Burnout is a very, very real sensation that most of us encounter in the Havens. We have a fairly decent support group as members of the same administration, but there’s no denying the crushing reality that is the number of hours it takes to perform any of our behind-the-scenes duties. Building areas, programming quests, slogging through pages and pages of fictional writing to judge, handling hundreds of issues from paying customers… There’s a lot. In the end, this is a volunteer job that we do, and the only real compensation is knowing that we’ve done a good job for our players. That’s why it’s such a pity when a God leaves it all behind because of the playerbase.
Interacting with mortals is a God’s reward
When we are starting out as wee ephemerals, having an order and giving life to a god role is really the prime objective. It’s what drives all of our bright-eyed plotting and planning. The grueling hours and hours of creating a quest and then an entire area needs to lead to something, and full Godhood is just that. These are the specific steps we take to become “Alpha.”
It unlocks several new commands and gives us the ability to be relatively autonamous, in terms of building and manipulating the game. Having “ultimate cosmic power” isn’t enough without the added bells and whistles that come from supporting and building a thriving mythos around your character, however. What’s the point of being able to snap your fingers and send people flying if you can’t actually show it off? Who cares if you can create entire worlds if you can’t show a group of adoring players? The real fun of being a god comes from actually interacting with the playerbase, which, if done well, is also a lot of fun for you.
This also means that if you have ever received any “perks” from your chosen deity, such as a cult or a special plot, you can be certain that an event that may have taken a little over an hour probably took your god at least three hours to set up (depending on how complex the programming was). If you have earned a cult, you’ve received a gift that takes hours and hours to plan, execute, and maintain. Be proud of these things! The god is basically saying “I like you enough to do extra work for you.” See below.
Behind-the-scenes work is still work
Achieving Alpha, or full god, isn’t an invitation to stop working. In fact, it typically means that our workload increases, especially if we’re the go-getter types who take on even more responsibilities. Do you like reading? Sure! Then here — read these 20+ submissions by the end of the month and we’ll judge them together! Do you like rules and organized punishment? Do you like solving problems? Great! Review these 50+ player-born cases and make sure you make everyone happy, if you can. If you can’t, try again. Do you like grammar and punctuation? Perfect! Take these 300+ submissions of player designs and determine whether they’re ready to be inserted into the game.
On and on and on. Factor in all of the additional work, such as the End of Year event planning and building, monthly promotions, and assisting with new ephemerals, and we’re talking about 20+ hours for people who are truly dedicated (of which there are a fair few) and at least 10+ hours for Alphas who can’t reasonably give up that much time. So, if you’ve been following along, our reward for achieving Alpha, which is building and maintaining an order and roleplaying a God role, is relegated to the end of the laundry list of administrative duties. For the most part, this makes the reward all the sweeter after all of this toiling.
Being a God character is also hard work
Imagine no longer having a real voice. Imagine no longer having freedom to make mistakes. Consider what it would be like to log in, know you have a mountain of chores to do, and decide to interact with a group of people over and over again, knowing that you’ll only have that one pocket of the playerbase to work with. What would it look like to know that no matter what you do, no matter what you say, your decisions have an immense weight to the them and will be ridiculed/reviled/praised?
It is difficult. I’ve made it sound like a terrible, horrible burden, and sometimes, to be plain, it can be. Other times, it’s a miracle of real Divine light when things go well. Will my order lose its mind when I reveal X secret? Will the city or commune I patron hate me for counseling one of the contenders in an election? Will the players involved in X event react strongly if I actually do respond to a prayer or two regarding the outcome?
I am well within my right, as a god, to make any decision I’d like, the playerbase be damned. We have quite a bit of wiggle room when it comes to how we interact with players, and it’s always baffling to us when players think there is some sort of “divine codex” that is designed to “keep us in line.” As long as we don’t go completely renegade and slaughter all of you over and over, despite how tempting it may be sometimes, we truly are up to our own whimsy when it comes to player interactions. Have you ever seen Viravain angry? Do you remember what it was like when someone dishonored Terentia? Who can tell me what it was like when Fain was made a fool of? We’re gods. We’re encouraged to rain mayhem down upon your silly mortal world.
But, again, refer to the first paragraph of this section. If being a god, an all-powerful super entity, is our only reward for all of the work we do, why would we want to anger our community? It’s like a genie’s iron shackles, in some ways — ultimate cosmic power, itty-bitty living space. So, we inevitably stress over towing the mortal line until, one day, we’ve had enough.
There are definite benefits to volunteering
We all gain something from the experience. I, for example, have been able to reasonably say to an employer that I can manage large and seemingly impossible projects that have several moving parts (events require splitting your brain 16 ways to monitor everything). You also learn, very quickly, how to work with ideas that are mind-bogglingly foreign to you, which helps stretch your imagination to its limits. Knowing, as well, that you have contributed to such a stunning masterpiece feels good. It’s like being an author who gets to see his or her audience engage the materials right in front of you.
I’ve also gained a family of people who I would do anything for. After all of the labor, after all of the player grief, after all of the headaches and hard work, nothing beats the relationships that grow from long hours of helping another person. I know, without really any doubts in my mind at all, that I can reach out to anyone from my Havens family and ask for advice or help or some kind of solace, and they’ll deliver. We’re a tight-knit group, we Havens nerds, and it’s a great feeling to know that we all have each others’ backs.
It’s why the last section of my post is difficult to write, and why it hurts so much to see any of us go for these reasons:
Players can be cruel
To some players, our roles as god characters are not easily separated from our duties as administrators. Additionally, and this is true for most of us, we’re inhabiting characters that are 10+ years old with a lot of old baggage. Grudges are kept alive by older players that we have no reasonable memory of (because we’re different people!), and it’s always shocking how quickly those grudges decompose into modern-day issues. We’ll play along or ignore it, but no matter what we do, it’s futile to try and fight it. Gods are the easiest targets, after all, because we’re all-powerful.
Pause. Reread my last sentence. Now remember everything else I’ve written about the work we pump into Lusternia and how our visible roles are meant to be fun.
Put yourselves in our shoes and try to realize a couple of things:
- When we’re visible, we’re often handling IC player issues (especially if we’ve agreed to patron any organizations).
- When we’re visible, we’re usually called upon to facilitate more RP for the players, outside of the work we’ve already done in events and in building.
- We’re the immediate targets of ridicule from people who dislike us, especially if our roles are older and have a lot of baggage. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin over the past 4 years, so I’m more or less accustomed to being verbally abused “all for the sake of good roleplay,” but just consider what this could mean to a new god who has JUST taken on a role.
- Negativity regarding our god roles, in any form, is generally taken as a direct reflection of our only real reward. When we upset someone or somehow throw off the player equilibrium, we don’t get a vindicated “I’m big, you’re small” sensation from it (unless that works with our god characters, and very few have that kind of anti-charisma). For example, if I say something on-trend about the cities and a city enthusiast claps back, gets her friends to clap back, and then gets the whole community to clap back, my options for defending myself … don’t really exist. I could burn down Serenwilde and blame it on the Crone’s wildness, I could ignore it and let the anti-Lisaera propaganda continue until it’s just a burden to log in anymore, I could tell my order to handle that issue for me and be seen as aloof from the opposing camp … I COULD do a lot of things, but the repercussions for my actions far outweigh the repercussions for yours. The “ultimate cosmic power” I mentioned above truly does come with an itty-bitty living space.