What Guild Wars can teach you about Teamwork and Networking
Guild Wars is an MMORPG. That stands for Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game. If you're not familiar with Guild Wars, or games like World of Warcraft, you create an account and with that account, you can create one or more characters. These characters start at basic levels of competency, and as you play the game, the characters gain experience and resources. What makes these games, these MMORPG games, unique, is that most of the time, you are controlling your character and playing along with many other people and characters. You can interact with others, go on missions, and work together to achieve common goals. While playing these kinds of games, Guild Wars in particular, can be tremendously fun and personally rewarding, there are actually quite a few business lessons we can take from the experience.
Guild Wars Explained
I won't go into too much detail about the mechanics of Guild Wars, but it's important that you understand some of the basic aspects of the game environment in order to relate to the points I'm about to make.
The name Guild Wars stems from the fact that the gaming world is made up of various factions, called guilds, to which individual characters belong. The Guild Wars world is one dominated by monsters and warriors and magic. Guilds battle each other through formal tournaments for control of territory and prestige. Each Guild has its own Guild Hall where Guild members can gather to meet, talk, trade and organize.
You have to go on missions and quests to advance your character. You can try them on your own if you wish, but you'll achieve more success if you work with others. More than just having more muscle or firepower on a mission, bringing along other characters and working well together are sometimes the only way to get through a particular task.
While I played and developed all kinds of characters within Guild Wars, my favorite and most advanced character was a monk, Ajax Guaramo. In Guild Wars, Monks have some offensive ability, but are mostly used as healers. It's their job during combat to keep everyone else alive. To be honest, I rocked. (The actual term is l33t). My guild mates loved to bring me along on missions where it was critical at certain points that someone was kept alive. One in particular involved a team of players defending a ghost from a series of incoming enemies. It was my job to not only keep my teammates alive, but this ghost as well. At the same time, the enemies would come in from three different directions, so the best method for completing the mission was to split the team and defend all sides simultaneously. Having a great monk was important, but it was also important that the other team members understand their roles and communicate with each other.
Repeatedly going on Guild Wars missions can bring your teamwork abilities to new heights, demonstrating the need for good planning, excellent communication, and continuing support of your teammates.
These are obviously important aspects to building and fostering a good team within your business as well. Unless you're a sole-proprieter, you're going to have to communicate and work well with the other people within your business, and they're going to have to do the same with you and each other. Hopefully the simple act of working together on projects will help your teamwork ability, but if you're still struggling to work as a team, consider doing some regular team-building exercises - even if it's playing a game like Guild Wars. At one of my old jobs we would often play Counter Strike during lunch breaks to have some fun, let off some steam, and build our team. Here are some more traditional team-building exercises for businesses from Mind Tools.
When you're playing Guild Wars, it's entirely up to you what missions you go on and who you play with. The missions progressively get harder though, so by the time you get to the most advanced missions, it's likely you're going to want help. You can stand around in towns and try to join a group of strangers - that's called a pick-up group - but those groups often fail and fall apart.
Instead, getting to know your guild mates and getting them to help you on missions is far more efficient. Becoming more familiar with guild mates through the online guild chat system, attending guild events, and helping other guild members on missions, will help you become closer to them and learn about their strengths, and they you. When you know what specific guild mates are really good at, it will be easier to arrange parties for missions that have all the skills and key payers that you're going to need. And when you've helped other people, they'll be more likely to help you when you need it.
Similarly, in business, it's critical to have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your own people so that you can make sure that each employee is placed in positions where they can achieve success. But this concept can also extend beyond your own staff. Do you work with other businesses and vendors in your area? Have you explored opportunities to collaborate on projects and refer non-competing, complimentary business? That's what great networking groups are for. Weekly or monthly meetings give you an opportunity to meet other businesses in the area and look for opportunities to help each other.
One final lesson from Guild Wars that was a little more subtle, but definitely there, was in the realm of marketing. In Guild Wars, there are literally thousands of Guilds. Each Guild can have up to 100 members, but most have far fewer. The thing is, there's no in-game Guild Directory or any other structure to help new players (or old ones) find and join a Guild. You have to be invited.
Ideally, you'll know or meet someone who is already in a good Guild and they will ask their Guild Leader to invite you. If you're new to the game though and don't already know someone else who is playing, you might be tempted to join one of the Guilds being advertised in the towns.
Some people, in an attempt to market their Guild, will stand around in towns, usually the towns were new players start, and regularly announce to the crowd that they have a Guild that's looking for new recruits.
In the real world, we call that spamming.
Yet people do it! And not just within Guild Wars. How often have you logged into Facebook or Twitter to see someone saying the same thing, over and over again, and all they're saying is "buy my stuff!" It's an evolution of spam email and spam direct mail, under the assumption that if I repeat myself enough times, to enough people, someone will buy.
And unfortunately, it can work. If no one ever sold anything from spamming it wouldn't be an issue today.
The problem is that a lot of business owners either think it will work for them, or don't understand that when they do that they really are spamming, and not using social media in particular the right way.
You want to know the absolute best way to find a great Guild in Guild Wars? Make yourself a resource by helping other people and being fun and engaging. Whoa. Does that sound familiar? The same kind of behavior that can win you friends and glorious rewards in Guild Wars is the same style of behavior that can improve your social media engagement.
I think my next Social Media Marketing Workshop is going to be a Guild Wars gaming session.
It's absolutely true though. When I first started playing the game, I had been introduced by someone I worked with so I joined his Guild. His Guild was virtually inactive though so for much of my initial time playing I was on my own. I worked myself through the first 20 or so missions, and eventually got to one that is always an enormous challenge for first-time players, Thunderhead Keep. The basic difficulty of this mission is actually vey similar to mission I mentioned before. Toward the end of the mission, you have to keep a non-player character alive while everyone else defends the keep from wave after wave of monsters and foes. There are more bad guys, and they're even tougher than the earlier mission, so most groups fail. That first group that I was in failed too, but one of the people in that group happened to be the Guild Leader of a growing and successful Guild, DARC. The way that I played and the way that I communicated with the team impressed her so she talked to me after the mission and invited me to join her Guild.
That is exactly how businesses should use social media.
Get on Google+ and begin sharing great, helpful information. And not just spamming links to articles - you need to be conversant and look for ways to engage other people. Take the time to read what other people are saying and if someone has a problem you can help with, speak up. Offer recommendations or information or encouragement.
As you participate in Google+ Communities (or LinkedIn Groups), other people will begin to take note of you and circle you or connect in some way. They'll +1 your posts and share the ones that really impact them. They'll recommend that other people circle you as well. Before you know it, lots of people will be following you and engaging you, and leads will begin to flow. Some of these people may find they need to hire you, while others may recommend a friend.
Don't just stand around saying "Join my Guild!" Be part of the conversation.
And if you want help on your next mission, look me up.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."