Monday, January 18, 2010

On declining applicants based on age

I was browsing around the intertubes, and came across this post at the bossy pally.  I was inspired to post a comment, but I really didn't get to say everything I wanted to say in that comment on the topic.

Then I thought about it some more.  And I realised it was an entire blog post on guild leadering all of its own.

My guild has an age policy.  That policy is that we are an MA 15+ guild (often tending to R 18+).  How did this come about? Well, waaaaay back in the depths of time, when me and a few of my wow buddies started our first guild we had no age policy.  We also had no checks and balances on the type of person we let into our guild.  We kinda just did our thing and worked hard to get kara moving.  Now, back then, our guild was very different, and the people in it were a lot younger; in fact one of our best recruits and officers was 14 years old (he's 3 years older and wiser now and no longer an officer, but, he still plays with us when he can).  At that stage, we were fine with not having adult talk in gchat.  I didn't mind and the other officers were either parents or female, apart from one, but he was fine with it all.

Then, we started getting serious about raiding, and our player base changed.  We recruited differently, and in return, we received applications from guys in their late teens/early 20s.  This started to change our guild culture to something more, well, I wont say mature because it wasn't, older is a better term.

When we merged with another guild, to form the one I currently lead, we acquired a lot of new people in the male, early 20s mark. This put our guild squarely in the MA 15+ range.  I had to change what was unacceptable as gchat content in my mind and started policing differently.  It was at this point that I put a clause in our application form and on our guild information that we recruit 18+

So yes, we have an age policy in our guild now.  The people we have in our guild are not going to be curbing themselves because there is a minor in the guild anymore.  Most of our members are in their 20s or early 30s.  We talk about things that 15 year olds really shouldn't be hearing from us.  Or, more to the point, our members don't want to have to double think everything they say before saying it in gchat because it might be inappropriate for someone.  This was about making the environment comfortable for the people already in the guild, not about making it comfortable for those new to the guild or not even IN the guild yet.

We like our talk about sex, drugs and rock and roll.  We give each other a hard time in jest, we don't want to have to censor ourselves because there is a 14yo who shouldn't be hearing about the fun times that our guild members had last night on... whatever it was that they were on.  Those guild members are adults, that 14yo is not.  I do not believe that it is my guild members' responsibility to try to determine what is and is not appropriate for a minor not in their care.  Some kids are fine with it, and so are their parents, some are not.  I do not want to end up in some kind of situation where I have to justify our actions and comments in guild to someone's parents. I also dont want to have to play nanny to the guild chatter more than I have to.  Curbing conversations that simply go too far to be appropriate is enough for me!  Let alone guessing where the line is for a 14yo.

All this is compounded when the 14yo is female.  In a place full of mostly males, any kind of sexual innuendo suddenly takes on a whole new and sinister meaning when an underage female is involved.  There are very real concerns about stalking and inappropriate flirting and "come ons" which make a girl feel uncomfortable.  Not only that, but the more responsible males will feel uncomfortable simply being in the same place as a 14yo girl if they are not related to her in some way. 

For example, the kind of innuendo I get thrown my way every day as a chick playing WoW I just take in my stride and throw right on back.  I am an adult, I can look after myself.  If I were 14, not only would I be wondering what on earth they REALLY meant by that, if they were interested in me? were I interested in them? ok so I'm not interested, so now I think they are creepy, but what if I am interested... and so on.  In addition to that, a 14yo version of me simply would not have had the sass to throw an even more inappropriate comment back and put the commenter in their box and get away with it.

Now, all this said, this isn't about discriminating against young people.  There have been a few notable exceptions to the general rule above.  There have also been more than a few delicate flowers in their early 20s who have not suited us either. 

But as a general rule of thumb, if the applicant is under 18, we tend to discourage them from applying.  And the main reason is that we like our guild culture, we don't want to have to change it for one person, that really isn't fair on us.