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Guilds: the Life and Death of a Game

February 26, 2014

Dear Reader,

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)

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Wulfstan permalink
    February 26, 2014 1:49 pm

    Hear hear!

    I completely agree. There’s nothing sadder than playing an MMO solo after having previously experienced a fantastic guild / regular group.

    I’m amazed that MMOs don’t spend more effort on helping people find guilds. I think this would be the greatest solution to the famous “3 monther” problem. Having a great guild/group allows you to stick in end-game, rather than quickly moving on after consuming the levelling content.

  2. Samus permalink
    February 26, 2014 3:11 pm

    The system I want wouldn’t necessarily help you find a guild, but I think it would help you find better groups.

    It would be similar to the LoL honor system. After every run, you could “honor” players you would like to play with again, and “report” players you didn’t want to play with again. The group finder would try to group you with players you have previously “honored,” and would not group you with someone you have “reported.” The effect is that you would more often see the same people you liked playing with before (and who liked playing with you), rather than a new group of strangers each time.

    The other effect is a more fitting indirect punishment for jerks and trolls. Rather than trying to find and ban them all (an impossible task), it would simply take a very long time for the group finder to get them a group.

    This also helps form groups with the type of players you prefer. Do you prefer friendly, fun people? Do you care only about performance? Do you hate the “go go go” players who are always in a rush? Or do you hate when players take too long screwing around? Whatever your preference, those are the people you will honor/report, and thus the kinds of groups you will get.

    • February 27, 2014 12:21 pm

      Yesterday, Psychochild posted about a random group finder that would be similar to the LoL matchmaking system: if you’re interested.

    • February 27, 2014 12:33 pm

      Ideas like this and Psychochild’s have been around a long time. The Tribunal system clearly works – not perfectly, but works to some degree. Wow really seems invested on NOT doing anything, though, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. It’s only a matter of time until there’s a scandal of some sort about online bullying that gives game haters a legitimate attack against the MMO market, and WoW, I would like to believe, would invest in preventing it. Nothing, though, so far.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. February 26, 2014 5:29 pm

    Stories like this make me realise how lucky I’ve been. I’ve been playing for just over 7 years now, and I’ve only ever been in two guilds .. and in theory you could really class them both as one. I joined a guild, got to enjoy playing with everyone there, then it broke up and a bunch of us (the majority, probably) regrouped to start a new guild .. and I’ve been there ever since. We’ve had different people come and go, we’ve had people leave the game or the guild for a while and then come back, but we’ve had a similar core group for the majority of that time. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else 🙂

    • February 27, 2014 12:31 pm

      I hear a lot of stories like that, and it certainly does seem to come down somewhat to luck. I’m not the world’s greatest “go along to get along” person, though, and I know that contributes to my problems. It seems like every guild I join has one person who’s clearly a jerk and a bully, but it’s ignored by everyone else, so I try to ignore it, too. Eventually, though, I just can’t anymore. I was bullied, and as an educator have seen bullying, and I just don’t ignore it. I can’t. That usually begins to spell trouble for the situation.
      Of course other guilds have other problems, and sometimes I end up leaving a guild through no fault of my own but due to my allegiance to my buddy or my wife. Still, I’ve probably been in 10 guilds now, and only 2 seemed to not be dysfunctional after two weeks with them.

      So, enjoy it! (: And thanks for the comment!

    • February 27, 2014 6:12 pm

      I think a lot of it also depends what sort of guild you’re looking for and how relaxed your outlook is. We’ve had occasion where it’s become obvious someone isn’t a good fit for the guild – at that point it has to be dealt with, but those occasions have been few and far between .. and I put a lot of that down to a combination of the type of guild we are (casual raiding, but well behind the masses), the type of people we are (probably middle-aged as an average, lots of mums and dads) and the recruitment process (we don’t lie or exaggerate, we’re up-front and we require an application form to be filled in).

      We just don’t attract the type of people that cause drama, because we’re too boring for them!

    • February 27, 2014 6:19 pm

      I’d like to add, by the way, that I’m the guild leader, I’m middle aged and a mom, and I’m generally the type of person that hates conflict, but understands that drama ignored does not go away … people who cause drama (regardless of what it is) hurts the guild as a whole, not only the target of the drama, and is best dealt with like a sticking plaster … removed quickly. We have a nice list of rules that we require people to confirm they have read BEFORE they join us, and we adhere to the “ignorance is no excuse” policy.

  4. February 27, 2014 11:59 am

    This is where the misanthropist in me says that people have a hard time finding guilds that fit because they are hard people to “live with.” But I totally agree, social ties have kept me in a few games far longer than I was actually enjoying the game itself. When you do find a guild that clicks, it’s awesome.

    • February 27, 2014 12:05 pm

      I’ve written before that this is entirely possible; that my mash-up of expectations that span the range from hard-core serious to casually friendly may simply not exist in game. Yet that doesn’t make me feel like I’m difficult to “live with;” it makes me feel like WoW’s not the game for me. Since gaming is always entirely voluntary, if things aren’t working out, it’s easier just to try again elsewhere than smash that square peg in.

      It may be me, but since I have absolutely no trouble at work or in “real life,” I suspect that the WoW (or even MMO’s in general) environment is the problem, not necessarily the people on either sides of the issue.

      Then again, some of the people in my guilds were just dicks (;

    • February 27, 2014 12:26 pm

      Heh, I guess that’s what I meant. You have certain expectations that don’t mesh with those of the millions of other players in WoW. Don’t worry, I am the same way. The situation is made worse by the segmented server system they are using. So many other games have implemented server systems that mesh in a way that allows the player base to fully mingle. I wonder when or if Blizzard will ever implement such a system in WOW (outside of instanced content).

    • Cain permalink
      February 28, 2014 11:14 am

      I really do wish blizzard had implemented something so servers didn’t matter. I’ve met lots of great people over the years, but after this much time they are all fragmented on different servers. I won’t keep paying to server transfer just so I can be in a guild with people.

      I’m similar to both of you it sounds like that I expect more hardcore serious when I’m actually in a raid, but I’ve grown too old to meet the time requirements of a true hardcore guild. I’ll be very serious when I’m in a raid, but I won’t make every raid. I’m no longer a 20 something with no responsibilities.

      Leading a guild shouldn’t be extra work because everyone should just act like adults, but unfortunately that isn’t usually the case.

    • February 28, 2014 1:51 pm

      @Cain I agree, mostly .. although I think sometimes raiders can take it too seriously .. when you end up having people quitting mid-raid, or having a melt-down over voice chat .. that’s the point when raiding is being taken too seriously :p Which is probably why I’m part of a very casual raiding guild, rather than a serious one 🙂

  5. Beshara permalink
    February 27, 2014 5:12 pm

    I think MMOs need to create more tools that help people find good guilds, not easy random groups. The guild recruitment forums could be a good tool if they were organized, so you don’t have so many posts going to one section at a time. The guild finder in game was a good idea when it was created, but it doesn’t work when guild leaders don’t keep their info updated. Transferring and faction changing multiple characters for two accounts gets expensive quick, and then you find out the guild isn’t what they claimed to be. The new expansion’s promise of current tier cross server groups is too little to late.

    • February 28, 2014 7:52 am

      Yes, the focus on disposable “others” as opposed to stable relationships has undoubtedly contributed to the decline in in-game community, along with many other factors.
      Thanks for the comment!

  6. February 28, 2014 1:52 am

    I’m close to a 5 year membership in my guild and you are absolutely correct, these people are what’s making me log on. If the guild were to disband tomorrow, my sub would be cancelled the very same day.

    • February 28, 2014 7:56 am

      That’s almost certainly what I should have done after the first, or second, or third really bad incident, but I’m too stupid and, of course, stubborn an animal to learn a lesson like that.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. February 28, 2014 4:19 am

    I’m just wondering .. if you and your friends have such a problem finding a suitable guild, and you all are looking for the same thing .. why don’t you make one? There’s obviously a gap in the market for a specific type of guild, if so many people are having problems finding what they want …

    Rather than spending years bouncing from place to place, hoping that someone else will provide your dream guild, why don’t you get pro-active? :p

    • February 28, 2014 7:55 am

      We’ve batted that idea around for a while, but none of us have the time or energy to run a guild. My buddy was actually the GM of our first guild and had grandfathered in a lot of people from his previous guild. In that “Grandfathered” group was one of the most vile bullies I’ve had to deal with as an adult. He and his other friends from the previous guild just ignored it and were largely immune to it, but the newcomers – like myself at the time – got the brunt of it, and when that bully was proven wrong – again and again – he finally decided to really take a few shots at me and a couple other new recruits. I was no angel in the incident, but enough was enough, and that guild fractured when the bully and his posse left. My buddy, as the GM, was done with GMing at that point.

      So the short answer is that after 7 or 8 years, my enjoyment in the game has been damaged enough by bad guild interactions that I don’t have the interest to work that hard.
      Thanks for the comment!

    • February 28, 2014 8:15 am

      I do very little in the way of guild maintenance … or rather, the stuff that I do is “optional” for a lot of guilds .. maintaining website, facebook page, organising raids, maintaining roster ranks, keeping the guild bank ticking over. The primary role for a GM, as far as I’m concerned, is ensuring that the guild as a whole is happy.

      A happy guild needs very little maintaining and regulating. A happy guild has a fairly solid base of people who know how the guild works, and know what to do when something upsets that.

      I’m sorry to say that, in your case, that “bully” should have been dealt with straight away .. he should have been given a friendly verbal warning in private and, if that was not good enough, a removal from the guild. It may well have meant that the guild lost possibly a bunch of “good players” … but when you look at the ultimate consequence of NOT dealing with it .. the guild broken, the GM and other members disenchanted with the game as a whole …

      It’s not nice having to deal with that .. I know, I’ve been there .. I’ve had to remove people from the guild and deal with days of private messages from those I’ve removed .. both in game and out … but that’s why I’m the GM .. I’m there to take the flack in order to shield the members. I’ve had days when I’ve left the game shaking with reaction from having to deal with pissed off people … but better me than someone less able to cope with it, and better for it to be over with in a few days, than enduring something more insidious for weeks or months.

      On the plus side, this happens VERY rarely .. once or twice a year, if that, we get someone in the guild who turns out not to be suitable. And in approximately 95% of those cases, the person themselves realise and simply leave. It happened more often when the guild was new .. but we’re a lot more established, more well known and have better policies in place now 🙂

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