Guilds: the Life and Death of a Game
I recently received sad news from a friend that she would no longer be playing WoW. It wasn’t totally unexpected; both she and I have logged very little play time for the past several months, so I fully understood her decision. In our discussion about her quitting, she mentioned that it had been hard to find a group of people to play with like she and her husband had in previous expansions. In short, guilds had failed her.
I’m so immediately and emotionally connected to that sentiment that I felt I should write on it, perhaps “again” as it’s nothing new to this blog. The game – whatever game it may be – is never better than when you and your group are meshing perfectly. We write about those times, about the heroic and funny stories of boss encounters, pvp situations, and even role-playing events. We share the joy and laughs of those good times because we’re bursting with the desire to share how great things are.
The other side of that, though, is that the game is never worse than when play groups fail. Guild drama, raiding problems, /gkicks, and the like all make up the measure of the worst type of gaming stories, the ones we write for sympathy and as words of warning. We’ve all seen our fair share of those, and many of us have had to endure them.
Play groups are the lifeblood of every single MMO out there. They’re what makes a game an MMO; just being online with a lot of other people – parallel play – is meaningless, really, and only visually distinguishable from a single player game, in that there’s other people around that you know aren’t AI. Play groups make or break a game, and having enough bad experiences with play groups is often the cause of people quitting a game. Players may say it’s about the mechanics or a shift in the game’s design, but if they still had a play group they loved, none of that would matter.
Of course, burnout is a very real and different reason that people quit, and not even a good play group can always cope with burnout, but from my personal experience, burnout has always led to breaks, but failing guilds have sounded the death knell of WoW, even if its actual death came somewhat later:
My buddy quit after our initial guild fell apart, then again after my previous “best guild” mistreated him, then permanently after a bout of guild hunting that landed us in several different guilds on different servers, none of which worked out.
My two friends who are brothers stopped after guild drama of various types. Both came back, but didn’t stick with it because they weren’t part of anything larger; they couldn’t find a guild they meshed with.
My wife stopped playing after our last guild (which for me is three guilds ago, to be clear) fell apart. She comes back for a little of this and that, but she’s never really had interest since.
Every one of these cases came down to play groups, and all were avoidable, but now I’m left in a similar place; I’ve none of my old guard to play with. I bounce around with my new buddy in the flex raids once a week, but that’s all I do. The clanging heartbeat of excitement we used to have when we raided in a great guild is gone, and the game’s subsisting on life support. If my schedule changed and I couldn’t make those flex raids regularly, that would be that, without a doubt.
Folks, if you’re in a good guild, treasure it. Thank those people the next time you see them – you know the ones – the players who make the social circle an inclusive, warm place to be. Tell them how much they mean to you and your gameplay, and when things go a little wrong, fight with all your interest in gaming against things falling apart.
Those play groups are all that separates that fun from dust.
Stubborn (who reminisces about his old days in good play groups)