MUD2MMO : Guilded Cages (bi-weekly video show about gaming)

A carryover from last week's show, we talk about "Guilds" and why they exist in MMORPG's.

I'm going to try something sort of different this time by including the script to this episode below.  If you guys want to see more of this kind of thing, lemme know in the comments and I'll keep doing it (or stop, whichever works...)  Keep in mind that what I say in the video isn't always what's scripted.  Mainly because my brain is swiss cheesed due to being pelted in the face and head with blunt objects for "fun" for many years.  Memory and I don't always get along...

Feedback is, as always, welcomed and encouraged.

Transcript From Episode: Guilded Cages

That... wasn't fair. I apologize. Not for leaving that as a cliffhanger because this deserves it's own full show. No, the anger card. I know there's a lot of internet talking heads who play it up "RAR IM SO ANGRY RAR REVIEWER SMASH!" but they hide behind a character and they do it because rage means hits. I don't do characters and I don't play the anger card for ratings. So it wasn't fair of me to walk off angry. But to be honest, guilds in MMO's are one of the things that genuinely piss me off, enough that it was one of the factors of why I left World of Warcraft.

A quick primer before we dive in. Guilds are the overarching term I'm going to use but every game likes to put their own stamp on the idea. Leagues, teams, platoons, clans, whatever. It's the same idea. Essentially, think of a guild as a friends list. It's a group of players who form a team within the game. The reasons vary from overwhelming a PvP battleground to running end content to just existing as a social club.

In theory, it's nothing more than a friends list. It's an easy way to get back in touch with people who you've played with before. Keep in mind that in an MMO, just running into someone several times is noteworthy. You may not realize it but in the real world you don't see the same people as often as you think unless it's in a store or a specific gathering place like a school or restaurant. So having a pool of like-minded players who also like what you're into is, in theory, good. It should let you find a group quickly and get into content you want to play.

Should.  I'm about to preach to the choir here because if you've played MMO's for any amount of time you already know what I'm about to say. The reality is that guilds... fail at the whole social thing.

Firstly, there are several kinds of guilds. World of Warcraft guild spam was common in trade chat and you'd get a few standards. The social guilds who get mad at you for not talking enough and adventuring, the leveling guilds who get mad at you for not adventuring enough and sometimes talking, raiding guilds who have 10 "core" raiders so there's never room to break in as a new member, PvP guilds who put emphasis on arena play as if it were a way to get sponsorship or something, "mature" guilds which means they think swearing is cool, and my sarcastic favorite the "we exist to get the benefits of having a guild but other than that we don't do anything" guilds.

I call this last one the "poke-guild" effect. These guilds will recruit the hardest, try to get the most people, and as players just DO things in world the players in the guild get rewarded if they actually play or not. Everything from faster hearth regeneration time to faster mount speed to access to buffs you can't get any other way. The mechanic doesn't reward teamwork, it merely awards being a warm body in the guild. So the system rewards people for collecting the most toons. Which is why I call them "poke-guilds."

Pokeguilds are easy to ignore and identify. Any guild which invites you for the grand feat of standing in an auction house? Pokeguild. No, the real problem is the overall guild culture. It's not about what YOU want, it's about what THEY want. Or on a more realistic level, what the guild master wants.

I looked at a list of instances and raids in World of Warcraft for this show. Before they had the "looking for group" feature, it was up to you to find people to do these instances with. As a result, for the first year and a half playing WoW, I played almost no dungeons. It wasn't for a lack of players, it was for a lack of players willing to do "old content" or anything other than the "newest thing out there."

When LFG came about, it blew open the doors and actually allowed me to see more content the game had to offer. But even then, while looking at this list, I've only done a fraction of the content the game had to provide and only what the LFR feature would let me access. I never got to run Lich King raid content until years later, and I've never run most of the Burning Crusade nor Cataclysm content.

The reason was, frankly, guilds. For the most part, guilds do not want to run old content. Progression and raiding guilds don't want to waste the time on them as they have more important gear to get than the old pieces that might drop. So the guy or gal running the guild won't even bother entertaining the notion to help organize something that won't give them better numbers. Interestingly enough, some guilds would go after old content for guild achievements, and if you were lucky you might get invited to an "old raid" for guild achieves.

The point I'm dancing around is that I've been excluded from content I pay for based on social pressure for better numbers. Not for a lack of skill, nor for a lack of decent gear, but because the only means that exists to form groups to run these simply won't do "ancient content." It's seen as a waste of time. It's like paying to watch a movie, but fast-forwarding to the last 10 minutes to watch that over and over again.

As always, there are exceptions. I was in a guild that did run old content, once in a blue moon. It's actually how I got to see the ending of the Lich King storyline. That, however, didn't last long. It came to a point when I ran half of an instance with them one night, and the next night they conveniently didn't hear me in vent chat and invited others to complete the mission with the so-called "core" players.

This actually leads me to an unfortunate side effect of guild culture. For the most part, it's high school. I don't mean this in a flattering rose colored good old days way. I mean it's the ugliest part of the high school social scene. It's who you hang out with, what parties you go to, what clothes you wear, what clique you're in, who you use to get what you want. The only difference is you don't stuff n00bs in a locker as a show of jock dominance.

Proof? Most are stories or things I've seen happen but I have no video of it happening. One of my friends was demoted from the "A-squad" of a guild for choosing reality over the game. Another friend was "picked up" by the top rated guild on his server and told he had to completely respec his toon top to bottom, clearing out his personal in-game resources to do so. They dropped him two weeks later when the guy they really wanted became available.

This isn't even going into the guild horror stories I could rattle off. I've had so many bad guild experiences that it's actually turned me off of joining guilds in any game I play. Between the false promises, the selfish attitudes of the guild leaders, the enforced guild pride and pressure to recruit "more people" for the guild...

Hell, I'm making it sound like a cult. Actually, a lot of them get like that. Some worse than others, like guilds run by internet game reviewers who really don't play MMO's but have thousands of subscribers who follow them. These guys get their friends to moderate the guild and it turns into who can suck up the hardest to the officers so they can be virtually near a guy they fanboy. Not that I'm angry.

Let me go back to the beginning. I said that guilds were one of the factors as to why I left World of Warcraft and that's not an exaggeration. I got tired of the pushy attitude not only from guilds but from Blizzard. It was clear through the guild reward system that the game was pressuring players to get into a guild. If you're not in a guild, you are punished for it. Oh, sure, they spin it a little and call them "guild rewards," but let's call it what it is. You want to lone wolf your way through the game, you're going to suffer for your decision. You jump in with a guild, the game designers will make the game easier for you.

Its important here to ask a question that will be uncomfortable. Why should guilds be rewarded or even exist? You can form a team, or run instances or socialize with people through a friends list, so why make guilds part of it? Honestly, because the game developers NEED us to guild up.

I've talked about this before, but MMO's are unique in terms of how they make money in the gaming industry. They need a sustainable revenue to run the servers. And seeing as they can't update with content regularly, they have to rely on several tricks to keep people playing. Skinner box techniques, slowing player progress, and even peer pressure.

Social pressure is a very strong influence on your life. As has been observed by many others, why do some people play World of Warcraft even if they hate it? The individual player usually will say "all my friends play it, so I wanna hang out with them." Social influence. The irony being that most of these players will also swear up and down that they're non-conformist individualists who also use cookie-cutter builds for their class they got from a website of "best builds."

I'll let that sink in a moment. ... Ok, back in.

In return, the guild will form a fake social bond within itself to create an illusion of friendship among the participants. In reality, you really don't know most of these people. It's what makes you disposable to them, you're just a warm body that's a means to their own selfish ends. I realize that some guilds are different and each and every one of you are the exceptions but I have a very negative outlook on this kind of thing for a reason.

The point being that even the illusion of friendship is enough to keep some people in a game they otherwise don't like. It's another part of human psychology that we like to feel like we're part of something larger than ourselves. We need to feel like we're part of a community so much that we're willing to put up with a LOT of stuff we don't enjoy just to get that. And frankly, games like WoW rely on that peer pressure to keep you plunking $15 a month into their pockets.

whenever I do shows like this the comments are filled with exceptions to the rule. People will tell me that they're in a great guild full of players who they all know personally and get along with and do anything for each other, that's great. Other people will tell me I need to just keep searching 'till I find my perfect fit. Look, I wanna play a game, not make the game my girlfriend. Nor boyfriend for that matter. My take is that a virtual guildie is not a substitute for a true friend. You know, a friend will help ya move, a good friend will help you move a body? A true friend will help you plan the transition to "body" status. … Some of you will get that joke later.

Featured Contributor

I'm a gamer. I'm a reality junkie. I'm a cynic. I'm a dinosaur. I'm a writer. I'm so much more than a paragraph can say. You want more? Ok. I started a video game show on the internet some time ago. See, I've played video games since Intellivision and Atari 2600 and PONG back in the day. Retro-gaming doesn't really fire me up as much as seeing how the community ticks. And after seeing way too many "I'm too young to have played this game when it first came out but it MAKES ME SO ANGRY" reviewers who would happily eviscerate my childhood for lulz... yeah I tossed my hat into the ring. the quickly scooped it back up, I'm told I have a bald spot that needs...more »

Published Sep. 12th 2013
  • Ste Grainer
    Featured Correspondent
    I can empathize with your frustration as I have been in those guilds as well, but I've also been in the exceptional ones. (I met my wife through our guild playing WoW, and I've met 5 or 6 other people from our guild IRL and consider them good friends.)

    Now I really want to write something about what differences there are and how they come about.

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