... and I can't believe that I've been so blind to it. It started with us not being able to field twenty-five-man raids anymore. I was wary, but still tried to be optimistic. After all, we were in the pre-expansion doldrums; it was summer, the time when people traditionally go outside instead of spending time online... and I was still running ten-mans with a good bunch of people, right?
But there were all these other signs: Our guild leader pretty much disappeared, due to having to deal with some health issues in real life. Our raid leader did the same, for personal reasons that he didn't talk about on the forums, and I didn't feel that it was my place to pry. The one or two remaining officers tried to hold things together, but didn't quite seem to know how. Without me realising, the casual ten-man runs that I'd been helping to organise each week had become the only thing left that could be referred to as an official guild activity. And each week even those ten-mans became harder to fill.
Now I keep hearing that people whom I considered core members of the guild have left to join another raid force. I'm hearing this from third parties because none of them thought it worth their time to post as much as a goodbye on the forums. I feel betrayed, and at the same time I feel stupid for feeling that way.
What's a guild tag anyway? What's guild loyalty? What good is there in sticking with a guild where nothing is happening when you want to be doing things? Surely I can't be holding it against people that they want to have fun in a game?
Maybe I never should have been in a raiding guild to begin with, because I don't seem to have the right mindset for it. The thing is, when I joined the guild three years ago it was a lot more casual than it is now, and I only joined because I wanted to play with my friends. I ended up raiding with them because that's what they did, not because I wanted to raid per se. Then we grew and became more hardcore, but I had no problem with it because I had no trouble keeping up with the increased performance requirements and nothing stopped me from mentally still looking at the whole thing as "just having a laugh with my friends". People from other, more progressed guilds tried to recruit me sometimes, and while I liked raiding and seeing big bosses die enough to at least be tempted on occasion, I never accepted, because in the end it would always have come down to not playing with my friends in the guild anymore.
People say that guild tags don't matter and that you can play with whoever you want, and to an extent it's true... but there's also a big part of it that's a lie. A guild is like this virtual space, and moving to a different one is like moving to a different town. Sure, you can still call your old friends up and maybe even meet up now and then, but you'll be hanging out with a different crowd during your week nights. That kind of thing changes people and their relationships with each other. I'm still on friendly terms with a lot of people that used to be in the guild and then left, but that means exactly that and nothing more. We may wave at each other in Dalaran, or ask each other for help to fill that last raid spot, but we don't raid together week after week, joke around in guild chat or discuss strategy on the forums anymore.
I love my virtual guild space. It's like a pub you go to day after day after work, to hang out, not just to have a drink. There may not always be exactly the same people there, certain crowds come and go, but the overall feel of the place stays the same. There've been quiet periods before, but this time it's different. This time it's been abandoned so utterly and completely that the owner will probably have to shut down soon. So I guess I'm not angry at any one individual for leaving, but I resent the lot of them as an impersonal crowd for disappearing and slowly eroding the base that the whole thing was standing on.
Now they scatter into the four winds and try to take me with them with promises of other great places they know. But to me, none of them are even remotely interesting, because I'm not looking for a new place to buy beer in the evenings (to stick with the pub metaphor), I'm looking for a home away from home. And that's not something you can just apply to based on someone's recommendation or armoury profile.
I'm just disappointed that so many people that I thought were hanging out with us because they enjoyed the company were actually mostly in it for the raiding. Not because there is anything wrong with being in a guild just to raid, but because I never thought that was the kind of guild we were.
I suppose the best I can do is hope for the Cataclysm to be a new start in more than one way.