Lately there has been some discontent in the guild, and it has made me painfully aware that different people are looking for vastly different things. There is no right or wrong answer here, but simply a case of wildly different expectations of what they have come to expect out of a guild and MMO relationship. I am not speaking for the guild or anyone in it in making this post, but I thought it might be useful for me to outline how I personally view a guild. Like I said just because I see something this way doesn’t mean there are not a wide variety of other opinions on what is proper and good in guild etiquette. However I’ve learned the fastest way to resolve any rough spots is to simply outline what you are expecting out of an arrangement.
Each of us comes to MMO gaming and guilds from a different set of past experiences. While some of these overlap many times they do not, and that is where the misunderstandings stem from. Massively Multiplayer games are not this monolithic experience, regardless of how we might think of them as such. For me I come from a raider background, and even though I am mostly “casual” these days it still colors everything about my gaming experience. Some players approach a guild from a PVP standpoint and then get frustrated when not everyone embraces the aspect of the game they enjoy the most. Similarly role-players could feel left out in the cold when the guild as whole does not share their interest for deep personal character development. While we might all think we play exactly the same game… that is almost never the case.
Working as a Group
I love doing big epic things with my guildies like raids or dungeons or even some pvp encounters. The problem is… that while I love grouping up for these few cases… I don’t ever want to quest with another person. I did Star Wars the Old Republic as a dedicated Duo… and found the experience to be both rewarding on one hand, but deeply claustrophobic on another. I’ve always found the group leveling experience, and especially the group questing experience to be extremely chafing. Someone is always a quest ahead of the group and someone is always one or two quests behind. There is a constant awkward struggle to try and keep this many armed abomination moving forward efficiently. As a result my preference will always be to quest alone, and have my personal time.
That is not to say I am not willing to group up at a moments notice… but I want there to be a “purpose”. If you need help killing this or that objective, or if there is an over world dungeon that you just can’t quite survive by yourself… those are awesome times to group. That said I like there to be a fixed duration of the grouping and a fixed goal in mind. I am a truly horrible group mate, because I will wander off on my own constantly. I’ve spent so much of my gaming time with other people depending on me for this or that, and when I level it is my time where I get to not give a shit about the needs or wants of others. When we are in a dungeon and I am tanking however… I am all about the needs of the group and the goal of getting us through the dungeon successfully.
The Reality Check
For most of my gaming experience I figured most players felt like I did, and preferred to quest alone. However over the last few weeks I’ve come to the realization that there is a specific group of player that wants to literally be grouped up 24/7 and working together towards everything. I think this is both noble and cool to have a leveling buddy like that… but I want no part of it at all. What is cool is that there are enough of these folks that they should be able to form their own little “band of brothers” and conquer the world together, but they lack the spark to do just that. I guess in part I didn’t even realize players wanted this since the ability to solo at all for me at least feels like a hard fought battle. In the early generations of MMO games, grouping was required to do anything at all, and it often meant a multiple hour long commitment.
I cut my teeth playing Everquest, and as a Dwarven Cleric… trying to solo anything was an act of futility and my nights were often dictated by whoever happened to be tanking for the group. I felt helpless and completely out of control, being forced to depend on someone else for my fun. It was a feeling I did not like one bit. So when I entered more modern games, I would pick whatever archetype could solo well and be relatively self sufficient. Thankfully these were almost always tanks, since they mostly had the survival ability to take whatever the game threw at them. So I decided that I actually liked being able to solo on one hand, and being the cornerstone of a group on the other. The further into management I have gotten in my real life, the more I have craved my “solo” time in MMOs, where I can just do whatever the hell I want to do without having to worry about the needs and wants of the many.
Role of a Guild
So I am sure at this point you are asking yourself… why do I focus so much on the importance of guild and community. Well honestly the guild gives a foundation and friendly faces that I see on a daily basis. It gives me the sense that even though I am off on my own doing whatever I want to do… that I am working together with others towards a common goal of progressing the guild. It is both friendly chat group and a constant source of inspiration and support when you need it. Additionally it gives you access to a lot of really great people when it does come time to group up and do something meaningful in an MMO. The guild shines when it comes time to run an Ship quest, Adventure, Dungeon or PVP match. The other night we had a grand night of doing pvp and it was extremely fun… even though I traditionally shy away from player versus player gameplay.
I’ve always seen my role as a community organizer to be that of laying the ground work and collecting the awesome people all in one place, so that they too can take fate into their own hands and do cool stuff together if they choose to. There lies the problem however, is that so many players want to sit back and have a “Cruise Director” plan events for them to attend. I on the other hand counter that it is the responsibility of each player to take responsibility for their own fun. If you want to do something, do it and convince people to come along with you. I’ve posted a few times about what I term the art of Groupcraft, but I will link it here again. One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself is to learn how to be confident in the assembly of a team that will work.
There are absolutely more successful ways of pulling together a group and making something happen when you want it to. Essentially in my experience you have to talk to people directly to get them to actually notice that you are trying to do a thing. This is much easier on voice chat, since you get the immediate feedback, however I did this same thing for years without the advent of voice chat. The critical knowledge however is what exactly you need to be successful. If you are a tank, then you need to find a healer and a few dps. In order to find the healer, you have to know what classes CAN heal and who in the guild falls within those search parameters. Basically for me a good guild is a friendly group of people that you like chatting with, but also a way to ease the finding of people to do something with. A hand crafted guild group will always be more enjoyable than a PUG, and usually more successful.
Just My Point of View
Please note, like I said before this is just my point of view on the subject and what I am looking for out of a guild and the people in it. This is not some maxim that I will not cross, because lord knows I am liable to turn around this afternoon and end up grouped with someone for a long period of time and enjoy myself. These are just my tendencies and I thought it might be useful to open a dialog about what folks are expecting, by outlining what I am actually expecting. The Alliance of Awesome has been an interesting experiment because it is this big glorious amalgam of a bunch of different communities with their own rich traditions. House Stalwart had a shared guild culture that had been built up over the course of a decade, and it was pretty much expected that everyone in the guild felt the same way.
Going forward into this new experiment, we can no longer afford to expect that. Each of us comes from potentially different backgrounds with some shared and some disparate experiences. We have to come up with a brand new cultural norm as a result. I don’t feel this is the time for anyone to throw their hands up and walk away in a huff because they did not get whatever it was they were looking for. Instead it is time for folks to talk clearly about what exactly they are expecting out of this larger relationship. I think we are on the precipice of having something truly amazing, that we can all benefit from. We just need to take the time not to nurture it as it grows. I would not have poured so much effort into it so far, if I didn’t think it could be great for everyone involved.