United We Stand: The Machiavellian Guild Leader
United We Stand is an Ask A Jedi series focusing on guilds, groups, and other communities in Star Wars: The Old Republic. By examining the communities that we form, we can create a stronger game for ourselves, build relationships that will last a lifetime, and perhaps even change the world itself.
A while back, I read “The Prince” by political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. The idea was that it would have cool stuff that guild officers could apply to leadership and that I could write about. This turned out to be kind of true. In the actual act and organization of leadership, what Machiavelli has to say isn’t particularly applicable. We’re not hiring mercenaries, doling out land and fortresses to loyal princes, or deciding whether or not to raze, puppet, or annex cities (Oh, hey there, Civilization 5!). Although, it makes me wonder if in an older MMO like Ultima Online if this kind of advice would be more applicable.
I put the project aside, until I picked up a copy of “World of Warcraft and Philosophy: Rise of the Philosopher King.” You may have seen this book or maybe its companions like “The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am” or ‘Halo and Philosophy: Intellect Evolved“. At first, these seem pretty dumb, but it was actually really awesome. It is a collection of papers and articles about philosophy that all use World of Warcraft as an example. For example, there is one about how the World of Warcraft economy represents the capitalism that Adam Smith described in “The Wealth of Nations“. Another describes the philosophical idea of determinism through the example of a player controlling a character and that character not understanding what it is that causes him to move. In particular, there was an article called “The Machiavellian Guild Leader” by Moses Wolfenstein that discussed how guild leaders in World of Warcraft use some of the political leadership principles that Machiavelli talks about.
Wolfenstein points to the infamous Onyxia Wipe Animation as an example, in which the Boulderfist guild Wipe Club is trying to down Onyxia and after a particularly close loss the raid leader Dives began to yell and scream promising to punish them all with “50 DKP minus!”. Wolfenstein claims that Dives is employing the Machiavellian principle that it is better to be feared than loved or hated. Machiavelli says that if you want to rule a country and remain the ruler, it is much better to be feared because when you are kind and generous people will appreciate it. If you are loved, the people will not appreciate your generosity because it is what they expect of you and when you need to be harsh they will hate you for it. When you are hated, you cannot rule because you will be too worried about being overthrown. “It is better to be miserly than generous for when you fail to be generous where expected you will be hated, but if you are miserly than you will be unexpected.”
“The answer is that it would be desirable to be both but, since that is impossible, it is safer to be feared than loved.” In an interview he gave to James Wagner Au of Kotaku, Dives talks about the animation, his background, and his guild leadership style. He was asked if he is worried about people leaving his guild because of his leadership style, to which he responded “They don’t leave because they know I’m right.” According to Wolfenstein, Dives understands the dynamic of leadership that Machiavelli describes, which explains his actions on Teamspeak during that fateful and famous Onyxia raid (They got him on the fifth try when they should have got him on the first, according to Dives the “performance was a disgrace”).
He was willing to be hard and yell and to make his raiders fear his outbursts and his willingness to punish, something that most raid leaders would have a hard time doing and would rather try harder to work to be loved then complain about the performance later in officer chat. He is so well known for the animation that he gets requests to come to other guilds raids and be feared in place of the raid leader. “I get too many people asking me that people want me to come to their servers and yell something at them. I did go once and give some people some attitude, which was fun. But I get huge amounts of requests.”
What’s important is that Dives is not hated, he is feared, which is exactly his job and he is very good at it. While the animation was created in jest, it shows exactly what this dynamic is supposed to look like. Dives has decided that the cost of progression is going to be his raider’s love for him, and if that’s what he and his guild wants to do than that is fine. Nowhere does it say that your guild members have to love you for your leadership, all that matters is that the guild does what it promises to do and gets its members to the loot.
Machiavelli is probably most famous for his statements that “the ends justify the means” and that is what Dives is getting at. Sometimes as a guild leader, you have to do hard things for the continued fulfillment of the purpose of the guild. A guild, no matter how big or small, is successful if it is providing to its members whatever it is that is outlined in the purpose of the guild. As long as raiders are raiding, or warzones are being won, or crafters are crafting, or whatever the purpose of your guild is than it is successful. Dives found that the best way to continue to fulfill his promise to his guild, one of raiding, was to be this harsh to the point of being feared.
And that is okay if you are willing to sacrifice yourself that way. In fact, it’s probably a more effective way to lead a guild than to try to love and coddle your way through all the problems that you will face. But, it will cost a part of yourself, and you will probably have less fun doing it, particularly if that is not the kind of person that you are. You will face burnout sooner, be more likely to disappear or give up, and the guild will seem more like a job than not. Choose carefully, but remember that you cannot be both feared or loved, and above all do not be hated.
TwinHits is an officer for the guild Unity on the server Dreshdae Cantina. Leave comments or tweet @TwinHits with your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.