Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Motivating Raiders: Part 1 – Fear

I got feedback from a few people that they enjoyed my Fear, Love, Respect post but missed a part about practical application. The following sequels will attempt to remedy that by detailing ways in which you can achieve each of the three and what consequences that may have. I originally meant for it to be only one sequel but well, it got somewhat big, so we are only dealing with fear today. Love and respect will follow.
If you haven’t read the post I linked above, please do that or wait for the other parts of this series before you imply that I suggest ruling by fear alone – I don’t.

Inspiring Fear
If you wish to lead through fear, you need to make it clear to your raiders that bad behaviour will be punished and that it’s better for them to behave. Essentially you are appealing to their sense of self preservation. Be aware that there are two kinds of fear, only one of which seems desirable to me. Players can fear the rules or they can fear you. Fearing the rules (or, well, their repercussions) is almost required in any larger community of humans because we do have a tendency to be selfish.

“To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant. Wolfe.”

– Thomas Hobbes, De Cive

The above quote from Hobbes is better know as “homo homini lupus” or “man is a wolf to man”. Now obviously people can be unselfish and help others out of altruism, but the larger the group becomes the less likely you are to have that connection between everyone. People will act selfishly and you will need rules to keep them in check.
Below is a list of a few repercussions you can use when your rules are not followed.

  • Personal naming and shaming – You contact people that break your rules directly and tell them that you are unhappy about their behaviour and that they may not repeat it. This is a relatively weak instrument. While certain people are very receptive to such talks and will avoid them at all cost, most who break the rules in the first place seem to be somewhat immune to this. Weak as this may be, if you find people who react well to it – use it. It creates much less problems than any of the other methods.
  • Public naming and shaming – You call out perpetrators in raid chat, vent or on your guild’s forums. This can be very effective since most players are social animals and don’t like the idea of looking bad in the eyes of others. There are two drawbacks to this instrument. Some people can be very offended by being called out in public and may overreact, throw a fit and even leave the guild. You have to decide for yourself whether you want people like that in the guild – if you can’t afford to lose them, be careful with public criticism. The other drawback is that people may use the opportunity to ridicule your rules and brand you as pedantic. The danger of this is especially high if you insist on rules being followed in cases where they don’t (seem to) matter.
  • Verbal abuse – You call your raiders seven different shades of stupid or go on a rage about how you hate raiding with them. I personally dislike this and would never employ it. This very rarely leads to fear of the rules and often to fear (or ridicule!) of the person. More about that below this list.
  • DKP penalties – You reduce the perpetrating player’s ability to get loot in some form or other. The actual implementation obviously depends on your loot system – you may reduce the persons DKP, drop them to the bottom of the list in suicide kings, not give them any loot in loot council or simply ban them from rolling in a roll system. Loot is a huge incentive, especially for players who have a tendency to be selfish (and therefore don’t follow rules.)
    A players who is threatened with a loot reduction will think twice before breaking rules and will work harder to meet expectations. Be aware though, that a DKP reduction is very quantifieable and can easily be seen as unfair if you don’t apply it rigorously at every offense. Players can also get very emotional about this kind of penalty, even worse than with public naming and shaming. If you do use this tool, be sure people have been prepared for that possibility. Tell them you will start deducting DKP when an issue happens once more and pray that it doesn’t. The threat will inspire fear, the actual execution may inspire hatred.
  • Lower priority on raid invites – You simply invite a perpetrating player less often to your raids. This can be very ineffective, very effective, or very dangerous depending on how you implement it. The first rule here is that players need to know that the penalty is happening. Simply inviting them less and less is prone to drama and will not lead to an understanding on their side. Instead there will be whispers going around that you hate certain persons and are unfairly preferring others over them. This can cause both hatred and a lack of respect. Even if people know very well about this measure, there will be some people who are not seriously affected by it since they don’t care about raiding too much. Some won’t mind skipping farm raids and others won’t mind skipping progression raids. If you leave them out as punishment, make sure you leave them out of the raids that they actually want to attend.
  • Demotion / guild kick – This is your ultima ratio regum, the final argument of kings. Handle this one with absolute care, but do not threaten it if you are not willing to follow through. Guild kicking not only loses you a player, it may also make their friends angry. It is, however, also an incredible source of fear. If players know that you are not too shy to kick people that can’t behave, they will be really careful with what they are doing.
  • I hinted above that there are two kinds of fear, and I have talked about why fear of the rules can be good. The other kind is fear of the person, you. A player that is afraid of breaking the rules can be pretty secure that they will be treated fairly if they adhere to the rules, but they will also be prone to negative actions that are not explicitly forbidden in the rules. Some leaders may therefore prefer to be feared themselves. If a leader is known as vengeful and unforgiving, players will be more likely to analyse their own actions for things that may offend her. A feared leader won’t have to deal with “but that’s not in the rules” because everyone knows that the rules are what the leader wants them to be. A feared leader will use harsh punishments and won’t be shy to guild kick people she doesn’t personally like.

    If you are a highly successful competitive raiding guild, leading in this style may work – but people will only follow you because they fear the repercussions of not doing so. We recently had the top Alliance guild on our server (and previously top guild on the server on both sides) disband, and their leader used such an approach as far as I am informed. People were willing to put up with it as long as the alternatives were only going to a much less progressed guild or transferring servers. Well, progress recently wasn’t so good any more and all of a sudden people weren’t willing to put up with it any longer. The results – revolution, a dead king and a dead guild.1
    Fear of the person, in my opinion, cannot work in the long run. As useful as it may be to actually get people to think about your reaction to their actions, the risk is just to high. You also lose most possibilities to inspire real love, the circle of your real friends will be dangerously small.

    Machiavelli warned about this, and so do I. It is all fine and dandy to rule by (some measure of) fear, but you have to be very careful not to become hated. Overly harsh punishments will cause this as well as unfair ones. If you don’t explain your decisions or don’t have a foundation for them, people will take it personally and start to hate you. If you punish some people but not others with the same offense, people will hate you. If you have fixed rules set up, most people won’t start hating you if you act them out. But if you are acting willy-nilly or are working through personal fear they will hate you. Ignore people who make good suggestions or talk over them and fail to admit that you yourself were wrong and people will hate you.

    Hatred does not always manifest itself openly right away, especially if you are feared. But people will start to talk behind your back and be happy if someone defies you or you are proven wrong. This will cause people to take every opportunity to hurt you as long as they believe you won’t notice it, and may cause them to jump ship as soon as they see greener pastures on the horizon. It may also make people simply unhappy and therefore less focused on the game, ending up in outright quitting it.

    Long story short – if you want to be feared, make absolutely sure you are not hated or the consequences will be dire. I’ve seen hated raid leaders before and their style worked for a while, but never for long.

    If you liked this, join me in part 2. If you didn’t, dammit, leave a comment and tell me why 😉

    1 This is my understanding of how the guild went down from tales from the outside. I apologize if this is not an accurate description of this case.

    • Again – nicely written and sth. to remember as a raid leader. I'm looking forward to your insights into love and respect.