I was reading in a fairly old back issue of Games for Windows last night,and it brought up the idea that close-knit guilds in online games were a thing of the past. Their point was that with item-based progression and 25/40-person raid content, gamers no longer flock together because of like-mindedness or establishing a community; they flock together for more personal gains—phat lewtz—and merely tolerate those with whom they associate rather than revel in their company. It is almost as though there were two ways to look at those with whom one raided: they were either social friends or coworkers, with whom raiding was a shared job.
I am borderline on this. Yes, my old Ultima Online guilds were based entirely around protecting ourselves from PKs and/or being PKs and griefing others. We were there for one sort of camaraderie or another, and the idea of killing raid bosses was absurd. The game wasn’t built that way, so we couldn’t think that way. We banded together because, one way or another, we liked each other’s company.
The same was true of my Star Wars Galaxies player association (read: guild). We were mostly members of the SWG Stratics forum community, and we played the game together because we liked each other. We went hunting Force Crystal Hunters and Krayt Dragons not for phat lewtz, but because we wanted to have a funny story to tell later on. We started a couple of cities, and we pooled resources to have the best crafting stations and architecture around. We even had our own resident Jedi before a couple of us were able to unlock our Force Sensitive characters.
In World of Warcraft, however, that all changed. The application process no longer went from being a cool enough guy who could help people out and have fun, but whether or not one had good enough gear/experience to warrant inclusion into the Cool Kids Club. It did not matter if one was the funniest Priest on the server if said Priest could not heal through Onyxia’s deep breath or didn’t understand not to heal during Nefarian’s Priest call. If an applicant’s equipment had mostly green letters in the title instead of blue or purple, he or she was a second class citizen, despite everything else.
Luckily, I found a guild early in my WoW career who went against this stereotype. They were never at the absolute top tier of raid progression, but they were nice people who had a good time with whatever they did. You might know them from their Blizzcon award-winning machinima series The Grind: Oblivious of Malygos. Note: The guild is an entirely separate entity from the video makers; it just so happens the makers are members.
These were legitimately good people. Sure, they had an application process, but they are one of the few guilds I know about who will forego someone being a min-maxing loot whore if he or she is a nice person and would compliment the guild well.
We raided together, even beat most content available (all but AQ40 and Naxx), and had a good time doing it. We cared about the progression we experienced in raids, sure. We took our time together seriously, but we never let the game come between the fact that we were friends, first and foremost. Some of us even met up for gatherings outside of the game and, as far as I know, some Oblivious
I spent a lot of time in Oblivious
There were hurt feelings from our leaving, and some of them to this day have not been patched up. I still read the Oblivoious forums
So when I think about the death of the close-knit guild like Games for Windows mentioned in January 2008, I scoff. Sure, there are groups of people who only care about their purples and their hard mode achievements. Such groups will have strict admittance and attendance policies, and the spirit of being a guild will be lost among trying to beat a video game. But if one looks hard enough, then guilds like Oblivious
And take an old fool’s advice: if you’ve found a place where you feel comfortable in an MMO, stay there. Don’t go off looking for greener pastures and better experiences. The main reason to play an MMO (in my opinion at least) is the social aspect, and if you can find a group of people you like playing with and who like to play with you, consider yourself lucky. Because, like Games for Windows mentioned, most guilds like that are dead. Most, but not all.