Creating an Epic Community
By: Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley | Reads: 717
Once upon a time in Camelot, I set out to create a refuge for people who were overlooked, discounted, and discarded by other communities. I grew tired of seeing people kicked from their guilds because they weren’t good enough, or didn’t play enough, or didn’t have the right gear on. I hated seeing people discounted just because they weren’t elite.
I set out to create a community for all walks of life. The young, the old, the in-between. The skilled, the learning, and the confused. A community that would instill good wholesome family values in its members and the server communities it took part in. Regardless of who they are and how skilled they are, I wanted to create a place where they could feel welcome and appreciated.
The key however was how to both attract the right people as well as keep the people who would subject our community to the same type of scrutiny out. This was something that took me years to figure out.
The first part of putting together any type of business or community is locating your target market. So I sat down with my old sketchpad and drew out the type of players I wanted to attract and what traits I would need to possess and encourage. On this paper you would find the words: Honor, Respect, Integrity, Fellowship, Kindness, Compassion, Initiative, Benevolence, Nurturing and Selflessness.
Then I drew the flipside with all the characteristics I wanted to discourage and avoid. Items such as: Rude, Vulgar, Elitist, Lazy, Greedy, Disrespectful, Selfish, and Conceited were among the top.
What this did was allow me to start building a system that would attract the people I wanted and discourage the people I didn’t. Once I had my target demographic, it was time for marketing. To attract the caring, I cared. To attract the kind, I displayed kindness.
Many have come to ask why we call the Gaiscioch a family. In Irish heritage and many Irish families today Family is first and foremost the strongest bonds you will share in your life. In a traditional Irish family you never act out of anger or rage at another member. Your “Blades Out” at the enemy, “Not In” at your family.
Growing up in an Irish family I knew no matter what happened I could turn to family and they would pick me up, dust me off, and encourage me to get back in the game. We helped one another and I cannot think of a single instance where we ever hurt one another. Life was explained to me as a family sport. It was up to all of us to ensure we all cross the finish line. It was this upbringing that I wanted to recreate virtually.
This feat is difficult with a family. With so many different backgrounds and ways of life it’s hard to keep hostilities out. With a community that has exceeded 6,000 people, you need to have a rock-solid system to help attract and encourage a certain type of behavior and understanding.
Creating our Digital Home
In the early days of the family we were but a handful. But that all changed when I built our website with a self maintaining moderation system.
Most guilds in the MMO space have websites. What I wanted to build was more than just a website. I wanted to build a virtual town hall; a meeting place and central hub for information about the family. This was designed to be both a test and filter to separate players who seek power and control, from the people who seek compassion and unity.
My grandmother taught me a very valuable lesson as a child: Leadership is not about telling people what to do, it’s about inspiring people to do what needs to be done. I applied this to the system so that I don’t tell people what to do, I let them decide to do it and inspire them to take initiative. This happens through a series of trials that happen behind the scenes as they climb the Gaiscioch family tree.
Taking Bias Out of Family Structure
The Gaiscioch Family is built on a structure that allows members a clear view of what needs to be done to achieve their next rank within the family. There is no sucking up to the leader to get promoted. It’s a clear structure based on how much a player Leads, Follows, and Contributes. If a player rises in the ranks it is by their Initiative, not by the leader’s bias.
Family Structure as a Mini Game
The Gaiscioch family structure is built in a way that new members only need to worry about participating in events. As they ascend the family ranks, they gain new abilities like claiming leadership, discovering recipes, and gaining access to special opportunities with game developers.
To climb the family ladder, members must earn “Family Honor Points” by participating or leading events, tokens of valor for proving their leadership on the battlefield, earning contribution points, accepting credos, and active days participating.
Family Honor Points
This is the core piece of how people climb the ranks. There are 2 primary paths that serve as requirements for certain tiers.
In addition there are 3 optional paths for members to earn extra Family Honor Points.
Tokens of Valor
These are awarded to leaders for displaying exemplary leadership ability. They can only be given by someone lower rank than the leader. This is a measure that creates synergy between leaders and followers. Leaders need the approval of followers to advance. Followers need leaders to advance.
These can be earned a variety of ways and measure the members willingness to give.
These are oaths that we ask members to take to reach certain ranks. These allow us to outline what to expect with each role and allows members to choose not to accept them if they do not want the responsibilities that come with the role. They also ensure that members of that role act in a way becoming of someone in that role.
To prevent people racing up the ranks too fast before having a chance to learn about the Gaiscioch way we put in a timegate. This timer continues to count so long as the member logs some form of activity each month. If a member goes dormant the timer stops until they resume.
The Trials of Gaiscioch
Once I decided who I wanted to focus our sights on, I needed to create a way to filter those that don’t fit the target audience in a way that didn’t create drama and hostilities, all the while encouraging those that fit our ideal match. I created a series of tests within the family structure and website to help accomplish this goal automatically. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with those people that don’t fit our target. I have just come to the understanding that when you pair people up with like minded people fun happens in a big way. When you have conflicting personalities, you end up with drama, hostilities, and resentment. Gaiscioch is not the Guild for all, it is the Family for many.
Test of Initiative
To join the Gaiscioch Family, a person must inquire about the family. We do not recruit by conventional means. We go into the world and show them our way of life and if a member wants to know more we welcome them to join us. But the first step is that they need to approach us. This tests their initiative.
Next they will have to register on our website, again ensuring that they are willing to take action to get something they want. The reason we do this is that we want to avoid the self-entitled players who expect everything to be done for them. Our community is about teamwork, but every member needs to be willing to help the family. Throughout their time in Gaiscioch they will continuously need to display Initiative to advance through the family tree.
Test of Fellowship
To advance in the Gaiscioch Family members will first show their willingness to become part of the fellowship by attending events and claiming participation on the website. They will begin earning Fellowship points for participation which are 1/5th of their Family Honor Points which determine their rank within the family. Without attending events, members can not improve their place in the family tree.
Test of Selflessness
Being charitable is a trait I try to nurture in every Gaiscioch. Both in-game and out. This is where Contribution Points, Family Vault Credits, Artisan Points and the Marketplace come in.
Each rank within the family requires a certain number of contribution points.These can be earned by donating items to the family for their public community event prize giveaways, providing crafters with supplies, participating in charity events, or by crafting items for players.
Players can fill work orders in exchange for artisan and contribution points. The system intentionally set up to be a loss to the artisan: the value for the item is not comparable to what someone could get from an in-game. It is designed this way to test who is willing to give to the cause, and who is just looking out for themselves.
Gaiscioch wants to separate the two like removing rocks from the sand in a sifter. Encouraging those who give without second thought and discouraging those that only seek personal gratification. Now that said, we have known many to come into the guild being self focused only to find themselves over time as part of the family and transitioning into major supporters of the family.
Looking out for others, even when they don’t ask for it, is one of the key components of our community. We have built our community around being a positive influence in the community helping players new and old any way we can.
In Guild Wars 2 alone we have given away 10 Legendary weapons, 14 Precursors, and over 100,000 gold worth of prizes to the Guild Wars 2 community during our public community events. In addition we have raised over $30,000 for children’s charities such as the Children’s Miracle Network. It is only from the hearts of a charitable community that this was possible.
Test of Patience
A key element I struggled with early on was players racing through the ranks as fast as they could. Once they hit the top they had nowhere to go and grew bored and stopped visiting the site. This is where I came up with the idea of a time gate. Each rank has a minimum active days requirement based off the players daily average family honor point gain. As members climb into the higher ranks a longer window of activity is required.
Patience is currency of accomplishment and is very crucial in many gaming and life situations. It is also one trait that is on the endangered list in humans. Everything is about instant gratification today. We used to schedule time to catch our favorite TV shows, now we DVR them or watch them on demand. With this new age we, as a human race, have lost patience. Waiting for the right moment is a very critical ability both in relationships and in the virtual battlefield.
From time to time, while setting up an ambush, you will hear me call out over voice communications, “put your ADHD in a can, fingers up your nose, and off your keyboard.” In today’s age the concept of an ambush is foreign. There you are hiding around a corner and a few people are jumping around, running in circles or casting random things calling attention to your position. Teaching patience is something I believe is absolutely essential. It’s a dying trait and someone has to preserve it.
Test of Integrity
A little known system hidden from public view exists as a way to test ones integrity and honor. A watcher script sits in the background and monitors claiming activities. If a member claims 2 things that happened at the same time, or lists several events that nobody claims participation for, it flags that member in the system for me to look into before their next promotion. I check in with the user about the discrepancies, ensure they know how the system works, and if I catch them in a lie, I note it in their admin log.
All complaints, discrepancies, and suspicious behavior are logged for future reference. All compliments and accolades are also logged. In addition, our Eldership team takes notes on players who they catch going out of their way to help someone. With this system we are able to he locate both trouble spots before they erupt and future elder candidates. All in all the system allows us to monitor a players integrity. It serves as a sort of “checks and balances” for our family.
The People in Between
There’s no way to build a 100% black and white gauge. Often times we find ourselves with people who are in the Grey area. These people are who I personally like to work with to help bring them to the light.
Just by being part of the family we have seen people change their lifestyles to embrace the Gaiscioch way. This is an amazing transition to watch as a new member entering the family, concerned with personal gain but lacking the initiative to reach out and get what they want. They call us their guild and always ask people to help them do something.
Time passes and then it starts to happen. They stop asking for people to do it for them and start inviting them to join them. They begin to look out for others and see past their selfish desires. Finally, they begin to call us their family. We have seen this transition many times.
Teaching people that they don’t have to be selfish-driven, rage-mongering, bundles of chaos is not easy when the rest of the world pushes them in that direction. But with a little friendly encouragement and camaraderie, we can break those barriers and help make more ladies and gentlemen in this world who and are both respectful and honest.
While Gaiscioch may not be the guild for all, it’s the family for many. We encourage all interested parties to visit our website and ensure it is something that they would like to be apart of. Misrepresentation can be catastrophic to a player’s enjoyment and it is important that they want to be apart of what you’re doing before they join. Otherwise you just end up with resentment and animosity. Bitter people don’t make happy times for communities.
I will be completely honest with my intentions. I hope that through Gaiscioch we can help teach the family values I grew up with, to help people learn what integrity is and why it’s so important, how to be honorable and kind. Most of all I want to teach people how to get along with others even when their personal beliefs and ways of life are different.
We have thousands of people in Gaiscioch from 76 countries. Our forefathers fought each other in wars, but we hold no grudge. We see the world for what it is and see a place where young and old can gather and call each other friend.
I don’t want to control people, I just want to show them there’s an alternate storyline to their life where things don’t have to be so hard. All it takes is pushing more kindness into the world, to be willing to reach out and seize the opportunity before them. This isn’t about control, it’s about inspiring people to better their lives and the lives of those closest to them while teaching good ol’ Irish family values.
In the end the Gaiscioch mission has and always be to create lasting memories and friendships. It’s only through understanding and compassion that we can make this happen. Creating extraordinary situations for people to bond together and overcome is one thing we have always done very well.
Gaiscioch Beyond Borders
Our focus doesn’t stop at our borders. What we do inside the family bleeds over to what we do in the server community and in our real lives.
We do not recruit people with words and we require them to take the first step before we welcome them to the family. But we understand that the only way that can happen is if they see who we are and what we do. This is why Public Community Events are at the very core of our existence.
We use our numbers and teamwork to gather prizes for giveaways, we find unique parts of games that attract people and we create an event series around it. These events recur for several weeks and are consistent so people can learn to depend on them.
If we do them right, they will be perfect catalysts for creating epic memories and lasting friendships. Now we don’t want everyone to join the family, we want to entertain everyone regardless of their guild affiliation. Even the people who don’t fit the target demographic for Gaiscioch are welcome to join in the fun.
In the end we are entertainers, and will go and do what is necessary for us to entertain. These events are our lifeblood and people have experienced and enjoyed them for over a decade.
Staying True To Your Mission
In all things in life, the more power you have, the more temptation will try to lead you astray. As Gaiscioch has grown I have been ever vigilant to watch myself and ensure I continue the course with the mission I set forth. Most guilds fall when the leader changes with power.
It’s not an easy task to keep your own actions in check when more and more people look to you as a leader. The opportunity to be corrupted rises with the gain of power. Temptation is put in your path to destroy your vision. As a leader you need to take time and be sure the motives are pure and true to your course. In moments, any false step can destroy all that you have built.
For me, I had to find an anchor. My grandmother’s legends and my upbringing have been that anchor. I am not a person motivated by greed or pride. These things are very low on my desire poll. For me, happiness has always come from the feeling I get helping others, in seeing someone accomplish something that they never imagined they could.
I tend to nurture that feeling on a daily basis to keep my intentions and goals pure. For years I have frequented new player areas, helping random strangers and giving them some easy to create items to get them started. I find by seeking out and helping others it helps me regulate temptation and keep my focus on what matters.
It is too easy to wander off course and it will be a full time task to avoid this as a leader of any community. In life you can see how power corrupts even the strongest of people. You’ll see it in your workplace, in your country’s government, and even in your local communities. The key is to establish something in your routine to keep you grounded.
The thing to remember is that people came to join your community for its values and traditions that you had at the moment they joined. If you allow temptation and power to shift your focus, you change the very thing they fell in love with to begin with and, in turn, change the atmosphere that they have grown to love. This will cause resentment, hatred, and anger which will slowly destroy your new civilization. The first and foremost enemy you will face in running a community is yourself. You must ensure that you stay true and do not let greed, and power corrupt your vision.
The Eldership Team
To aid me in my mission, I selected an Eldership team that saw my vision and like me possessed the natural affinity to chase this vision. Each elder was hand chosen because of their natural desire to help others and nurture a healthy community. None of my elders are people who sought power within the community. They didn’t even seek gratitude. They simply felt compelled to help others whether they were thanked for it or not.
I find by surrounding myself with other like-minded people I am more easily able to keep my focus and stay true to our mission. When times grow hard, they pull me from the fire, dust me off and throw me back into the fold. It is very important in all things in life to build yourself a support network. Without one you will shoulder the burdens of life on your own. No man or woman is meant to bear the weight of the world alone. It is through friends, family, and community that we are able to grow as humans and surpass whatever obstacles come our way. Even leaders need to seek a support network to keep them honest, and keep them moving forward.
Over the years I have seen what happens when you place a person in power that is self focused. It never ends well. Selfish behavior is amplified when you add power. They stop seeing people as brothers and sisters and start seeing them as tools. While every community may not practice this, I go through great lengths to ensure power hungry people to do not ascend into the Eldership ranks. Being a leader of Gaiscioch is not about telling people what to do, it’s about inspiring them to do whats necessary to obtain their goals. It’s not a position of power, it’s a position of servitude. Our eldership team (myself included) are expected to spend our time helping others.
At the end of the day
Creating a gaming community has proven to be a difficult, but enjoyable feat. It comes with its share of stress and worry, but at the end of the day when you watch hundreds of people enjoying themselves with others, it all comes together.
My approach is just one example to a plethora of styles to run a community. It has been an evolution over time and likely would not be easy to recreate. In the end if you’re looking to create a community, make sure you know what your mission is before you start. Stay focused on that mission and do your best to not let temptation lead you astray.
Lastly, remember that all people have a natural desire to feel important and included. They all seek acceptance. The more personal acclamation you weave into your community the stronger the bonds will be forged.
Everyone wants to feel they did a good job. Help them do a good job and they will forever be loyal.
Respect is something we all crave.
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About the Author
Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.
His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.
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