Prompted by this post from Kendricke, and a little commentary by Cuppy and Darren in SUWT #2 (another good podcast, guys, thumbs up) some perspective from someone who largely avoids joining guilds in MMOs these days.  It’s meant to be explanatory, not to denigrate or elevate any specific style of involvement… this is not a “guilds are evil” or “soloing is the future” post.  Just rambling…

I have, in the past, been part of guilds in a few games, most heavily in EQ1 and Shadowbane.  None of them were exceptionally noteworthy in terms of accomplishments: no first successful raids, no domination of major territories, or the like.  They were relatively casual groups of like-minded people that just tried to help one another out, and maybe had a common goal to achieve (like building and maintaining a “neutral” stronghold in Shadowbane).

What eventually drove me away from guilds, in large part, was the type of 1) time requirements usually required and 2) interpersonal drama that Kendricke mentions in the linked post. 

  • The sometimes-dreaded “have you got a minute” tell from an guild leader (in Shadowbane, this could be _bad_ news);
  • the hard feelings and occasional bad blood when an individual switches guilds, or even just stops playing;
  • the everpresent tension, if in a leadership role especially, to be available to entertain and manage and cajole;
  • the sometimes rather hefty time and activity expectations placed on members, for raiding guilds in particular.

In terms of time requirements, 4-6 hours a night, 5 or more days a week simply is not possible for most people beyond (perhaps) college age.  Work, families, the daily demands of life begin to require gaming to be an hour or two every couple of nights (randomly determined to boot), and maybe the occasional Saturday or Sunday afternoon. 

Guilds can (and do) form to accommodate that… but the drama still comes into play.

There is far less emotional connection and personal investment in the guild in such a situation in the first place, of course, because there is, in some ways, less connection to the guild.  Specifically, the guild has less to offer by way of unlocking access to content.  (This would not have to be the case, btw… it simply, at present, is the way it usually is). 

It’s easier to leave, easier to switch, easier to ignore entirely. 

And I find that to be a bit sad, because guilds and similar mechanisms are also one of the larger and more powerful sources of entertainment in these games, the concept and tool that really transports the entire concept into realms beyond yet-another-computer-game.  It’s one of the elements of the MMO concept that is difficult to easily replicate (to the same depth, at least) in most other games.  It can be done: the clans of FPS gaming come to mind, but MMOs are, or should be, nearly perfect for this.

Some questions to ponder:

Is it problematic to allow players to join multiple guilds simultaneously, such that if one is undermanned, another can be tapped into without utterly abandoning the first?  (This perhaps applies more to cooperative games than competitive ones.)

What tools could be made available to reduce the burdens of the guild leaders?

What are ways to provide guilds with “something to offer”, perhaps along the lines of raid access and the like, while still accommodating more “casual” styles and schedules of play?

P.S. Upon re-reading, the way the above came out reminded me of the essay questions on a thousand different tests I’ve taken over my many years.  Sorry if I triggered any unpleasant flashbacks :-) … blame my father, he’s been a high school teacher for 40+ years, it rubs off over time…