Where Everybody Knows Your Name, or At Least Your Class and Level
By Merriandra Eldaronde
I feel naked when I create a new character, or play a character who hasn’t yet been added to the guild. I suppose you do too? I mean, seriously, think about it: how would you feel if you logged in and typed “/gu Hey all! How are you today?” only to be informed that You Are Not A Member of A Guild.
This happened to me, and thousands of other players, not just once, but multiple times, in the very early days of EverQuest. There was a bug that disbanded you from your guild whenever you zoned. At one point, all three co-leaders of the guild were disbanded at the same time. We found that being without /gu was something more than an inconvenience: we were annoyed by the bug, but we were more concerned that the community we had worked so hard to build would dissolve. Fortunately, the bug was fixed after about a week and most guilds on our server had maintained their core membership.
Almost everyone who chooses to play an MMO and gets beyond character creation, or at least the hack-and-slash of the newbie areas, comes to the conclusion that the game might be a lot more interesting if they got involved in a guild. I have seen some individuals who remain without a guild, due to an earned reputation or the disadvantage of non-standard playing times, and I have watched many of these players fall away from the game altogether.
There are those who feel that guilds are the community, not just part of the community, in any virtual world. There are also those who intentionally choose to remain outside of guild structure: this is a choice, much like PvP versus PvE, since there are arguments to be made from both perspectives. Personally, I believe that guilds are a way to establish friendships and gain knowledge within your gaming experience. What’s more, guilds provide several valuable functions that aren’t immediately apparent.
Guilds help to train novice players in the niceties of the game, from the basics of civilized of combat (“Don’t just walk up and start hitting the giant bat when someone else is already fighting it.”) to the social vagaries of the server community (“Alas, poor Yorick has a dreadful reputation so you might not want to trade with him.”).
Guilds also serve as information exchanges for adventurers, explorers, collectors, and crafters alike. When I log in to EverQuest 2 these days, I am sure to hear news of any bugs in gameplay, or significant crafting changes, or discoveries of new quests or NPCs. More than the in-game component of information provision, the message boards attached to the guild community are a resource for members. Some guilds choose to provide information to the gaming community as a whole, others have restricted, members-only areas.
Guilds help the community to establish rules for behavior. Most guilds have a certain code of conduct or standard of behavior, although this may vary from guild to guild. Guild Whatchamacallit might require family-appropriate language while Guild Whosiwhatsits might require its members to be over eighteen, but both are likely to require members to treat other members, and those in the larger community, with respect.
So far, throughout this series of articles, I am aware that I have made the concept of guilds sound bright and shiny, but there can be problems within guilds, and problems caused by guilds. Sometimes, it appears that a mob-mentality takes over in the case of a guild, and the guild’s ability to do things by sheer numbers takes over and eliminates any sense of strategy or roleplay. The lure of bright, shiny things, whether these appear in the form of glory (“We, Guild Dragonbait, were the first to finish the Crunchyelfsnack zone!”), or as actual loot, can also bring out the worst in guilds.
Sometimes, it’s not the behavior of the guild that is disappointing, so much as the fact that a player’s chosen guild might be a poor fit. A player who likes to tell ribald jokes isn’t the best fit for a family-style guild. A player who is determined to reach Level X without delay might not want to be part of a small crafting guild. A guild that raids seven nights a week might not be the best choice for the player who would prefer to make role-playing a significant component of their gaming experience. Sometimes, the players or the guilds change: a certain level of involvement might have seemed reasonable three years ago when you were in college, but now you’re working full-time, and it isn’t wise to ignore those commitments in the real world.
Have guilds evolved as the player-base has aged? When MMOs first rose to popularity, many of us were in our teens or early twenties. By the advent of EverQuest, I was a staid twenty-eight, with a number of obligations. Quite frankly, the intervening years haven’t made my schedule any less complicated. No, if anything, my rival commitments are more numerous, and require more of my attention. By the same token, the leadership of the guilds I have chosen in more recent games also has families and social lives and work. It makes it more difficult to build the kind of guild that provides the thrill of adventure, but less difficult to find a common ground and something to talk about. Sometimes, I’ll log in for thirty minutes just to say hello.
When Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is released, I fully expect that a wide variety of guilds will arrive on day one. Some of these guilds have already started recruiting new members. Other guilds are bringing their membership from one game to another. Some guilds are structured for raiding, others for role-play, and still others for exploring. The characteristics of the guilds themselves are not likely to be transmuted by the game, although they may provide a pre-fabricated structure to the community, much like bringing a modular house to your building lot and assembling it on site.
After all is said and done, guilds are a critical part of the online gaming community, both in-game and outside individual realms. Your guildmates are your friends and your peers, whether you’re logging in to Asheron’s Call, EVE Online, or Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. A guild is a place where you can find a structure, a routine, and the promise of achieving something just a little bit greater than what you could hope to achieve on your own.
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