Guild Transcendent

One of my favorite MMO related quotes from the sage Raph Koster discussing online tribalization where he says that people have a moment of clarity where they see they are part of things. They say in that moment “Oh, here’s my real community.”  For most of us social homo sapiens (and the few papio hamadryas that pop in here occasionally) a community is a necessary thing.  Yet, as the internet, the MMO genre, and even gaming platforms like Steam evolve the sense of community as a finite thing gives way to a mass of thoughts and people that ebb and flow with tides of activity.  The most basic of these units comprising the mass of community is of course the small, focused social club we call a guild.

 A guild is a purposed community formed in its most simple state around a single multiplayer game.  When a new player wants to be surrounded by a community in order to maximize the experience of the multiplayer game, finding and joining a guild becomes a high priority.  Joining one is usually simple: (1) Google [game] forums and pick a good looking link, (2) find the guild recruitment section, and (3) find a guild.  Most guilds will have their own private forum where potential applicants have to prove that they have more DNA in common with humans than baboons.

 In the ages long past when I had but a single subscription to a game or a single game installed, this choice of community simple and elegant.  The months and months I played Diablo 2, I joined a Diablo 2 guild.  During my World of Warcraft days I found a guild for that.  Same went for my first MMO, the game of guilds, A Tale in the Desert.  Unscientifically, I note that all of these molecularly purposed guilds have been left far behind.

 Nowadays many MMO players (especially the wily blogger folk) do not play one multiplayer game.  I am currently playing Guild Wars and Lord of the Rings Online fairly actively with a strong side helping of Wizard 101.  This is not including any number of closed beta tests and other video gaming dalliances that come to the front.  (I must say not much else gives me the pure glee of playing a Medic in Team Fortress 2 with the Kritzkrieg while healing a soldier in a King of the Hill map.)

 I am still in focused guilds for Guild Wars and Lord of the Rings Online, but I am getting less of a sense that they are my community.  They are too focused in a sense to be to the degree that Raph Koster envisions.  Even in A Tale in the Desert where “real” conversations about kids, marriage, jobs, and love were the norm, the guild lived and fell with the game.  The meta-guild I joined for Warhammer Online could’ve become a guild-for-life with the amount of games the guild played, but the focus was on games.

 Yet, I have had the revelation of finding my community.  It’s here.  It’s on other blogs. It’s on Twitter.  It’s now in Facebook since I have started befriending gamers I have met through guilds and forums.  It’s on Steam.  It’s on X-Fire.  And the amazing part is that I feel more closely connected to this community of misfits and gamers playing a heterogeneous mix of games than a truly focused guild.  Instead of my amorphous community being focused on a game, platform, or even genre, my community is focused on being a community whether it knows it or not.

for three years I had roses and apologized to no one

4 thoughts on “Guild Transcendent”

  1. I think you are right about that meta-gaming related friend list. In the earlier days of online gaming it was just hard to communicate with people outside of games and message boards and all that were not that common. My modem blocked the phone line and ICQ was the only way to contact people not ingame. They did not have iPhones and I did not even have a cell phone at the time of Ultima Online.

  2. Very interesting post. I’ve had many conversations about this with Mrs Bhagpuss. She is much better than I am at joining guilds, getting to know people and forming personal relationships in game, but she adamantly does not feel any wider or deeper sense of inclusion. Indeed, she expresses bemusement about all kinds of notional belonging, be it following a sports team, feeling patriotism or being clannish in any way.

    I, on the other hand, have no problem recognising “my people”. I know which clique or claque I can run with and over the years I’ve run with a few. This MMO blogging playground feels just like the APA scene in 1980s comics fandom or being a punk in 1976.

    I’m not sure, though, that being able to recognise and feel included in a clique is in any way a superior experience to making a series of discrete individual relationships. I think ideally the latter would be a sub-set of the former.

  3. Hmm. The closest I’ve come to this sort of thing in a game is our kinship in LotRO, which we joined because our kinship at the time was so defunct that when we logged in after a few months, my husband became the default guild leader. We left the kin, and we happened to be standing in Rivendell when three people rode by on pretty horses, and, on a whim, I whispered them to see if we could join their kinship instead. We joined, and the 5-6 of us have managed to feel a sense of belonging even though we go on *very* extended hiatus… es. Hiates? Anyway, they’ve been doing this since, I think, the first Asheron’s Call, and I know that when they come back from Aion or we all end up in a new game, we’ll all end up together again. I think that’s the nicest feeling. I’ve come close to that in WoW, but it’s always ended at some point, even though the passing friendships remain.

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