Guilds as social units
July 16, 2008 4:57 PM   Subscribe

I have a few semi-related questions about how MMORPG guilds operate inside:

Are there any guilds that operate across multiple games? Guilds carry benefits and obligations within a particular game, but do they carry across from game to game? Can favors given in one game be repaid in another game? Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems? How far do guild obligations go -- would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game? Does anyone have any stories of kids and their parents being in the same guilds? If your guild were warring with another guild in Eve, would that carry over to other games or real life interactions?

I'm really just kind of interested in stories of how guilds operate as social units outside the context of individual games; if you have any that are outside the scope of the specific questions I asked, i'd be happy to hear them.
posted by empath to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never seen a formal guild move from one game to another, but more generally a group of friend might migrate together to a new game and start a new guild over there. I've never heard of a guild moving 'points' and rules over to a new game though.

Dropping real life stuff for game stuff : happens a lot. (I did that a few times, which made me realise I needed to stop playing so much) There is a lot of guilt-tripping ("but you can't go, we need you!")

For your family question, there was actually a woman in my guild (in FFXI) playing with her son, and I heard of a few others in the same situation (a father and his two sons)

I believe guilds are like other types of social groups, in which you'll make friends. I've seen people helping out others with real life problems a lot - but wouldn't anyone help friends?
posted by domi_p at 5:13 PM on July 16, 2008


I don't have answers to some of your questions, but to others, I do.

Does anyone have any stories of kids and their parents being in the same guilds?
In the World of Warcraft guild I'm in, a mom and her son are in the guild, but the mother doesn't participate much; she's more of a casual gamer. However, we do have an uncle/nephew team. Both are Paladins who regularly tank for us. The uncle is a raid leader who had been with the guild since before I joined.

Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems?
Depends on who you are. I have a few friends whom I met in-game who I talk to outside of the game, who I've helped with real-life problems (just involving talking and whatnot; bad day, breakup, etc). However, these are people who are on the more mentally stable side of Sears, so to speak; there are certainly people in the guild I'm in who aren't so much.

would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game?
No, I treat this as I do everything else. If I make a commitment to raid for a night, then I raid. If I committed to hanging out at my friend's house to drink beer and play Team Fortress 2, then that's what I do.

If your guild were warring with another guild in Eve, would that carry over to other games or real life interactions?
Heh, no, unless a person in-game was being a real jerk for the sake of being a jerk, then yes, I'd probably treat him/her with a very chilly attitude in real life.
posted by Verdandi at 5:32 PM on July 16, 2008


The wikipedia article on clans might be of use. Speaking from personal experience, guilds operating across multiple games is not at all uncommon, and I've personally been parts of guilds with multiple family members, including parents and children.

Back when I MMOd, I actually had people call me to tell me to log on to kill some mob X, at which point I'd dutifully log on, so yes, it could definitely "interfere" with real-life activities. My wife actually woke me up at 5am one Saturday to alert me to some guild drama I needed to attend do.

Being in a tight-knit guild is little different to having a close group of friends with whom you share a common, narrowly-focused interest. In-game, one's generally willing to go to the same lengths as you would for a friend in real life. The extent to which someone would go to the same lengths out-of-game as in- might be debatable (at least from my perspective), however.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:35 PM on July 16, 2008


And here's an article about the apparent relative commonness of in-game feuds spilling over into real life in South Korea.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:36 PM on July 16, 2008


Yes, there are guilds that operate in multiple games. The Syndicate is one that used to be pretty famous. Lords of the Dead is an example of a roving PvP guild. The SomethingAwful community keeps a "Goon-somethingorother" guild in a number of different MMOs, if that counts too -- I don't think they share central organization like the others I mentioned.

You might want to poke around Nick Yee's site for more demographics and anecdotes (although his stuff is getting a little old these days -- also note that the data is collected from self-selected surveys, so it skews to the hardcore player).

In general, MMO players tend to not heavily invest in more than one game at a time. So I think that if we're both members of one of those guilds, but I play WoW and you play Eve, we probably don't know each other. But if I decide I want to try Eve and I join the guild and ask for stuff in guild chat, introducing myself as a member from another game, I expect that people would be pretty friendly about it. Much more so than if I were just any newb.

Anecdote time: my World of Warcraft raiding guild organized a real-life get-together earlier this year, and about 10 people flew in from around the country. (The other half of the core of our guild already knew each other in real life and were local.) Interestingly, we were all very quiet, and sat around nervously, and that was about it. It did spur long-distance relationships for the single people, which is a tightly-kept secret in-game. :)
posted by liet at 5:38 PM on July 16, 2008


Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems?
I would only say yes because I knew 90% of my guild as friends first, and that's what friends do. They few I didn't know, I'd probably say no.


How far do guild obligations go -- would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game?


Not "drop", but I treat guild raid time like any obligation, like Verdandi said. (I don't answer the phone if we're in the middle of a dungeon.) But if a guildie needs help with a certain quest and they PM or text me and I'm free, I'll hop on and help.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:23 PM on July 16, 2008


One example you might be interested in is the Ridleybank Resistance Front, a zombie group in the browser-based zombie apocalypse game Urban Dead. When the group was founded, there were significant game mechanic problems for zombie players, and one of the founding members created another game called Nexus War, which originated as a way to keep the group together if the Urban Dead play situation didn't improve. The leaders of the RRF from Urban Dead created a RRF in Nexus War; however, for various reasons the leaders of UD RRF gradually dropped out of NW RRF (real life issues, weren't as interested in the new game, etc.), while the leadership of UD RRF had already changed hands due to the old leadership becoming more interested in Nexus War. So after a while, both groups had the same name and a similar "culture" (i.e. the same distinctive war cry, a similar sense of humor and similar terminology) but the new leaders of each group had no relation to the original leaders, and there was little crossover between leaders in NW RRF and UD RRF, so by now, there's not very much of a relationship between the two at all. Many founding Nexus War players came from Urban Dead, so there were a couple of other examples of Urban Dead groups establishing a presence in Nexus War, and as far as I can judge they played out much the same way: the groups drifted apart from each other, because the needs of one game were so much different from the needs of another game and some people just liked one over the other.

(A post-script: much later, a lot of the original UD RRF leaders returned from NW RRF to UD RRF and had a disagreement about how the UD RRF was now being run, so they set up yet another UD group. Just an example of how the groups drifted as time went on...)

So, addressing your questions with that experience in mind:

guilds operating across multiple games -- I would tend to doubt there would be many operating together for a long period of time, although that's just my guess.

benefits, obligations and favors carrying over -- not at all, in my experience with the RRF, since the games were so different; someone might casually play both, but for the leaders, who would best be able to provide benefits or call in favors, they didn't really have the time or inclination to play both games anyways.

real life problems -- for me, it never went beyond talking someone I knew fairly well through a dead cat or listening to difficult life stories; that is to say no one ever asked anyone (that I know of) for money or any other meaningful assistance. (And the talking to people about their real life stuff was definitely affected by my being female and generally sympathetic.) One of my friends led a group where one of the members died in a car crash (a real, verifiable death, not a "death") and they got the game creator to memorialize it in-game, but to my knowledge it didn't carry over to anything outside of the game. There are people who I could ask for real-life favors like a place to stay on a visit or something like that, after having known them and worked with them for two or three years, but if I really needed money I wouldn't approach them.

guild obligations -- a player would have to weigh the "real life stuff," the in-game event and the player's involvement in the game. Faction leaders would have to be a little more obsessive than casual players just by definition, and I thought I took it too far sometimes but I knew other leaders who set up alarm systems that would wake them up and allow them to contact the others quickly, even in the middle of the night. But if someone has any concerns about life interfering, my experience has been that everyone else is sympathetic -- RL work / relationships / commitments come first, people in the games I played understood that even if it meant more work for them. I've read, though, that one major factor affecting people who are "addicted" to MMORPGs is the feeling that they're so necessary that their group will suffer without them; it seems to me that the pressure is internal, not external, because everyone else encourages them to take care of themselves first. That may be, though, because the limited amount someone could play Urban Dead or Nexus War attracted a more laid-back player in the first place. (Both games are action point based; that is, one move per AP, the amount of moves you can do is capped, and your AP refill at a fixed rate.) It's also my experience, incidentally, that if a player feels that way, the group DOES suffer when they leave, but it almost always limps along for a while then grows and changes.

kids and parents -- not in the groups I was part of, we had quite a few parents but the kids were generally fairly young. There were often siblings who worried about tripping the zerging (multiple character abuse) detection mechanisms, though.

games and real life interactions -- well, when the RRF carried over from UD to NW, we ended up making enemies with some groups that had done the same thing (and followed the same general trajectory, I believe) and each side complained that the other side had been so cool back in UD and now they had just turned into a bunch of tools. NW RRF ended up warring with our UD allies and allying with groups we would have devoured in UD. As for real life interactions, I know some people who signed up for Nexus War, and I never talked to them about the game even though I knew and liked them and we now had that in common -- I was a leader in NW RRF, and I was always scared I'd hear "Yeah, I joined (name of RRF enemy faction). The RRF? They suck. I heard their leader's a bitch." I really doubt it would have changed anything even if a friend did join a faction I detested, though, since it's just a game.

On preview: liet mentions somethingawful, and they arrived in both Urban Dead and Nexus War near the beginning of each game, tremendously affecting the game events. In those two situations, they came in as a large group and established a presence that broke the unwritten rules -- for example, they took over a suburb in UD and killed other human players, which was a real shock in the game's early days. After a while, most of them got bored or flamed out (in my recollection -- I'm not a goon), although some players stayed after the main group had passed on. Neither game had a long-term SA faction that I'm aware of, though.
posted by shirobara at 6:33 PM on July 16, 2008


Hey, I can help with this one!!

Are there any guilds that operate across multiple games?

Yes, the clan I am in operates in whatever game we happen to want to play. We started in Multiplayer Battletech in 1991. Yes, 17 years ago. We've been active in Multiplayer Battletech, Dragonrealms, Gemstone III, Ultima Online, Everquest, City of Heroes, America's Army, World of Warcraft, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Plus some I have forgotten. Oh, like Dark Age of Camelot.

Guilds carry benefits and obligations within a particular game, but do they carry across from game to game? Can favors given in one game be repaid in another game?

Since we don't have obligations or benefits besides playing together, I don't think these really apply.

Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems?

In my clan they'd help with anything up to and probably including moving a body.

How far do guild obligations go -- would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game?

Varies with what the real life obligation is. For example, I really wanted to go to the Anaheim meetup to meet Jessamyn et al, but one of my clan guys was in town for a day so I had to skip the meetup to get together with two of my clan guys.

Does anyone have any stories of kids and their parents being in the same guilds?

Not sure about kids and parents but we have a dude who brought in his son-in-law.

If your guild were warring with another guild in Eve, would that carry over to other games or real life interactions?

Most guilds are, I think, in one game so I'm not sure that it would carry over. I don't think we hold grudges anyway although Eve might be a special case as it is full of people who devote most of their lives to fucking over other people.

I'm really just kind of interested in stories of how guilds operate as social units outside the context of individual games; if you have any that are outside the scope of the specific questions I asked, i'd be happy to hear them.

I've been in my clan for 17 years. I'm 33 years old. So if you do the math I've been in this clan for more than 50% of my life. We go to eachother's weddings. I'm guessing we'll eventually go to each other's funerals. So all clans are not created equal.
posted by Justinian at 6:44 PM on July 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I forgot to mention; my clan has gold watches with the clan logo on it, and gold&silver rings with our handles engraved. So we may be more tightly knit than is typical.
posted by Justinian at 6:47 PM on July 16, 2008


Yes, a third in a row. It's hard to remember stuff from 17 years ago, sorry.

One reason the guys in my clan are probably so dedicated is that when we all started playing multi-player battletech it cost $6 an hour. non-prime time. It was $25/hour prime time.

I didn't play prime time, but some guys did.

When you're racking up $1000 a month bills playing online games you tend to the hardcore. It did keep the riff-raff out, though, and the RPG experience has never been equaled.
posted by Justinian at 6:55 PM on July 16, 2008


Are there any guilds that operate across multiple games?

Back when I played Eve-online, yes, there were people who played across multiple games. One popular approach was to play web-based games during boring mining and other grinding-type stuff.

Guilds carry benefits and obligations within a particular game, but do they carry across from game to game? Can favors given in one game be repaid in another game?

The rules, like "don't grief n00bs" and "don't poke a sleeping dragon or start a shooting war without permission of senior command" definitely do, where applicable. As to the latter, no, because usually there's no real method of exchange.

Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems?

I've seen this happen several times, especially when someone gets sick or hurt. I donated some about-to-expire airmiles to someone once so that he could get home to see a sick parent.

How far do guild obligations go -- would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game?

I've seen this cause divorces. :-P

Does anyone have any stories of kids and their parents being in the same guilds?

Not kids and parents, but I have seen several husband and wife teams... especially as higher rank guild members so that they could provide more 'coverage'.

If your guild were warring with another guild in Eve, would that carry over to other games or real life interactions?

Not real life interactions, but definitely other games.
posted by SpecialK at 7:14 PM on July 16, 2008


Thanks, these were all good answers :)
posted by empath at 8:27 PM on July 16, 2008


I don't have any experience with multiple-game guilds, so I'll just answer what I can about the WoW guild I was in for about three years, and the interactions I knew of in other guilds.

Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems?

It depends on how closely knit the guild is. If a guild is struggling just to exist and be able to do things in game, often they make poor choices and let people stay in the guild when they don't fit in. This usually leads to all kinds of trouble, and there are fewer close friendships. I know that with the exception of one other guild in addition to my own, most guilds seemed to be that kind of guild.

The guild I was in, and another guild on the same server, were completely different. We were lucky because we were so progressed that we got lots of applications, so we didn't have to settle for someone just because they had nice items; we could get people who had nice items, were good at the game, and were good people, too. If someone didn't fit in, they failed their trial period and were kicked from the guild. We ended up with a ton of people that all had the same sense of humor, and were not uptight about being teased. As a result, there were lots of close friendships. We helped each other with real life issues all the time; easily multiple times a day, if you just count having someone to talk to.

I can give lots of examples. Guys came to me with relationship trouble a lot, and even to other guys in the guild. (One great thing about the guild was it wasn't overly macho, nor was it whiny. Just normal people.) My fiance and I helped some of the high school seniors with their AP courses, even, since we had taken similar courses only four years prior. I proofread essays, and other college students would come to me with government-related questions. We helped people feel better about their crappy jobs, and listened to anecdotes about their real life friends. I know some people in the guild would help others financially; nothing big, but when they had real trouble. For example, one of the women in our guild had her father die, and the rest of us women sent her a care package with some money since she was still partly dependent on him. One time a friend in the guild was terribly depressed, so I sent him a care package. I've talked to several on the phone before, definitely. When my father died, they were all very good to me and extremely supportive.

I've met a handful of them in real life, too, and often talk to them outside the game. In fact, keep in regular contact with most of them even though I quit playing months ago. I talk to several of them on Gmail, Facebook, and a few forums. One of them joined the guild about a year after I did, and I was the first person he ever came out to. Today, he's one of my best friends. He even came all the way from Australia to visit my fiance and I, and some other people in other states. We almost never talk about WoW.

We have another friend who's in the Air Force who has visited us twice now. We talked to him when he was deployed to Qatar and couldn't play WoW, and he comes to me for advice on lots of assorted real life stuff.

We met another couple we already knew when we moved this summer. We've never had to help them with anything though, since they don't seem to have very dramatic lives. Just noting that this is a somewhat normal thing. Even in guilds that weren't terribly close, it wasn't uncommon that some of the members made an effort to meet each other in real life. The other guild on my service that was as close as ours even had annual get togethers! My guild wanted to do this but we couldn't figure out who would be able to host it.

If you're wondering, it wasn't at all different to meet them in real life. It didn't feel weird or anything, it felt like meeting any other friend. I think this is in large part due to using voice clients while playing as much as it is due to the amount of interaction. You already know what they sound like, usually already know what they look like, and have some idea of their mannerisms. Also though, my guild had far more normal, socially well-adjusted people than average, though, so that might have something to do with it.

How far do guild obligations go -- would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game?

Ehhh... this depends more on the person than the guild. Some people will drop anything, no matter how important, because they're addicted to WoW. We only had a few of those people, though. Really, generally speaking, this is not a guild-related thing.

The amount of time necessary to spend in WoW, though, depends on the kind of guild. I was in a raiding guild, so we needed 25 people of the appropriate classes to raid on raid nights. (You used to need 40, and during that time, we were one of those "recruit anyone to survive" guilds.) Raid nights were five nights a week. It was certainly nice if someone showed up every night, and some people did, but three or four nights was considered adequate. If something big came up, we were forgiving but some guilds penalize their members for not keeping up attendance. We didn't raid on Fridays or Saturdays so that people could have a social life. There was always smaller group things going on when we weren't raiding, but it was all just to pass the time.

Now, from time to time we might joke that someone should skip their anniversary dinner because we need them to heal, but we didn't pressure anyone. Sometimes, since we kept up with each other's real lives, we would even say, "What the fuck are you doing on? I thought you had to go _____." I still remember my guild leader once telling someone else, 'Uhh, weren't you supposed to be looking for apartments today?" and "I thought it was your girlfriend's birthday." We would also know about those things because if we knew we couldn't make a raid night, it was considered polite to post to the forums saying so, so we wouldn't wait up for them.

Does anyone have any stories of kids and their parents being in the same guilds?

Yup. One mom and a few of her kids were in that other guild I was talking about. I don't know much about them.

Early on in the guild, we had a teenage girl in our guild as an officer. Her father was in a better guild, but when that guild left the server, her father joined our guild. Her father was a cool guy in general, but things went badly when he found out she was having an e-relationship with a guy about three years older than her. It was nothing scandalous, even, just kind of puppy love, but her dad was really controlling. I don't entirely blame him for being cautious, but anyway, they both transferred off the server. The poor girl e-mailed me from a secret account every now and then so we wouldn't lose contact, and she couldn't transfer back to the old server until just recently, apparently, when she went to college.

If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to answer. I have tons of stories.
posted by Nattie at 10:05 PM on July 16, 2008


Are there any guilds that operate across multiple games?

Absolutely. Some of the Eve corps I've been in or had contact with over the years have a core of players who operate across multiple games. Some of those are tight affiliations, some are looser.

Do guild members tend to help each other with real life problems?

Sometimes; sometimes people are friends in real life before they join, and sometimes you become friends. I've certainly ended up talking to other soon-to-be new dads about my experiences as such, sent books, that sort of thing.

How far do guild obligations go -- would you drop real life stuff if your guild asked you to do something in a game?

Me, personally? No, not really. I mean, I might blow off one form of fun for another, but my non-negotiables are my family, my work, Judo, and gym. They all come ahead of pixels.

On the other hand, I've seen Eve corps advertise with things like, "Must be on TeamSpeak when online, must have quiet background on TS, we are not interested in hearing excuses about your wife and kids." Some of the more focused Eve alliances have real-life telephone trees and whatnot organised amongst senior members.

As far as the family goes - I know boyfriend/girlfriend couples in Eve, and the most famous example was the shitstorm kicked off when a BoB pilot saw a Goon pilot's sig that mocked the death of his real-life son, another Eve player.

Speaking personally, I flat out discard any corp that wants that level of commitment in Eve (which is the only MMORPG I play), but I know that many of the top people playing in the 0.0 territorial pissing match game.
posted by rodgerd at 10:29 PM on July 16, 2008


Oops, that last sentence didn't make much sense. I know that many of the top players are very, very focused on Eve, and spend huge amounts of time in-game, will play through the night, do alarm clock ops (getting up in the middle of the night to take advantage of some of Eve's time-based mechanics).
posted by rodgerd at 10:53 PM on July 16, 2008


3 answers, all pertaining to WoW.

1. My fiance was in New Zealand on Christmas due to a work obligation (we live in California), and some of his guildies took him in and invited him to spend the holiday with their families. He had never met these people in RL before.

2. My friend in college was in a guild with both her parents and her two sisters, and their boyfriends/husbands.

3. I'm in a guild made up entirely of current and former employees of my company and their friends and relatives. There are people in my guild who have known each other since I was in elementary school, or even earlier.
posted by crinklebat at 11:20 PM on July 16, 2008


I play Fallen Sword and am in a guild that started out as people who know each other from a different hobby's message boards. People definitely have met IRL and become friends, mostly before the guild was formed. I still only know them online, but will meet a bunch of folks at a gathering next month. There's a father, his daughter, and her boyfriend in the guild, and at least one married couple. Other players have kids who play the game but who are in different guilds due to our guild's over-18 policy.

I know there is at least one guild in the game that's a multigame guild. And the developers of Fallen Sword have other games and I presume if there are guilds in them, they have one. Several members of our guild have played other online games and been on teams or in clans together, but we didn't have a formal guild like we do at FS.

Game/real life? Well, we do schedule events for specific times, and I know I've excused myself from real life to take part in them. One former guild member betrayed us in the game and is now a former friend to a lot of people in real life and at the other message boards.
posted by bink at 4:46 AM on July 17, 2008


My friend was in a World of Warcraft guild that required him to battle a difficult boss from around 7-9 PM, three times a week. He quit, probably because it was such a huge timesuck.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:59 AM on July 17, 2008


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