions to the social unit (the guild) necessary to achieve that triumph. Guild democracy is the formal implementation and recognition of this second contribution.


A third reason for developers to support guild democracy is that it can form an educational experience that carries over into life beyond the game. In America voter participation in elections is often below the 50% level; experiencing democracy within the game can serve the boarder social goal of educating the young for civic engagement and reinforcing that value in older players. It seems contradictory for developers to state that they desire players to participate in a form of social grouping directly at odds with the larger cultural values in which the game exists.

Disadvantages to Democracy

One obvious difficulty with developer supported democracy is that it's an open question whether or not such a model can succeed in an environment where as a practical matter many of the voters (players) are much more transient than in the non-game world, a world where a player may not log on for weeks or months at a time. Rather than encouraging organic social growth, democracy may instead decease or even freeze the process of decision making necessary for the guilds, especially small guilds, to function. Many players are just not as committed to their fantasy game worlds as they are to other social milieu in which they operate.


Another possibility is that players will be discouraged from starting guilds because they are essentially putting time and effort into a social creation which, once created, they no longer have effective control. Most successful guilds are made up of members who do not know each other outside of Azeroth. Finding a group of players that work well together requires an effort that an entrepreneurial player may feel is only adequately compensated for by a model which gives them total control.


A third objection to developer supported democracy is that it eliminates a game play option. As it stands, while the underlying model is dictatorial there is no requirement that this model actually be implemented by the guild manager. If a guild owner chooses they can effectively devise systems to run their guild as democracies; many guilds do just that. Given the diverse range of cultures in which Warcraft is played, forcing players into a democratic model effectively limits their game play options and may cause some players to quit the game.


Cataclysm and Beyond


At Blizzcon 2009 Ghostcrawler made two notable statements about guilds. The first is that the developers believe that people have more fun playing in a guild. The second is that in order to encourage this fun they want to make it more difficult to switch guilds. Assuming that such reports are accurate and assuming that the development team is committed to implementing this approach, how might they go about doing so.


One obvious answer is to create a system of incentives for people to join guilds and and a system of penalties for people who leave guilds. People who join guilds would get benefits from the guild they can get nowhere else such as access to heirloom items for every gear slot. People would be discouraged from leaving guilds by the loss of those incentives or by the loss of anything material they may have contributed to the guild as well as the loss of the social communities they have built up. But this incentive system may crash into the reality that the actual gatekeepers that will determine who benefits from those incentives remains in the hands of a few players, necessarily so because of the fundamental dictatorial structure of the guild as designed by the developers.


Democracy offers an alternative approach. By hard coding guilds to run as democracies, Blizzard can reduce the social trauma surrounding guild decision making, increase the social cohesion of the group which simultaneous increases loyalty to the Blizzard brand and reduces guild turnover, and reinforce the value of democracy to the community at large. Blizzard may find that democracy is not only the greatest good for the greatest number, it's also more fun to more people.

29 comments:

Flex said...

I have my morning coffee, a cookie (want one?) and an interesting article to read. Thanks Elnia! /bliss. I'll apologise in advance because this is going to be long... but hey, long comments give us something to read in the down-time at work too, don't they?

Anyways, I'll suggest that game-implemented democracy is probably mostly counterproductive. Though there may be a mechanism whereby it could be implemented. But we'll get to that.

First, you've glossed over or ignored a couple of elements of real world democracy that are important to discuss, as they happen in the real world and will definitely happen in a game world with anonymity and limited consequences.

1. Vote buying and corruption.
All government systems are prone to corruption. I feel that your article is a reaction to a sense of the oft corrupt dictator in wow guilds, but paints a democratic alternative in far too rosy a light.

A simple but disappointing perspective of life is that people will act in their own best interests. If a motion to have the guild perform X (gkick someone or whatever) is proposed, all it takes is for the person with the most vote-buying power to exercise it. It doesn't mean that an intelligent decision will be made, or that the decision will benefit the guild as a whole. In effect, you create a system where the rich have the power, rather than the guy with the GM rank.

If you don't think this happens in real life, then ... well, I really don't think it's my place to convince you.

2. Educated votes.
If you have a zero corruption democracy you still have an issue of making educated decisions. The will of the group is not always an educated one. If you compare a 'dictator' guild with an extremely knowledgeable GM who has his (or her) finger on the pulse with respect to the gear, level and ability of his members, he is going to make educated decisions that benefit the guild as a whole and increase the skill and knowledge of the players. If instead you have the same people in a democracy, such a person may propose a motion that is defeated by uninformed voters. Net result? Guild loses good people and accommodates the lowest common denominator.

3. Executive powers.
The case you mentioned where a democratic guild in-game may not have enough active people to vote on a motion would probably be handled by executive powers, such as is invested in prime ministers, presidents, CEOs and the like in the real world. The democratic system is simply too slow to be required for every decision. And given its speed, if the executive makes a bad decision, will the guild have time to exercise a no-confidence motion before he has managed to gkick them all, empty the guildbank, or disband? And who holds the keys for out-of-game content such as forums, website domains, ventrilo servers and other paraphernalia that cost real money?

4. Earning the Right to vote.
In the real world, not everyone can vote. If democracy were implemented in-game this would be a key to making it work - only make the people you can trust to make intelligent decisions voters. But if you think therefore that democracy will reduce whining or take drama out of /2, the masses of morons with no voting rights will more than make up for it.

Pretty much the same situation most guilds are in anyway, where the officers make decisions that affect the guild with or without the general membership's knowledge.

5. Mutability.
Real world democracy systems change. Rules change about voting, terms, rights of voters, scope of executive powers and more. For Blizzard to provide a democracy UI they would have to make most of these rules immutable (or think up all the possibilities ahead of time).

continued...

Flex said...

(...continued)

So am I saying democracy is a bad idea in WoW?

Not really. I think it would be very cool to have a feature in a guild, such as you do in something like Civilization: The guild starts off as a despotism, but the guild leader can start a 'Revolution' and then choose a different governance type (Democracy isn't the only alternative, remember). Will Blizzard implement such a feature.

Not right now.

Consider the numerous addons that have been gradually merged into the game UI and ruleset. Wardrobe mod? Now in-game. Questhelper's mob tooltips? Now in-game. Informant's vendor price tooltip? Now in-game. DKP mods? Change the loot system to award Badges & Tokens.

So perhaps if we wanted to see democracy offered as a guild tool we'd see someone develop a democracy/voting mod for guilds. It wouldn't be perfect, but if enough people used it, Blizzard would see it as a vote by their users for an enhancement to the game. But if no such mod exists, or only a couple of guilds used it, why bother?

Rather, I think the average player simply wants someone else to take the responsibility of guild leadership and simply concentrate on their own 'fun' and wellbeing, as can be demonstrated by how many guilds you see using loot-council in raids. It makes being a GL a lonely and often unappreciated job.

I think Blizzard are helping with their Cataclysm proposals, but ultimately I think the real mechanic in making a guild work well is being a good guildie (whether that's member, officer, or whatever). A guildleader who respects his members isn't likely to gdisband when he wants to move on, wouldn't you think?

(sorry about the length, but it was a really BIG coffee)

Rohan said...

Political models are not the only way to organize humans. They are merely the models which get the most press.

Consider examining guilds as small businesses, or as sports teams, or as military units.

In my view, the guild as nation-state is a misleading line of thought. More here: Guild Governance.

Stupid Mage said...

I think forcing a democracy on all guilds is just flat out wrong. About as wrong as forcing any other type of governance on a guild.

The sole reason for things being the way they are is due to programming. It is far easier to code the current process than any other.

I also agree that democracies can be quite corrupt. Especially when multiple members of the guild may be characters of one or a select few.

Stupid Mage said...

Oh, I thought I should add, that I'm not downing your idea on the whole, but maybe if the game gave a choice upon guild creation, on how the guild rules worked. Dictatorship, Democracy, whatever.

For the most part, I think many guilds are democracies. There is just no in-game process for it. I'm sure even your own guild discusses important issues, and "votes" on them, no?

Klepsacovic said...

I'd like the option of an oligarchy. Democracies can be slow and indecisive while dictatorships are too subject to the whims of a single person.

Elnia said...

@Rohan. That was an interesting post as well as the link to Tobold's post. I didn't realize that both of you had written on the topic before.

I do think that there is on aspect to what I commenting on that your overlook. Stupid Mage says below that it's wrong to force any type of government model onto guilds. The fact is that the coding has consequences for the way that people play the game. The developers are *already* forcing a method of governance on guilds: dictatorship. Guilds can and do find ways around that; but the point is they are finding ways around the code and not embracing it.

As Flex correctly points out, democracy is by no means a perfect system. There is an argument that forcing guilds into democracies only trades one set of problems for another set of problems. Yet it remains a curiosity that in the non-game world, at least in the West, we have said that we as a community are better off with the set of problems created by democracy as opposed to the set of problems created by dictatorship. So if it's good enough for "real life" why isn't it good enough for game? That's it's too difficult to program really isn't a persuasive answer.

Rohan said...

I'm not entirely sure I agree with you, Elnia.

Consider the case of a police officer with a gun. There is nothing physically stopping the police officer from acting as judge, jury and executioner and killing a criminal he captures. All he has to do is point and shoot.

All the restrictions that bind him are social in nature. They do not have physical manifestation.

In the same manner, the basic necessary guild powers are granted to the person who created the guild. After all, someone has to receive them.

How those powers are used in actual practice depends on the social contract created by the people in the guild. In my view, by only offering the bare necessities, Blizzard grants much more room for different social contracts to develop.

It's kind of similar to loot systems. Blizzard has a couple very simple loot systems. Yet many guilds build ornate structures on top of those systems. And many of these structures have slight but important differences.

Would it be better to, say, include a formal in-game DKP system? Maybe. But what if Blizzard's DKP system didn't account for people sitting out of the raid? Would it have been worth it?

There's an argument that--whether for loot or guild governance--Blizzard should only provide the very basic and necessary structures, and let the playerbase build their desired ornate structures on top.

Tesh said...

I always find it funny when devs presume to tell me what should be the most fun. Similarly, I find it funny that there's an assumption that I want another player (or group of players) telling me what to do.

Elnia said...

"How those powers are used in actual practice depends on the social contract created by the people in the guild. In my view, by only offering the bare necessities, Blizzard grants much more room for different social contracts to develop."

In theory, that true. In theory. But I start off the post with a link to WoW.com's GuildWatch. And whatever the theory is, that's not what is actually happening in practice. At least not in WOW. If people really felt free to create social contracts, then why is there so much drama trauma. It's easy to blame the problem on 13 year olds. I think it's deeper than that. I think regardless of the theoretical freedom people have in reality the game as designed by the developers allows the owner of the guild to pull rank any time they want. And that's not just at theoretical possibility. GuildWatch is littered with example of that very thing happening.

Although my post was written and scheduled before Larisa wrote her post yesterday, it melds right into my post. So much for the social contract in Niniel's guild. As soon as the GM left, poof there went the guild. It's easy to say that the problem is that you shouldn't leave too much power in one hand. Fair enough. But you have to admit the structure of the guild system in WoW encourages players to accept the concentration of power into one hand because that the way guilds are designed to start off.

That's what I mean it takes an effort to create a democracy, the guild system is not designed that way. Your approach is a little bit like shoving a person off a cliff and saying that they now have the freedom to fly. Maybe they do; mutation is possible. But you have to admit that submitting to the force of gravity is the normal course of action.

Rohan said...

It's easy to make airy, feel-good, claims about how democracy is better and would lead to stable guilds. But it's much harder to come up with real, workable solutions.

For example, let's take the single most important power that guild leadership has: the ability to remove people from the guild.

Can you come up with a concrete proposal for a democratic mechanic for this power?

Pretty much every mechanic I can think of is fatally flawed and is simply not as good as giving the leadership the power to unilaterally gkick people, and relying on social constructs to keep that power in check.

Anonymous said...

Ah but there already is a very real form of democracy at work, in WoW especially.

If you feel agrieved by some decision taken by your local dictator, you vote with your feet and move guilds. I've seen many a guild broken up because a guild leader took her/his power craze a little too far. People simply jumped ship; or got organised into a sub-group and formed a new guild.

Such power is an illusion in WoW and any guild leader who thinks otherwise, does so at their peril.

I'm a guild leader and I know full well that if I do not maintain our website, pay for our vent server, make sure the raid leaders put up quality, well run raids, then my little dictatorship will simply abandon me, save for a few loyal in-game friends (most are my 'officers').

It may be better to describe the system in WoW as Feudalism, but where the 'peasants' do not have to obey their noble lord and can simply go an 'live' under a new noble lord if their taxes rise too high.

Daniel said...

Democracy put GW Bush in power. Twice. Now joke aside - I think there is no need of such a system in WoW.

1. Democracy is not such a good and unique ruling system. There have been cases of economic prosperity and strong societies that are ruled by the law in almost any form since there was civilization. The current rush towards democracy is mostly because of the need for the people to have strong links to the national state. Note to Americans - before starting flaming me - you would have such a prosperous country if you had the resources of the new continent, the rights in your constitution and bill of rights and economical system, no matter whether your population was able to vote or not. After all in the last 8 years your constitution was under total attack by your own government. Its a good thing that your founders build so sturdy and durable.

2. Current dictatorship guild get the job done. There will be much more guild drama in democratic guilds than the current one. What will happen when half of the raid team want hard more other not - endless and endless debates.

3. More people don't care anyway - see voting activity in most of the first world countries - it is a wonder if it passes 50%

4. Too much trouble with no payoff for the developers.

Larísa said...

I must support Anonymous. The possiblity to vote with your feet any day and just leave is the ultimate form of democracy. Our real life society isn't that democratic. You can't put yourself outside of it, refusing to pay taxes, making military service or attending school (in countries where that's mandatory) without punishment. In WoW you can leave anytime you want.

But I think the idea to give better ingame support for different kinds of guild is interesting. There are several different models of guilds, depending on the purpose of it. Some guilds are like sport teams (which rarely are very democratic, it's the team leader who decides, right?), others are like businesses. There could be guilds where the participents were shareholders/investors, just as Gevlon has suggested on several occasions. The model Blizzard suggests and support now is just one among many possible.
But I don't think making all guilds to "democracies" is the way to go. For some guilds it wouldn't be the most efficient way to run it or make the players any happier than they are now. Not everyone WANTS more power and the responsability that comes with it.

Elnia said...

@Rohan. That's a an accurate point. Democracy doesn't claim that it's a perfect system, only that it's the least worst system.

As for the practical implementation in WoW I'm not a developer and I specifically shied away from those type of suggestions. I don't have a clue as to precisely how it would be done because I don't understand anything about the coding and it's limitations. But I find it difficult to believe that with the talent pool they have over there they couldn't figure out something.

Ferrel said...

In my mind there is no doubt that some guilds very much should be democracies. There a ton of cases where you don't need a clear and quick chain of command to succeed. It is in those guilds that I think democracy would be great if the game supported it.

The major problem with democracy is that for each decision you have to have at least an odd amount of votes to achieve something and you have to wait until your quorum votes. This can be slower.

During Iniquity we ran a hybrid point / council system for loot. The points quickly dictated who was able to be considered and then we picked the "best" player. That portion was always slower and lead to debate a lot of times. We made good choices because of it but it did slow us down.

In my mind, at least when it comes to competitive raid guilds, democracy is far less effective. The larger your council gets the slower. I also fully believe in "the buck stops here." One person needs to have final responsibility.

It just comes down to the fact that most raid guilds are like a military and other guilds are more like a town council. Different missions mean different styles.

Elnia said...

@Anony and Larisa.

I hate that phrase "voting with your feet" because it simply isn't true. One's physical actions are certainly indicative of the choices one makes. But there is more to the concept of voting than making a choice. A vote is a choice that takes place as part of a structured social process.

Claiming that someone votes with their feet is akin to claiming that picking up the chess board and tossing the pieces on the floor is the same thing as making a chess move. It's a move, true. It involves chess, true. But it's not what we mean when we talk about a move in chess.

So getting up an leaving a guild is certainly a choice. But it's not a vote because it's not part of any larger structured democratic process.

dynamo said...

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."
- Winston Churchill

“Someone once said that every form of government has one characteristic peculiar to it and if that characteristic is lost, the government will fall. In a monarchy, it is affection and respect for the royal family. If that is lost the monarch is lost. In a dictatorship, it is fear. If the people stop fearing the dictator he'll lose power. In a representative government such as ours, it is virtue. If virtue goes, the government fails." - Ronald Reagan

I don't think there is ever a "right or wrong" way to run a guild. You just have to have it run well. No matter if you run it as a dictatorship or democracy, if it's poorly or unfairly run people will let you know by leaving or not joining in the first place.

Larísa said...

I think leaving a guild and joining another guild which is more in line with your wishes and ideals about how a guild should work (like for instance having a loot council instead of dkp if that is what you prefer) is much more than tossing chess pieces. It's very much a choice, casting your vorte and taking responsability for your own happiness in the game. Would it be better to stay in a "democratic" guild where 2/3 had voted for a dkp system that you hated, just because it was democracy? Why so?

(For my own part I think dkp is lightyears smoother and more efficient than loot council, it was just an example.)

Anonymous said...

Allowing additional gorvenance options when the vast majority of guilds have very little to no organizational skills will compound the problem, not solve it.

Most guilds fail due to poor management and organizational skills, and providing additional governance options will not contriute anything of signifance towards resolving this problem.

Hugmenot of Suramar

Vigorless fragmentary said...

The main reason why guilds can never be full democracies is the element of time: decisions need to be made, often in reasonable time and there's no way to get every members input or forum vote on a topic every time. anyone that runs a guild knows what a headache it can be to wait for members to actually participate in such things - the truth is actually that many members don't want to. they're happy to pass the task of thinking and deciding to others.

this is followed by the second reason why guilds arent entirely democratic usually: there's no equal time spent on guild matters and equal share of tasks and responsibilities between leaders and regular members. right and duty go together and if you contribute very little you cannot expect to have a say in all things.

Rem said...

There is a common misconception in our "modern Western" society, here impressively demonstrated by the much respected Elnia. This misconception is, that because democracy is the most convenient (I don't even dare to say "best", that's debatable. It is just the most efficient regarding average fairness and longevity, which is the evolutionary reason why it prevails) form to rule a country (or political institution), it is automatically to be assumed as the best in any setting. I never bought into that notion.

There is a vast difference between steering the course of an organization composed of, say, 50 million, or even 50 thousand people, and coordinating a circle of just a few dozen. Which is where you, in my opinion, are drawing the wrong comparisons. Guilds should not be compared to the societies you listed, just because they developed from structures that used to be called guilds (and back when they were, they were decidedly less democratic than they are now). The much more fitting analogies for an MMO-guild would be:

a) a sports team

b) a group of friends

The vast majority of the guilds can be described by a weighted average of those two concepts. So let's have a look at them.

a) In a sports team, there is no democracy expected. The coach calls the play, and if the power forward responds with "nooo, but I want to do the other one, cry-cry, bitch-bitch", the fans will boo him. Athletes are expected to show up at practices when they are scheduled and to perform the drills they are told. Team captains are assigned to lead and motivate as well as call out in smaller matters. It is a dictatorship we intuitively accept, because sports teams are essentially military units .. without the military bit attached. It's no secret that the very concept of sports arose as a less lethal form of warfare (and not much less in the beginning). Much like military units, the entire sports team is, by definition, dedicated to an already defined, single goal: win.

b) When you get together with your friends, and you want to decide how to spend that promising Saturday night, do you vote? Oh, of course you do. When the general consensus is "I don't mind", you'll use a poll to determine slight preferences and base your decision on those. Wait, what was that word again? Consensus. That's what you want to reach. If your preferences drift too much apart, a vote won't fix your problem. If you have 25 people (that's a lot of friends, but, let's just run with it!), of whom 13 love going to the cinema, but hate clubs, while 12 hate movies, but love dancing, letting the majority decide won't lead to a happy evening. The minority will be pissed off. A French philosopher once formulated the principle of democracy as "in fact, everyone wants the same, the minority is just mistaking about what they really want". And while there is some truth to be seen in that assessment on a very large scale, for any number of people that fits into an ordinary room, that's pretty much nonsense. Bob won't suddenly turn into a cineaste, because John and Jack voted they want to see the new Tarantino.

[And once again, I bust the character limit. Continued in next post.]

Rem said...

[Continued]

What happens at that point? Different things may. Bob might concede and go to see the film, because he's enjoying John's and Jack's company. Not because they outvoted him, mind you. The consensus here is to spend time together. Taking this into account, Jack and John might suggest an alternative .. uh .. bowling? Whatever. And if no one is willing to give in at all, and they all prioritize their favoured activity above the common company, then they are maybe not that great friends to begin with and should not attempt to spend time together so much. It's one of the hard truths you sometimes have to accept in life - yes, I like this person, but there's absolutely nothing we could do together, thus our friendship just won't be very fruitful. But I digress.

The point is, if your circle is small enough, you don't vote, you discuss. You lay our arguments. You listen to arguments. You consider accepting input and maybe changing your mind, if you see valid points from others. Maybe you can arrive at a better conclusion than the opinions you entered the process with. If that's not possible and everyone is adamant about their opinions, you should probably just split up your toys and go play apart. Whenever a discussion is in progress and someone calls for a vote, it's simply because they ran out of arguments and are hoping to win by majority, rather than reason.

Yes, people can be wrong. Genuinely wrong. Which is why what I just described is not and cannot be a democracy. You need someone on top, someone overlooking the procedure. Someone you trust - an authority. It may be a person (GM) or a body (officers). But at some point, someone needs to say "okay, so, the general discussion leans towards solution X". There might still be opponents of X at that point, but the decision should not be based on their numbers, but on the validity of their arguments. Ideally, everyone is convinced of one or the other, or, at least, yield based on trust.

A small group should operate based on consensus and authority - not majority. The reason is simply that a small group can define its goals clearly, and everyone in the group should be following generally the same goal - this is what constitutes a group.

Political institutions of all sizes are (in our modern Western society) organized democratically, because they are not clear on their goals, while being too large to get everyone together and settle on a common one. Democracy, in this case, is a method to determine goals suitable for most members. And "most" in this case means "more than the other guys". If you already are clear on your goals, you don't need democracy. You need people who are capable of civilized discussions and people whom you trust to make informed decisions (hey, that's two traits our democratic politicians are usually lacking!).

Jormundgard said...

WoW has a dictator guildmaster at the moment, but they only have power over virtual membership and possibly a guild bank. Most guild rules do seem to be largely decided and enforced by an oligarchy of the most skilled, motivated, or connected players.

I think the current setup isn't designed to be intelligent or respectful of players. It's mostly designed to keep Blizzard as separated from guild management as possible.

P.S.: I liked this post and think there are a lot of good ideas here worth discussing further.

tufva said...

This post is thought provoking as are the plentiful comments. You can argue whether a guild should be compared to a nation state, a business, a sports club or a military unit. You can debate the pros and cons of democracy versus the long-term good a benevolent dictator can do and how bad a malevolent dictator can be. In the end it comes down to this: most people don't want to be bothered with governance.

To me a guild is the same as any club/society for people with the same hobby. And I have been in many of those since I was 10 years old, so *counts on fingers* that would be 24 years now. Whatever the purpose of the club has been (theatre, computers, cheerleading, martial arts, army volunteer work, student union) - I have ALWAYS ended up on the board/executive committee fairly quickly. I am one of those people that enjoy helping out in the running of things that I am interested in - and that puts me in a very small minority, let me tell you.

The reality is that most people want to just turn up and do the fun bit that they are interested in (rehearse/chat about computers/play WoW/insert own example here) and then go home and forget it until next time. They are not interested in the administrative details of how these things are made possible - payments for domain names and web space, reviewing applicants, keeping the guild bank tidy, spending time weeding out unplayed alts from the membership, posting up raids, doing raid rosters, taking the flak when you have to bench people because there is over-subscription. All this tedious admin work needs doing and it takes time out of the leisure time you have to actually play the game - not to mention the RL gold that needs forking out for the forum web space and Vent server.

We are all essentially selfish creatures and as long as an organisation is run in such a way that we can get what we want out of it, we're not that bothered about how that is achieved. I myself am not taking on all the GM responsibility purely out of the goodness of my heart, I selfishly do prefer to be in the executive committee and being able to influence how things are done.

I agree that it would be great to see people take more of an interest in how things are run, but from past experience you will always see the same small number of people piping up with opinions/suggestions. And if people cannot even be bothered to give their opinion (not DO anything, just express their thoughts) on topics that will really affect them personally (loot system, sign-up rules), then how can you think they would be remotely interested to get involved with nitty-gritty guild admin stuff?

Frijona said...

"players will be discouraged from starting guilds because they are essentially putting time and effort into a social creation which, once created, they no longer have effective control"

I think this is one of the main issues with guild democracies. GMs often create guilds because they have a playstyle they want to form a guild around. They then recruit members with fitting playstyles. If the members then vote for different policies then that defeats the purpose of creating the guild.

This reminds me of when I started a nonprofit organization. I did it with some friends of mine and the object was to create something self-sustaining that we wouldn't have to lord over ourselves. After a year or so all the co-founders backed out for one reason or another, but the organization is still thriving. This was our plan, so it worked well.

One of the things that really made it work was the voting policies. Voting happened once a week (this was later changed to once a month) a member had to be there to vote, and quorum had to be reached in order for the votes to change anything. I think similar rules would make a guild democracy more feasible, instead of having people just vote in a forum, actually make them show up to vote. Members also had to pay to be a member and take advantage of the org's resources. Perhaps some sort of dues--guild bank donations or something--would differentiate between voting and non-voting members in a guild. That way members would have to demonstrate their involvement in the guild in order to vote.

@Flex - I think the above would solve a few of the problems you've discussed.

As for vote buying and corruption, it could be written in the guild bylaws that anyone attempting to buy or sell votes will get an automatic gkick.

Or you could just assume that people are going to be respectful of each other enough to not participate in those sort of things.

I think a guild democracy is a great idea and could work, if done correctly. It would be even more awesome on an RP realm with all the guild politics done in character!

Tonus said...

I just wanted to weigh in and point out that the groups you mentioned in your post, such as the AMA or the Bar Association, work a lot like a guild in WOW does. The larger group of people elect a smaller group that manages and promotes the group's interests. WOW guilds are the same way.

Anonymous said...

Democracy should be an option for those that want it but consider this: In time of war even a democratic state hands vast power to one man, power that cannot be over ridden except much after the fact. A progression guild, even a bad one, is essentially always in a state of war.

For a social guild I see no reason why not to be a democracy.

Gibbiex said...

Unfortunately democracies only work when the voter base is small, educated, and has a vested interest in the vote outcome. I dont think that's the case in guilds.

Okay,for example, kick person X. 99% of the voter base doesn't care one way or another (I am supposing that person X pissed off one person. If he pissed off the guild its a different story).

Or for example, where do we want to raid this week. You'll get a bunch of answers. When do we wan to raid? You get a bunch of answers, none of which are exactly the same.

As a guild leader, power is a two edged sword. Yes,i can kick anyone and do anything, but that may destroy the guild I worked so hard to create. Its a huge sacrifice, sometimes you have to run that TOC again and again,even though you get nothing out of it.

People who aren't in a GL position dont know what we go through ona daily basis. Constant arguing with the officers, constant various demands on our time. I'm not even 'allowed' to kick anyone without clearing it with the officers. Its a sensible rule (which i agreed upon) but it does put real ocnstraints on acting too swiftly. Also, if that person is popular - watch out, the guild will schism.

No, leading a guild isn't all fun and games, and having more than one leader will just make it worse. When was the last time a committee did anything meaningful?