I’m a gamer – meaning I play video games. Much to the chagrin of my wife and to the delight of my children, I love sitting in front of a computer screen and allowing an alternate reality to consume my time. I have been playing video games since I was about five years old – from Super Mario Bros., Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy (the original) to Skyrim, the Witcher 3 and Star Trek Online. My gaming “career” has spanned for 20+ years, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
During the span of my gaming lifetime, I began to play video games online – both games that allowed for simple co-op with friends to massive multiplayer online games (MMO’s), and this expanded my horizon when it came to the games I came to love. I’m a role play gamer by heart – meaning I love creating a character and making him or her my own. This began with a free copy of Dragon Warrior from Nintendo Power magazine to anticipating the release of Final Fantasy 15 next month. With my love for RPG’s I began to dabble in a lot of MMO games, and to date have played a lot of them. In that span I have been a part of corporations (EvE Online), guilds, fleets, etc, and have even chose to start and lead my own. My experience is less then some, but it is still vast, and my take on in game organization of players is not unique.
For the sake of wording, let’s just call them guilds. My first experience with this was in EvE Online, and my current experience is being a guild master in both Neverwinter and Star Trek Online, both on Playstation 4. It isn’t easy being in a guild – there are rules, regulations, and requirements. There is typically, if the game is good and thought out, some sort of guild objective to complete. However, without these guilds the game and experience itself would be incomplete. In some games I like to sit back and just be a part of the crowd, yet in others I like to lead from the front. I have ran successful guilds in some games and had disastrous results in others. My guild in Neverwinter, for example, which I have passed off the day to day duties to a good friend of mine, on PS4 is a leading guild, especially around the guilds that don’t charge for admittance. We do have requirements for membership, but they are not strict – the purpose is to both have fun and better the guild at the same time, and in truth, they go hand in hand. My other guild is a Star Trek Online fleet, which, even though only being out for only about 2 months, has grown and carries a good reputation in the community – in fact, both of these guilds carry weight and a good reputation in the community. We are not perfect, far from it, but we are good. I appreciate the fact that people want to join us and be a part of our group, not because we are elite, but because we are not.
Elitism in gaming is a given. There is always going to be those people who are willing to do anything at all to be the best – from paying a ton of money to cheating. We have guilds in game that ensure they are the “best” by forcing people to pay money or in game materials to enter their guilds so they can boost their guild status – though holdings, guild buildings and guild projects. I understand, everyone wants to be in the best position as possible, yet to me, this takes the fun out of the game. Once you have reached the top, there is only one way to go, and that’s down, and it seems to me to be inevitable. But I digress from my main point. The way I see it there are four types of guilds:
1 – The Elite
These are the guilds that make you purchase your way in. They are typically honest – they take the money or materials and boost the guild to heights that no other guild can reach otherwise. You instantly have access to the best gear, benefits and the like, and you really don’t have to work hard for it, just open your wallet (or in some games, farm the materials / in game currency). These guilds are great – in their own mind, because they are the world’s first in clears, their guild holdings are maxed or way beyond any other guild. They have the right to look down on the little people because they are nowhere near the pinnacle that these guilds have reached. These guild rise fast, but in the end, simply plateau to quickly – and ultimately get caught up to by one of the next types of guilds.
2 – The Militant
These guild usually start out as type 3 – simple groups started by groups of friends that eventually grow because of relationship and overall appreciation for the games. However, due to wanting to be the best – but not wanting to spend money, they fall into the trap that the elite guilds simply by pass through entry requirements. Members are required to donate large amounts of materials – meaning the grind is real in two ways – the personal grind and the guild grind, and what happens is that people will eventually lose interest in the game all together. Grinding is fun, but when it is all you do, it gets old quick. Yes, grinding is a major part of MMO gaming, but when it becomes just that, the fun is gone, and the stress sets in. (My opinion is that gaming should relieve stress, not cause it, at least not on a continual basis). It usually starts out small, but in the end, because the demand to be the best is so high, the need for grinding increases, and eventually will swallow the guild whole. Unfortunately, in the end the guilds like this never actually plateau, they end up getting half way there and they stop. Guild participation is a must at some level for all members, but these guilds end up taking it too far. People get for the slightest reason – it can be as simple as an officer is frustrated because certain donations aren’t coming in, or because someone is asking a stupid question or whining over something. The thought that we have no idea of what is going on in that person’s real life never crosses our mind, only that we are tired of people’s bullshit.
3 – The Ugly
These are the ultimate failures. Again, typically started by a group of friends. Has typical growth but has no real vision. Unfortunately for the guild leadership, is is just as much the fault of the members they bring in as it is their own. They grow in size only to have a roster full of dead weight. No one wants to kick anyone because they do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, yet there is no active participation, except maybe from a few select people who just want to play the game and could care less about the guild or its functions. These guilds ultimately just fill useless stats by developers – “In 6 months we have 1.2 million players with 1325 guilds!” blah, blah. So, I suppose they are at least good for the bottom line, but not for much else.
4- The Good
The last category of gaming guilds – at least in my mind. To be honest, the have attributes of the elite and the militant – They want to be the best, they want people to participate, they want guild donations, they want active and good members. At the same time, they take the time to cultivate even the most idiotic members – as a friend of mine calls them, “The Potatoes.” They mentor these members as long as they allow it and help them grow into something else. If they don’t grow, they get let go for more viable players. These guilds call for donations and put incentives in place beyond the obvious ones – the growth of the guild. They recognize that people need something for themselves, not just the group as a whole. The guild itself is important, but it always comes down to the individuals that make up the guild. In other words, the guild members don’t get lost in a roster, they are the roster. Growth in these guilds is not as quick as the militant, but it certainly isn’t as slow as the bad. The guild members are happy and they are willing to help the guild grow any way they can. Some help more than others, and these people are recognized. Some only help a little, and appreciation is shown and at the same time they are helped to get to a place where they feel they are free to donate more. There are requirements, rules, etc, yet when these are not met there is an attempt to figure out why and there is an attempt to rectify the problem. These guilds ultimately get to the top, and they get there through hard work and effort. They don’t pay their way to the top and they don’t crack the whip to get there either. These are the guilds that last, these are the guilds that have happy and successful players.
I admit, these descriptions are over generalizations. There are thousands of gaming communities and guilds out there, and to lump them into one category or another is simply too difficult to nail down. I also left off the list my least favorite type of guild or community, and that is the one where the leadership doesn’t even play the game, but rules at the top for no other reason than because they can – not caring for anything or anyone except the number of members on a spreadsheet. This is more of a plantation then a community – and I despise them – but it is what it is. For those in these type of groups, I encourage you to leave and find a home that actually cares. The choice is yours in that matter.
Again, no guild is perfect, and most guilds typically, and fluidly move from one type or another. House Stargaryen, the community I run, as an example has had its militant times – thankfully to our benefit, but sits pretty comfortably in the good zone. In the end, a guild or community should enhance YOUR gaming experience and in turn you should enhance the GUILDs gaming experience – a mutual beneficial relationship. To me, a guild or gaming community should be a place for people who love a particular game or games to come together and participate in that game together. Simple as that. The guild should enhance the gaming experience and not be a detriment to it. Obviously politics and goals will enter the picture, but they should never detract from the game or the gaming experience. They should make it more fun, and not the other way around.