February 7th, 2011
In Part 1 and Part 2 I outlined some of my recent findings in MMOs. In part 3 I offer some suggestions for guild leaders.
Build group identity – Even simple things like having a guild logo and guild forums help to build a sense of belonging. Try to come up with some fun rituals you can do as a group. You don’t have to make a cult, but it does help you distinguish your group from others. For example, if you’re a PVP group in EVE and you do a Friday night combat patrol, maybe you could fly part of your route through an under traveled area and offer to escort lone transports. Or how about Goonswarm’s classic single, “Little Bees”?
Represent the group – be what we call a “prototypical leader”. Talk the talk and walk the walk. The more you look and act like the leader of your guild, the more influence you will have. If you lead a peaceful mining guild in EVE but your alternate character is a pirate who flies around shooting down unarmed mining transports on weeknights, you will lose credibility with the group (if that’s not what everyone else wants to do).
Screen new members – Being exclusive can be a good thing. Make sure new members have goals that align with the group. Find out how they want to accomplish those goals, not just what goals they want to accomplish. If you take recruitment seriously, Google some common interview techniques. Anyone can put together a simple behavioral interview where you present sample situations that your group might face and ask the applicant how they would handle them. Just try not to take all the fun out of the game!
Learn more about your guild members and be a facilitator – find ways to match up their individual goals and play style with your vision for the group. If you want to take over a dangerous sector with rich resources, sell the combat piece to your PVP members and the rich mining opportunity to your “care bears”. A grand vision won’t eliminate the need for a sound plan to make it happen, but if you tie together the vision you can often let the team put together the specifics. Your job as guild leader is to bring those players and resources together.
Ask for ongoing feedback – Tell your guild what leadership behaviors you’re trying to build and ask for their ongoing feedback. Clear training goals and constant feedback are what separate leisurely games from training simulations.
Have fun! We play games to escape. It’s okay to kill some zombies and not worry about your professional development! Guild leaders burn out all the time so try to keep things interesting.
February 6th, 2011
In Part 2 I’ll focus on some of my more recent EVE findings, which I’ve presented at conferences but have not been published. While Part 1 focused on transformational leadership in EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars, Part 2 looks at transformational and transactional leadership in EVE.
Transactional leadership has an interesting relationship with guild stability. The more guilds an EVE player has been a member of, the higher their self-rated transactional leadership. Yet the higher their transactional leadership, the less likely they are to leave their current guild in the next six months. At first glance it may seem the more a player has to offer, the more they can engage in exchanged-based interactions. Character age, as a proxy for character effectiveness (and by extension wealth) ought to then predict transactional leadership, which it did not. In practice, character age may actually be a weak predictor of wealth. Anecdotally, many players appear to reach a level of personal comfort beyond which they may not progress financially. That is, they build up enough resources to play the game in whichever manner most suits them and only rebuild their wealth when it falls below the point at which their game actions are no longer sustainable. Therefore, as players participate in many different guilds, they may stay just long enough to build economic and military connections that they take with them to the next guild. As players increase their knowledge and connections and have more intangible resources to exchange with new guild members, it may take them longer to exhaust the possibilities of each new guild. Put another way, prior guild experience may provide players with resources they can exchange with new guild members, extending their exchange-based usefulness and allowing them to build an increasing number of new connections before they move on to the next guild and repeat the process.
Also interesting: I compared the leadership scores of EVE players to the self-ratings of managers in organizations. There are a host of reasons why this isn’t an even comparison (two very different groups, different context, and so on) but it’s still intriguing! EVE players rated themselves lower in transformational leadership but they were actually higher in transactional leadership. In both cases the difference was statistically significant. The structure of the EVE really supports the exchange of resources and reward-based missions, so it makes sense that transactional leadership might be higher. This doesn’t necessarily mean EVE is building strong transactional leaders — it could mean that transactional leaders are drawn to EVE over other MMOs. What it does mean is those EVE players who do exhibit higher transformational leadership behavior, or who work on developing it, may better stand out in the crowd. My advice to EVE players & corp leaders? Keep doing what you’re doing from a transactional standpoint, but focus on transformational leadership and you’ll be ahead of the game.
February 5th, 2011
Now that our Simulation & Gaming article is online, I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of our findings. For the MMO study mentioned in the article, I surveyed players of EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars. I asked them about their leadership structure (whether they had a single leader, a team of leaders, or no formal leaders), their own leadership role in the guild, and their transformational leadership behavior, both within the MMO and in their real life workplace.
I think the most interesting finding is that guild leaders in guilds with just one leader tend to report the highest levels of transformational leadership. As the guild has more leaders, their individual transformational leadership declines. I believe this supports one of the underlying assumptions of leadership research in video games, that leadership is even relevant and that guild leaders are acting like so-called traditional leaders. Regular gamers might say “well duh” but from a behavioral point of view it is important to establish prior theories of leadership are even relevant in a virtual world context. This also suggests that strong leadership may not be necessary when leadership is shared among several members or the entire group. There’s not much research examining how leadership structure impacts performance in MMOs.
Another finding I think is very interesting and specific to MMOs is the type of leadership structure in guilds. In EVE, only 25% of the participants said their guild was lead by a single leader. Although leadership teams or “top management teams” have become popular in organizations, they are still the exception. In MMOs a single leader or CEO is the rarer form of leadership structure.
One last takeaway is the different trends between MMOs. Comparing WOW and EVE, players who said they were not in a guild tended to self-report higher transformational leadership behavior than players who were not in a guild in EVE. When you get right down to it, leadership = influencing others. In EVE, you can play solo for years without really interacting with anyone and still get pretty far in the game. In WOW (at least at the time of the study) you needed to team up with other people to accomplish high level goals. So in a sense, WOW was requiring all of its players to have or to develop at least some level of transformational leadership ability, whether they had it themselves (solo players) or by association through their guild. Now, EVE guilds/corps appear to require or develop a similar amount, but only in WOW was influence also required for solo players. You need to be able to exert some influence if you’re constantly trying to put together high level raids with strangers. This is a great example of how a game will have a hard time inadvertently developing skills, like leadership, that are not built into the structure of the game.
I’ll post more tomorrow on one of my more recent EVE Online studies!