Friday, December 11, 2009

WOW Guilds as an attention economy

Several years ago, a real life acquaintance said unto me, "Attention is the currency of the future." He's said this to many other people over the years, often at game industry panels, and it applies quite well to online communities.

The AA guild consists of 15-20 different people who interact with each other on a regular basis. I wear the 'leader' hat a majority of the times, though some of my more socially aware players occasionally pick up on when I'm distressed or burnt out and organize and operate fun runs with some good enthusiasm and let me have some time to just play.

A WOW guild is an attention economy.

As The Leader™ I pay my guildlings with attention.
  • I run heroics and raids with them.
  • I chat and be social with them.
  • I praise them when they do well--but I don't overdo it.
  • I thank them when they're helpful.
  • I invest time in them if they're behind.
  • I try to unruffle feathers and smite drama before it goes overboard.
  • I listen and remark.
Unfortunately, sometimes I get spread thin. I work on detecting which players within my group are self assured and worry less about giving them attention and worry more about those who need the encouragement. I still thank the more self-assured players, however, they don't need it and may fall into similar attention patterns, lessening the burden on me by making sure that people who may not get enough attention from me will still feel sufficiently welcome and part of the whole.

Sometimes my players behave badly and I intentionally stop paying attention to them. I stop paying them with my attention. This is pretty rare but it's something I'm doing with a few of my less active players at the moment.

Here are a few non-payment cases:
  • Undergeared player "Wants to raid", even sets it as their note (which I removed). They're in Naxx gear, they're not online often, and they don't seem to put effort into getting better. Sure, we've brought alts other players of the same class in equal gear into raids before and had them do just fine, but those were alts of people who'd invested the time and effort to be the best they can and are willing to be flexible. They have skill and experience. Now I would be more than happy to help "wants to raid" but "wants to raid" is mysteriously not around often. "Wants to raid" does not help herself, therefore she gets little attention or help from myself or anyone else. When "wants to raid" wants to actually raid, they can get online and start completing some random heroics.
  • "Le Sigh" is another player I'm currently not paying much attention to. His schedule kinda sucks, he's not always around, and he seems to be playing a bit sub-par. His heart isn't in it. When he is around he expects us to do things for him, to make spots in our raids (bench someone reliable). He will sit around and be all pouty, he also expects us to go out of our way to grab him and involve him. No, I'm not going to call you or go get you out of the channel that makes it so you can't hear anything. Be present, be active, step up your game, and stop with the self pity.
  • "Roleplayer" has some behavior issues and has been drama-queening lately, somewhat due to RL stress and other issues inappropriate to discuss here, which is why I am amazingly patient with this person. Again, another person who has been busy with real life but expects us to drop everything when they're there. They want the guild to run them through stuff instead of using the new LFG tool and seem to get upset that people don't (when people are currently running that and busy). When "roleplayer" is having a tantrum or feeling unhappy he'll go to another channel and complain and drama-queen. When he engages in such behavior and then asks what we're doing, he's probably not going to get an answer, let alone a raid invite. He does occasionally step back, realize he's being a douche, and give sincere apologies for his behavior.
  • "Lag" is a slow learner but generally well meaning. She listens to people and somehow gets caught up in drama. I don't think she's entirely guilty or malicious, but she isn't innocent either. Myself and several of the self-assured folks spent a good deal of time helping her get her DPS to not suck and then her hard drive died. She's now on an old laptop that doesn't run very well and complains about lag. She mopes around wanting raid invites when we're trying to do currentish content and hardmodes. She can't be on her A-game on the machine she's running and in a 10 man raid where we're doing progression or hardmodes we need everyone on their A-game. She sends signals that she wants us to buy her a new one as she doesn't work and for whatever reason turns up her nose at quick temp job suggestions. I think one of her parents is getting her a new drive for the holidays. I've given my sympathy and suggestions, I'm not going to dwell on it, I have two accounts plus a vent server and web hosting to pay for (along with food, gas, insurance, utilities, and rent).
Usually, when I stop paying players with attention, they act out as an attempt to get attention. They may go off and cry to each other or seek attention from other self-assured attention-givers. Sometimes those players come to me about the problem and I tell them point blank what's up and those other players tend to back off as well.

When the badly behaving players find their stunts aren't working and that people are just thinking they're acting like tools and attention whores they step off it and curb the bad behavior and actually get better (or quit).

When their behavior improves attention payments resume.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.

What do you think of attention economies in WOW?

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