20
Feb
09

Big Names

Look around any of the various Warhammer forums (or any other MMO for that matter) and you’ll see people posting vigorously and frequently. You’ll see many of the same names reoccuring regularly. Its very easy to buy into these people knowing what they are talking about. Sometimes they may even do. They give the appearance of being knowledgable and write with such confidence, discussing everything from the smallest character abilities to the largest of battlefield tactics and strategies.

From what I’ve seen, much of the time decent spelling is mistaken for eloquence, which is more of a comment on the standard of most postings than anything.

As in the real world, the ability to project confidence can fool others into believing you actually know what you are talking about. Therein lies a trap of course, when confidence far outstrips ability or empathy. These Big Names  get credit for Big Things that happen during Big Events on the various gaming servers. The Big Names say Big Things on the forums when there is a success. Hurrah! Oftentimes the Big Names do not seem to realise that self praise is no reccomendation.

Strangely, there is a Big Silence from these people when things don’t go so well. Or if not silence, there is many times someone else to blame for a Big Cockup. Sometimes the Big Names would appear to fall flat on their faces, their leadership fails. I put it to you that in these instances a large factor is this: They didn’t take into account that everyone else matters too or made a misjudgement based on a failure to grasp the current state of their community and their part in it.

This can be when you find out something about the person behind the Big Name. Do they blamethrow lots of other people. Do they acknowledge their part in whatever went wrong. Do they accept the big slice of humble pie on their plate. Do they try to cover up a cockup with misdirection and spin. It will vary and often be a combination.

 Maybe I’m not just talking about the players inside of an MMO any more.

And yet the Big Names are not the only people who play on the servers. There are many hundreds or thousands of others that play their part. They log on, they have fun (or not, depending on how the session went) and then they log off and get on with their lives. Meanwhile, the Big Names are posting on forums, discussing things of Big Importance. The community thrives.

There are many parallels between leading in MMOs and leading in the real world. These leadership models are based on source material I mentioned in earlier blogs. Purists might crucify me but broadly speaking they are as follows:

The worst type of leadership is based on fear. Fear of your boss because he’ll fire you, fear of the government because they’ll shoot you. Fear of looking stupid beside l33t players. Fear stifles creativity and spontaneity. Read the tactics on a website, doggedly stick to them.

A better type of leadership is based on respect. Respect because you are part of the system that put your leader there. Perhaps you and your leader share many common goals and background. Maybe that leader achieves things that inspire you and does many things with a positive benefit in the environment where you coexist. And so on. This type of leadership will engender more creative thinking, allowing those following to adapt faster to changing situations rather than being afraid to improvise.

The best type of leadership is that which is not seen. I do not mean in an underhand secretive way, but the kind that is unobtrusive, inspiring creativity, acting with a lightness of touch that is barely perceptible. Guiding but not forcing, knowing when to follow and when to stand at the front. This type of leadership does not feel threatened by clever improvisation from those that follow and actively encourages it, empowering people and activating their creativity. It is absolutely the most difficult type of leadership to achieve.

It could be argued that the second and third types above are related though all are based on the premise that some kind of leadership is needed rather than the principle of anarchy and zerg. (true anarchy, not sci-fi movie anarchy).

Given that the Big Names can achieve nothing in an MMO without everyone else, maybe then they are not as important as people casually reading forums or hopping in game might first perceive and that the people you don’t see so much posting or outside of the game are more important than a casual glance might indicate. How does the Big Name spend their game-related time – serving their own needs or serving their community? After all, if the community cannot call on them and expect one of the better models of leadership, what right does the Big Name have to call on the community.

Maybe some of the Big Names could/should realise this better.

Coda:

In fairness,  many people when thrust into the MMO arena are very young or have had very little experience of ‘people handling’. Suddenly they are in an environment where their age, experience or any other barrier is not a factor, only their drive. It is a safe testing ground for people to push in ways the real world might have so far denied them. This is a more complicated discussion than I want to deal with in the Big Names blog entry, but is definately an interesting one for later. I’ve focused purely on overt behaviour, rather than the underlying sources of that behaviour.

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4 Responses to “Big Names”


  1. 2 Roo Stercogburn
    February 21, 2009 at 18:24

    Big subject with lots of big subjects adjacent to it. Barely even scratched the surface and there’s lots of stuff mentioned that I skimmed, which might benefit from expansion, but not really here in a blog 🙂

  2. 3 Tremayne
    February 25, 2009 at 07:51

    Really big subject. Leadership in an MMO is HARD – hell, I find leading a team of 6 technical experts hard (good thing I only have to do it when the real boss is away!). In any MMO you’re leading a lot more people with a huge range of ages, nationalities, backgrounds, levels of maturity and motivations.
    If you’re a guild leader, you can rule by fear (of ythe almighty /gkick). If you’re trying to lead community-wide stuff you HAVE to be one of the better types of leader, with all the difficulties mentioned above. Hats off to the rare few who can do it though – they’re what make these games into Massively Multiplayer Online Games instead of Tight Little Clique Online Games.

  3. March 22, 2009 at 00:30

    I truly appreciate you taking the time to share this . Look forward to more posts from you


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