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Insularity – or – No Guild is an Island

May 11, 2012

Dear Reader,

Today, I want to come back to more serious discussion; in particular, I want to respond and add to Rohan’s recent suggestion that smaller end-game groups have killed MMOs.  He notes at the start that the theory may be wrong, and there’s a slew of commentators on his site who agree and disagree, but what I’d like to do today is take his theory and add something I feel that he inadvertently left out.

First, the breakdown of his five main points.  For more information, please see the link above.  Be aware I’m paraphrasing and summarizing quite a bit to keep it short.
1. Larger guilds have more room for average players.

2. Larger guilds make it less likely that you play alone.

3. Larger guilds handle turnover more easily.

4. Larger guilds rely less on everyone getting along.

5. Larger guilds are harder for the devs to deal with in a variety of ways.

All of these I think are very valid points, but I think several of them can be summed up with a single word, a word that’s been bandied around (by Rohan as well, I think) the blogosphere since 10 man came back into fashion: insularity.

I believe that insular comes from the same latin roots as Island, though I admit it’s been a while.  Let me check.  Yes, according to a likely dubious online source, I’m correct.  As the saying goes, “No man is an island.”  Well, WoW’s worked very hard to allow – or force – guilds to become self-sustaining isles.  Allow me to explain with a story.

My wife recently decided (god knows why with TSW and D3 on the horizon) to get back into WoW.  She began prepping to get back into raiding by jumping into LFD to work on her valor points and get some practice.  Sure enough, virtually every group she got had at least one complete imbecile (often more) or one jerk (often more) (and usually often DK tanks).  She quickly got annoyed at putting up with their shenanigans and decided to call it quits yet again.  She hasn’t been back since (that was about a week ago).  When she was complaining to me, I pointed out that more and more people who are having such an experience decide to only run with their guilds – that’s the point I was at before I stopped playing seriously around Christmas.

She asked around in two of our guilds (on different servers) and found that a majority of the players said that they’d do LFR, but when it came to 5 mans, they’d either go with guild and maybe one pug or not at all.  Keep in mind these aren’t stellar guilds that my wife and I are in – we’re talking just this week downed regular madness of Deathwing in one guild, and we have no idea where the other guild is because we haven’t been on those toons.  So even in marginal guilds, people have become insular.

Even though it feels counter-intuitive, I feel that smaller guilds cause more insularity than larger guilds.  Because you become such a “tight-knit” team, it makes it very easy to start to develop and “us vs. them” mentality.  In a larger guild, it becomes more difficult because there’s such a diversity of players that you just don’t know them all.  While you’re all “in a guild,” you’re not necessarily all in the same group, interested in the same things, playing the same way, or chattering on your tiny vent server. Small guilds, though, force more personality on you.  You get to know them more.  You share more stories of suffering.

So while I think that Rohan’s theory is on the mark, I think that the force behind a lot of his points is simple isolationism.  I don’t only blame the size of the guilds, though, nor do I think that’s all he attributes the decline to.  It’s one cog in the destructive engine.

Here’s how the engine runs:

The insularity leads to under-exposure to other types of players,

which leads to belief that your playstyle is superior,

which leads to elitism,

which leads to the antisocial behavior (not only of elitists, but people on the opposite end who are anti-elitist, which is of course another form of elitism),

which relates to the decline of public spaces (such as LFD, general and trade chat, etc),

which leads to more staying in private spaces,

like… guilds.  Which of course is insularity.

This vicious cycle repeats unhindered as long as the devs don’t take radical actions, which they’d hesitate to do for fear of customer backlash.  So the engine spins away, each cog doing its own part, devouring the digital worlds we’ve loved.

As usual, I don’t claim to have a solution.  I’m not sure which cog is the weakest – which would be the easiest to break to bring the engine to a grinding halt.  If we could target it, though, it might be a start at reclaiming our communities from the runaway noisy minority of jerks out there.  Because, truth be known, plenty of the Nice Guys and Gals are insular, too.  They’re hiding from the disgusting public spaces that the devs have inadvertently made available, hiding in their guilds, either elite or marginal, still playing or having given up hope and simply hanging around.  And without a strategy to fix that situation, I don’t believe anything’s going to change.


Stubborn (and depressing, perhaps, today)


2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 8:36 am

    Coming from AoC, there aren’t really that many large guilds left due to population issues. Often we have to PuG our raids so we end up still getting exposed to other playstyles etc when guilds are helping eachother out. I feel it’s actually the opposite in our case. Now yes, there are elitist gamers in AoC, I’ve worked with them. They are elitists because they know the mechanics of each fight and what classes work best etc. This does occasioanlly make things difficult, but over all, most puggers in our game stay fairly respectful.

    Playstyle though is important. Each guild has their own. Now personally, I keep things pretty mellow, while we raid, we aren’t progression orientated. Our guild is founded upon the principle that everyone has something to contribute to the guild success. I have several members that don’t raid at all as it’s not what interests them. The ones that do however, go with the playstyles that work best together.

    We are a small guild, and msot of the guilds in AoC are small to medium. You get to know people in that game regardless if they are in your guild or not as the over all community is small. This means jerks don’t last long. Oh, they are out there, but they still don’t last long as they gain a quick reputation that most leaders won’t tolerate.

    Guilds on our server often network and create raid alliances so everyone gets the chance to see the older content as well as the new. The Guild Leaders often get into vent with eachother and avoid headhunting but help eachother out. It’s more of a rough and tumble atmosphere, but folks do help out a lot in the pve reralm. Even the most elite players and vets that have returned to the game offer mentorship to newer players to help them along too. Not in the forums mind you but in game.

    I think honestly the larger populated games suffer worse because people can hide in anonyminity. They can be jerks as they don’t have to worry about reputation. Cross server technology, not insularity has created this. Yes, tight knit crews do have things done thier way. If it works, no issues. This is the same even in the military in the real world. You have tight knit teams that can be clannish but they get a smooth operational tempo up because they know eachother.

    Larger guilds are certainly easier to fill up raids and such, but I think there is still a valid place for smaller guilds. I’d take 5 solid players who enjoy eachother’s company over 30 half assed players that are jerks. This whole thing honestly falss deeper on the Guild Leadership and less on guild size. Leaders are the ones who set the tone of the game. I don’t make my guild raiding into an eSport. I certainly don’t make it into a second job. It is my own opinions that smaller guilds create deeper relationships with thier core members. There is nothing wrong with this. There is something wrong though with Guild Leaders that don’t allow new players to grow and try stuff out. That though is on the Guild Leaders, not the size or social dynamic of the guild.

    A Guild Leader who doesn’t welcome new members or doesnt promote helpfulness with respect to wards new memebrs is really a poor Leader. Yes, guilds have thier way of doing things, but the good guild leader always is looking at new strats and builds to see if they work. I currently count about 3 different approaches to most of our Tier 1 raids. Depending upon group make up, I use different strats and always welcome advice from veteran puggers. It makes the game go easier. But that is also my leadership style. I’m confident enough to keep an open mind about stuff. Other Guild Leaders should do the same. In our game, we are forced to pug about 90% of the time. We are doing good if we can fill 50% of our raid with our own crew. The rest come from other guilds.

    Just my two copper on the subject 🙂

  2. May 14, 2012 8:41 am

    PS as always, forgive my spelling, I know its atrocious. I am forced to write awall of text in about 5 min before Im off to work for the day lol. Anyways, have a great day Stubborn!!! 😉

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