I was always quite skeptical to the concept of so called “tweets” which rarely seemed to hold much meaning in their 140 characters. If you’ve read my blog posts you know that expressing deep meaning with just a few words was never an art I mastered. For the sake of the blog however I reluctantly resigned to my fate as a “twitter user”. I have now found that sometimes interesting things do surface, even on twitter. About two weeks ago something caught my attention.
@Lawilc01 Randomly reading an MMO Champ thread about raiding, just found out there’s an EU WoW guild specifically for people w/ social anxiety.
I instantly knew that I needed to get myself an interview with someone from this guild. It was too interesting to pass up. So I wrote the GM who was friendly and very helpful.
Guild: Paranoid – GM: Mipsy
Server: Emerald Dream EU
Main faction: Alliance
Game: World of Warcraft
On Paranoid’s website the following description is given of the guild:
“Paranoid is a guild for the socially awkward, the shy, the people who’d like to raid, but get a headache just thinking about all the things they could screw up. The people who type a message to someone who’s LFM in trade, then backspace, then type, backspace, type, stare at what they’ve written, backspace again and go quest on their own. And if they do press enter, they’re relieved if they get the reply: ‘Sorry, full.’
The people who’ve never seen Naxxramas or even vanilla dungeons, because the thought of grouping with strangers (or even guildies) freaks them out. The people who don’t like talking in gchat. The people who are actually quite lively in gchat, but refuse to speak on vent. The people who would like to try tanking, but haven’t gotten any further than taunting mobs off the NPCs on that pvp island between Conquest Hold and Amberpine Lodge in Grizzly Hills. The people who’d like to see all the game content, not just the stuff you can solo. But if you want to solo, you just do it, without others trying to press you into grouping/talking/whatever.
Paranoid is a no-pressure guild and we have completed several current raids. We don’t demand you have your mains with us, we don’t ask you to read tactics and/or watch videos (I know it doesn’t help me at all!), we don’t care if you make a mistake that wipes the raid (seriously, we’re too busy worrying about our own mistakes), we won’t think badly of you if you suddenly need a break if you can’t take it anymore and it won’t cost you a raid spot. If you’d like to join with an alt and raid with us on a main, that’s fine!
We aimed to bring a bunch of people together who get this. Really get it. We want to play with the like-minded, who also sometimes say: ‘I’m out of social energy. I have to go’ or ‘I need to turn off gchat for a while.'”
Interview with Mipsy:
Could you give me a brief history of your guild? When was it founded, by who and why?
It was founded by a very nice lady called Mer in 2011; she wrote the guild intro on our front page about the guild ethos. I took over towards the end of Cata and mostly put myself in charge of raids, since a lot of people were saying they’d always wanted to raid but hadn’t dared to try in the past. These days we’re really just a social guild for people to chill in, we raid once or twice a week (had some roster issues in WoD, which seems more related to the state of the game than the guild), do some 5 mans, lfr, rep farms, and there’s a couple that persist with PvP for some ungodly reason.
How many members do you have at the moment?
500+ members, but really about 30ish regulars and a bunch of people who pop up now and then for a month then unsub. Lately though it’s anything between 3 and 15 people on most nights since most of us can’t find much to do outside of raids.
How do you keep a guild like like this alive and active?
Don’t think we’ve done anything particularly special. Most of the regulars use the forums and we do a lot of planning there, like if anyone wants to do something in particular. We encourage people to post their own stuff on the calendar and just ask for someone willing to lead it if they don’t want to do that themselves. I read all the applications we get and then talk to everyone that joins at some point to find out what they’re interested in doing, whether they’ve got any concerns about being in a guild, etc. We’ve also got guilds on the Horde side and now on FF14, so we can schedule other stuff there too.
Can you expand on how you handle recruitment of new members? Do you work to spread the word about the guild or do people come to you?
For years the only recruitment we did was a post on the realm forums that got bumped whenever someone remembered, and there’s been a couple of blogs about us I think. Recently we’ve been talking about starting a sub-reddit since we’ve had a lot of people getting fed up with WoD and playing less. Most people come to us, sometimes they transfer from other servers and sometimes just roll alts here.
Can you tell us a bit about is it like for people with social anxiety in real life and in-game? What are the main differences?
It takes different forms for everyone, and of varying severity. In the guild we’ve got people that are on disability because even talking to people they don’t know can bring on panic attacks/sickness (that’s kinda rare though) down to those who just feel nervous around other people. There are also those who just don’t like being around other people for various reasons. In game…it’s…kinda the same, or at least it is for me. I don’t like people inspecting me, standing near me, looking at me (I’m a bundle of laughs). I don’t like pugging easy 5 mans because I might do something wrong and get people moaning at me, even though I’m an experienced raid leader with huge knowledge of the game. It ends up affecting the way you play, since you tend to avoid doing stuff like joining pugs from trade to do the latest raid on alts, which is how the game tends to be played nowadays. I guess one of the things with MMOs is that because they can be so immersive, and you have to put more effort and commitment in, you end up with similar problems that you have irl.
What is it like being GM when struggling with social anxiety?
I wouldn’t say I struggle with it really, I just kinda accepted it and don’t let it bother me. I think most people are used to the way I do things now though, which is good, since I don’t tend to say or do much until there’s something to organise or a raid to lead. Then I just kinda…take over. The main issue is sometimes I don’t feel like talking to anyone but I might fancy playing some WoW, and sometimes I end up not logging on in case someone starts talking to me, or there’s an event going on; the fact that you can not worry about ignoring that sort of stuff was part of the reason the guild formed in the first place, but I do kinda feel I should be a bit different if I’m meant to be in charge. Mostly though the guild’s run by a group of 5 or 6 officers, so it’s more a collective effort than me ordering everyone about.
What is the best part about being a part of Paranoid as GM? What is the hardest part of it?
The best part is when we get people who haven’t raided/done 5 mans/etc before for anxiety reasons and then, after joining the guild, they get confident enough to try, then do them regularly and even lead their own. It’s really cool when I get messages or read forum posts saying how much more they enjoy the game after trying stuff like that, or messages from people who appreciate what we’re trying to do.
The hardest part Is feeling responsible for everything, like I should be online all the time, should play even when I don’t feel like it…and that’s especially true for raids, since I organise and lead them too. Guess that’s common to anyone who’s GM/RL though. Really the hardest part is dealing with drama and clearing up mistakes of letting some people into the guild that we probably shouldn’t have, but that’s only happened a few times. I don’t like conflict ‘cos other people can wind me up pretty damn easily, especially when they behave like 5 year olds.
Do you have a wide variety of different personalities in Paranoid? There are obviously things you are likely to have in common but I’m guessing people might be different in for an example how casual/serious and competitive they are? Does that create conflict?
In terms of how serious/casual we are, think we’re all on the same page. I always make sure that anyone who joins understands we’re not a proper raid guild going for progress and just ‘a guild that also raids when we feel like it.’ Pretty much everyone here is laid back, doesn’t take the game too seriously, don’t care if people make mistakes and whatnot. We’re kinda lucky in that we’ve got a core of good players/former raiders. One of the problems with a social-guilds-that-don’t-care-
Can you tell us a bit more about how do you handle conflict within the guild?
In all this time we’ve only really had one load of proper drama, not long after we started Highmaul. Towards the end of MoP we started getting a lot of friends and family joining; like, Girl A has social anxiety and joins, then asks if non-SA Boyfriend A can join. Can’t say no to that. Then Boyfriend A asks if his friend can join, since they all play together…and then…well, it went on like that for a while. At some point someone decided they didn’t like someone else, and we started to get a load of bitching and moaning in raids. I was barely playing at the time ‘cos of RL stuff (and said people were annoyed because their completely rational and not-at-all dramah-queening antics didn’t get my full attention), but a bunch of the officers called a meeting with the few biggest problems, had a talk, and then let them /gquit. I was kinda annoyed at myself for not being around, but also glad I wasn’t since I hate all that. Occasionally we’ll get someone who decides I should be forcing people to raid more, farm more and generally treat it all like the serious business it is – or, even worse, start trying to take over raids – but that’s not what the rest of the guild wants so nothing ever comes of it. People here are just nice, guild pretty much runs itself. Plus the original founder’s still around and, well, she’s got a temper.
Do you feel like this guild and online gaming in general helps people with social anxiety practice crucial skills required for real life interactions or is it place to hide away and take a break from real life?
Well, on the hiding side of things I think an online game isn’t the greatest place to do that because you still have to deal with people in some form. It’s like, pretty much every game now has a billion online modes and ways to do co-op, pvp, whatever, and in MMOs I’ve never found the WoW community to be particularly pleasant as a collective. So many parts of so many games require you to interact with others, which is cool in a way, but if interacting with random gamers just makes you more and more stressed then gaming itself becomes stressful. As someone who likes MMOs I’m forced into those interactions, unless I wanna spend my whole time running LFR and farming yet more pets. The reason I joined this guild in the first place is because I had the choice of interacting, or not, but still had the advantages of being in a guild that you need in an online game (instance groups, tradeskill availability and such). As for practicing social stuff..honestly, I’m not sure. Personally, no, not really. I can communicate better with people in online games but that’s just because I’m not too bad at writing, so I can do the same with texts and IMs. I’ve learned a fair bit about how to ‘manage’ people and keep them happy, but usually irl I just want them to leave me in peace! We have had people over the years though who have said they gained confidence after interacting with others through online games (and with the guild specifically), which had a knock-on effect to real world confidence. And, again regarding the guild, some people who join feel like they haven’t got anyone else to talk to about social anxiety stuff, and the guild provides an outlet for that; I don’t claim to be a counsellor or anything like that (I suck at giving advice and don’t usually), but there are other people happy to discuss, offer advice, and all that.
Big thanks to Mipsy and Paranoid for taking the time to answer my question and letting me write about your guild! Also thanks to Laurie for drawing my attention to this story.