Is Joining a Multi-Game Guild Shooting Yourself in the Foot?

TESO Guild TabardsWhen I first began my Hobo Gamer series over one year ago, I spit-balled several possible ideas for a title with a few friends; the two most popular were “MMO Nomad” and “Hobo Gamer”, with the latter eventually emerging victorious as my final choice. Though I actually prefer the sound of nomad, it doesn’t describe my actual goal, which isn’t to wander from game to game, but to find a new long-term MMO home.

Over the last few years, I’ve found myself attracted more and more to multi-game guilds, becoming part of online communities where games came and went, but the friendships remained the same. As recent MMO game releases began to show shorter and shorter lifespans, it seems these communities have gained in popularity, with more and more players turning to these persistent communities that will follow them from game to game. It’s not that these players don’t want a long-term MMO home, it’s just become a safe bet that whatever the currently hyped new release is will yet again not be that game. Recent discussions in the MMO community have lead me to question whether this is actually the best strategy, or if we are only sabotaging our search for a home by joining communities that are nomadic in nature.

The Importance of Guild Communities

In an instance of staggeringly serendipitous timing, as I was organizing my thoughts on the topic above, Tina Lauro published a great article on Massively Overpowered describing the benefits of strong communities as a barrier-to-exit in MMO games, noting, among other things, how guild relationships and responsibilities help to tie players down to the game by making them “a part of something greater than their singular player experience”.

We’ve all been a part of guilds before, and I imagine the ways they serve to invest players in the game by solidifying their place in the game’s community are familiar as well. Whether it’s through weekly raid nights, defending a castle together, the guild’s RP, or even just sitting in town with one’s guild tabard on, a good guild community brings people together with a sense of collective identity specific to that game’s world that keeps them coming back for more. I even recently experienced a friend giving his guild two-weeks notice that he was stepping away from the game, which, while a pretty funny situation, is actually entirely understandable when the importance of certain roles in a tight-knit organized guild is considered.

Guilds are an amazing tool for bringing and keeping players together, but when the guild plays more than one game, this can become a double-edged sword. The bond between guildmates is strong, and while it can work to tie players to a single game, when the guild regularly moves between games, it can have the total opposite effect.

The Problem with Multi-Game Guild Communities

At its core, the implicit purpose of a multi-game guild community is to be MMO nomads, and although those involved may sincerely wish to find a long-term MMO home, the goal of the community is to preserve a persistent group of friends over the course of multiple games. For those seeking a long-term game, this is counterproductive and effectively planning for failure.

As a member of a multi-game guild, players remove most of the benefits of a guild as a barrier to exit from their MMO of choice. While their guild still serves to ground them in a sense of place within the community, much of that is transferred to the status of their guild within the MMO community at large, and is not felt as a communal feature of that specific game.

Worse yet, players who leave the game yet remain members of the community often actively undermine retention of current chapters by serving as hype-men for upcoming titles and chapters, not only serving to remove the barrier to exit by remaining in the community, but further incentivizing leaving if the players wish to stay together as a team. Where once those who left would soon be forgotten, in a multi-game community, these players stick around, effectively luring people away from the game they’re actually trying to play. (I’m personally extremely guilty of being that guy.)

In this way, multi-game communities can pervert the communal bonds guilds are meant to deliver to not only no longer tie players to a game, but instead to actively draw them away from it.

During time spent in multi-game communities, I found that I wasn’t alone in my search to find a long-term MMO home. In fact, this turned out to be what the majority of us were looking for. Looking back, I now absolutely believe that those of us who felt that way were in the wrong guilds to do so.

The Right Guild for the Right Purpose

Weighing one’s options before making a selection is an essential part of finding the right guild, which is key to players finding their place and fully enjoying their time in an MMO game. If the player’s goal is to become their server’s most feared world PvPer, then it stands to reason that joining a guild focused on PvE progression probably isn’t going to be their best option for getting what they want out of the game. This situation is no different; if players truly want to find the one game that they can dedicate years to again, then maybe they shouldn’t choose the multi-game gaming community that opens a new chapter every six months. This is planning for failure, and runs contrary to the player’s long-term goals.

The flip-side is just as true. Players who enjoy hopping into a different virtual world every few months and believe that an MMO can be “beaten” would absolutely be best served by a multi-game guild community of like minded people. These options shouldn’t be seen as a good/bad split – it’s about individual players making the right choice for their personal play-style.

The Wrap-up

It goes without saying that the most important factor in a player sticking with a game is that the game actually be good. That aside, one of the factors the players have the most control over is how they interact with the community and the social environments they put themselves in. There is no tool available to players that affects their personal enjoyment of and dedication to a game more than the guild they join, and every consideration should be given to making sure they choose the right one.

Do you agree that multi-game guild communities might be a poor choice for players looking for a long-term MMO? I expect this opinion might be contentious, so let me know what you think in the comments!

#MMO #Guild #Community

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17 thoughts on “Is Joining a Multi-Game Guild Shooting Yourself in the Foot?

  1. Hey Isarii,

    was eagerly waiting for you publishing this article. Greatly enjoyed reading it and am as much eagerly going to discuss it.

    That said, let’s examine some details:

    “At its core, the implicit purpose of a multi-game guild community is to be MMO nomads[…]”, you’ve written. There is a fallacy in this premise (which I already explained to you via twitter, but for completeness sake…). As explained, there are several MOs for multigaming guilds. Of course, there are these “nomads” which wander from game to game, either as content locusts or out of thirst for an actual enticing game (like you and me) but the majority of MGGs (short for MultiGamingGuilds) are actually more expanding than simply moving on. Expanding means that while the community as a whole is participating in several games the guild covers, each of these games features a full blown guild presence (what I’d call “chapters”) with oftentimes healthy communities in themselves.
    Of course, the leading members for new games are oftentimes core community members that have (due to their position/charisma/activity) some leverage over those willing to follow them in the next big thing, but a well designed MGG (and I know enough of those that I claim that these ARE a thing) does also feature enough structure and enough of these core members that this expansion doesn’t also herald the end of the game these members left behind (if at all!).
    And there are MGGs that actively plan for these expansions to happen where dedicated core members are chosen to build up completely new guild communities (said chapters) under the aegis of the MGG-brand. These “professional” MGGs share infrastructure and name but are most often completely independent guild entities that are virtually indistinguishable from guilds dedicated to one game if met in said game.

    “Worse yet, players who leave the game yet remain members of the community often actively undermine retention of current chapters by serving as hype-men for upcoming titles and chapters, not only serving to remove the barrier to exit by remaining in the community, but further incentivizing leaving if the players wish to stay together as a team.”
    While true in itself, I’ve as often encountered the reversed situation – whereas members taking up the torch from those that have left build up social momentum themselves, become core members in their own rights and entice players to come back to the game or even recruit new members. This is not different from a guild member/officer/leader leaving and the guild adjusting to the now void position (in a successful way. There are of course enough guilds breaking up once a core member leaves). This is especially true if the guild structure isn’t completely dependant on certain individuals but features a solid structure (something, many MGGs feature in contrast to many dedicated guilds which startup as someone hyped for a game and wanting to create a community for just exact this game) that makes it easier for others to step in.

    One thing that I’ve encountered that completely outweighs the pull of core members moving on is if a guild is willing to get entrenched in game community itself. This often makes guild members of a MGG build up a greater network of social contacts than just the guild itself and thus makes them wanting to keep up the MGG-chapter to stay in touch with their most frequent contacts.

    Another thing that I also want to mention is that MGGs are but a consequence and not cause to people leaving games. As you mentioned in your wrap-up: “It goes without saying that the most important factor in a player sticking with a game is that the game actually be good.”
    This simple sentence is so utterly important that if you base your perception on this it completely changes your perspective on the MGG-topic: The “planning for failure” becomes the will to stay in touch with those you’ve met to play games with in the first place. If the games fail to keep you playing them – how can this be attributed to a MGG realizing that you are simply bored with a game and offering up variety in how to enjoy your free time with your peers?

    The more I think about it, the more I find the idea of “social retention” in MMOs disgusting. It’s a lazy excuse for games that lack the fun factor to keep you playing and tries to shackle you via the sublimal threat of “you will loose your contacts if you move on!”. If you enjoy what you do there is no need to think about staying or not and who to enjoy it with.
    MGGs are the social mechanic to get rid of this threat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I still don’t think that whether a game is moving on or simply expanding makes a difference when it comes to the social pressures created within the guild community. In either case, you’re still left with a situation where people feel less dedicated to a specific game, and pressures from other games’ chapters exists to pull players away from games they may have otherwise stayed in. These two points are the key to my discussion in the article, and exist regardless of the intent of the guild (search for a permanent game vs continual hype-hopping), or the structure its chapters take (expansion vs relocation).

      I definitely understand the appeal of joining a community that you can stay in for years; I myself have played almost exclusively in multi-game guild communities for the last four or more years. I think the benefits here are obvious as well; long-lasting friendship, continuity in guild structure, instant group cohesion in new launch titles, etc… all are great benefits that can be accessed by joining one. That said, these points are outside of the scope of this article, which aims to examine one way in which multi-guild communities are inferior to more focused guilds for players who are specifically looking to dedicate themselves to one-game.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Understood and appreciated but I don’t think you can single out just one way to look at this and blend out the other stuff, especially if this article is in any way meant to faciliate more than your gruntling about how shallow games have become and everything associated with them.

        That said, expansionist MGGs do not necessarily lower the barrier to leave as I have explained before. Especially not, if their expansion is based on single members building up entirely new and independent chapters. Players willing to do so in other cases are already bored/disillusioned/done with the game before, otherwise the lure of the new wouldn’t outweigh the social retention factor.

        And this again leads us back to the core issue: Social retention is the lazy devs ploy to keep you in a game you are actually contemplating to leave in the first place. Otherwise this would be a non-factor!

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        • I don’t see a problem with article content having a narrow, specific focus. This isn’t related to actual MMO content and it isn’t an indictment of multi-game guild communities as a whole. It’s a very specific look at one way in which multi-game guild communities fall short of more specialized, dedicated single-game guilds.

          Although a lot of my articles do end up being five to seven thousand word comprehensive extravaganza pieces on a topic, there’s still nothing wrong with specificity – and I would argue that latter is far more common in the broader media.

          I can’t agree that any form of multi-game guild community does not lower the barrier to exit as compared to a single-game guild. So long as players can keep in touch and consider themselves a part of the same social unit, the barrier to exit is greatly diminished as they will no longer feel that they are leaving the fold when moving on to a new game. At the very least, this exists as a simple function of ingroup and outgroup mentality.

          The quality of the game and morality of social cohesion as a retentious mechanic are both peripheral issues that needn’t be considered in the context of this point (quality is a separate issue and shouldn’t be considered when evaluating a single-factor in a more complex situation – always assume ceteris paribus).

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t reply to your last comment so this has to be a standalone: While I agree that the specific focus is okay I DO also think that this makes you look too short about the actual quickening between MGGs and a lowered barrier to enter/leave a game (remember, I claim that this works both ways). MGGs are not a isolated phenomenon and the examination what effect they have on socialization in games / on the social retention value of games can’t specifically single out a direct correlation without identifying the different causes for MMO-nomadism and if they are affected differently. You claim that they are affected all the same as you see Multigaming-Guilds (while not in themselves as bad) as bad for the social retention value due to forementioned reasons while I claim that the notion of social retention itself as “value” is bad because it fails to identify the reason why we socialize in these games in the first place: because we want to share the fun we have. And what does make us leave? A game getting boring / having less fun than the effort to participate justifies. While I agree that MGGs of course lower the barrier to exit (as social ties ARE a thing) they actually are a concept introduced to combat the notion of social retention being the main tie in to a game and thus to get rid of the idea of “having to log in to stay in touch”.

    There is also the advent of social media and a thought of community sharing that ALSO lowers the barrier as it never has been easier to make new acquaintances and build new social contacts. With that in mind I can’t help but disagree with the idea that MGGs are in any way unintentionally a way to plan for failures. Our way to participate (read: consume!) games has simply changed so much that our idea of what a guild actually is has changed with it. MGGs are again just a way to deal with the short-lived nature of games these days and disjoint the idea that multiplayer games HAVE social retention at all.

    These days, if you want to keep your players you need to give reasons to stay. Not to exploit social behaviour.

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    • While I agree that MGGs of course lower the barrier to exit (as social ties ARE a thing) they actually are a concept introduced to combat the notion of social retention being the main tie in to a game and thus to get rid of the idea of “having to log in to stay in touch”.

      Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been saying though? SGGs tie people into games through social pressures, and joining a MGG is, as you’ve also said, a way to remove that social pressure.

      I’ve acknowledged the existence of other factors on whether or not a player ultimately sticks with a game, but their existence doesn’t invalidate a discussion on this specific factor. That’s concept of ceteris paribus I mentioned earlier – you have to make the assumption that all other factors remains the same. The insistence that other factors also be discussed is fallacious; individual factors can absolutely be discussed without having to give time to each and every other consideration that would weigh on the player’s decision to play or not play the game.

      At this point, it seems like you’re just agreeing with me and bringing up other factors that, while relevant to whether or a player sticks with a game, are not relevant to my discussion of the impact of MGGs vs SGGs on that decision, given the standard logical assumption of ceteris paribus.

      Again, any moral judgment of the planning for social ties as a retention feature is entirely irrelevant to a discussion of its efficacy – doubly so in my discussion of it not as a design objective, but as a factor in the player’s choice in finding a guild that best fits their personal goals.

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      • I agree with you that MGGs are not a blanket solution for every players needs.
        I also agree with you that (at least certain types of) MGGs have an effect on the social retention factor.

        But I disagree with you on several important details.
        For example the idea that MGGs are always based on the idea of being “nomadic”. They are not, per sé, as I have already explained. And no, you can not ignore that.
        For example the idea that MGGs in general are from the get-go made with failure of the current game in mind. They are not, as most of the MGGs are not the migratory kind but the expansionist kind which means they actively want to keep their presence in the games already established under their aegis active and healthy.
        For example the idea that MGGs in general are producing a constant lure away from the current game and thus have a detrimental effect on social retention. They are not in general as most established MGGs are divided into independent chapters that are virtually nothing different than individual SGGs for a individual member of each chapter. For these members the fact that the MGG-chapter they belong to is part of a bigger association of players with diverese interests has no bearance about how likely they are to abandon the game they are currently enjoying.

        But first and foremost I disagree with the idea that you can apply ceteris paribus to this topic. That is too narrow and to specific to provide a basis for the conclusion you make.

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        • I don’t consider expansionary MGGs to not be nomadic, as the guild still exists to give individual players the option to move nomadically between chapters and games. These are the types of guilds I was referring to in the article, and typify my description rather than being an exception to it. With multiple simultaneous chapters, these guilds make the effects of hype-men and negative incestuous amplification much worse than they would be in any other guild format, as the barrier to exit from the game is the lowest in these types of guilds.

          For both the above and the statement that these guilds are effectively plans for failure, you need to consider that I said both of these were implicit or subconscious traits. They may not see it that way, but that is absolutely what it is. There is no purpose to an MGG other than to keep the community together as players move away from games.

          As for MGGs not providing a lure away? That’s just completely wrong. I would assume that anyone who’s been in a MGG has experienced players from Chapter B talking to players in Chapter A and pulling them away. These chapters may be independent, but the social pool is not. These players generally use a shared forum, a shared TeamSpeak, shared community meetings, and come from the same original guild of players. They know each other, they talk, and they enjoy playing together – this is the entire point of an MGG, after all.

          There is no situation where ceteris paribus cannot be applied. There is no other way to properly evaluate the effect of one factor in something than by using it. This is extremely basic scientific logic, and suggesting that it be disregarded is nothing short of suggesting this topic willfully be examined fallaciously.

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  3. You know while reading I though about how the word guild has come to mean something very different from it’s original meaning. I mean guilds used to be weird union-corporation hybrids that existed so that the few decent jobs you could have as a commoner was controlled by an “in-group” that tried to keep their jobs in the same set of families. Oh and guilds maintained a monopoly on what ever craft they were related to. Now the word Giuld just means “medieval organization”. Now that makes me think about how we romanticize the Medieval Europe in our fantasy worlds, even though it was a hell of shitty place to live …..

    What you want to comment on the content of the actual article? Fine. In my opinion MGM are sort of inevitable phenomena considering how quickly people migrate from modern mmo’s. As a corollary wants we have games that are really “worthy” of guilds we’ll be seeing fewer MGM’s . Personally I never understood the mentality. I personally haven’t played an mmo for very long time though I followed/(got excited) for few but I haven’t played any in recent years(STO doesn’t count I played that as a single player game). I guess I’m not that kind of person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hopefully one or more of the new batch of community-oriented crowdfunded MMOs like Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, Star Citizen, Revival, etc… can catch your eye and bring you back.

      Like

      • Yeah hopefully. My money is on Star Citizen(literally) but I have my fingers crossed. The problem with crowd funding is that people often don’t realize what they actually want. Wild star seems to the prime example of this. Turns out people didn’t want old school style wow raids back, they probably just wanted Old school wow back. But I admit crowd funding does seem to be the best way to get community oriented mmo’s right now.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I can share my own take on this issue, which may not be reflective of other’s experiences:

    With only one exception, for each MMO that I have been heavily invested in, the guild with which I experienced the most success, enjoyment, and sense of social belonging was not a guild I joined prior to the launch of the game. In fact, the several times I did join a new MMO with a guild I had played with previously I found the experience in the new game almost totally different than my previous experience with the same guild.

    My main takeaway from these experiences is that differences between games themselves are often so significant that they outweigh other factors in forging successful guilds.

    That being said, I concede that multi-game communities are the right fit for certain types of gamers but I generally agree with Isarii that committing to a overarching community rather than a specific game can sometimes be counterproductive to the mission of finding a long-term MMO home.

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  6. My experiences in a large MGG (The Old Timers Guild) have been more in line with Angier’s. We’re “expansionist”, not nomadic. We’ve had chapters in old games like WoW and Lotro since launch (or earlier).

    I also haven’t seen luring players away as a big problem. It happens, of course, but there’s a relatively limited amount of the cross-game hype and luring you referred to. I don’t consider it significantly different (or more impactful) than the exposure people otherwise get from external sources like gaming sites.

    I find that within a chapter (game), there’s a fairly low tolerance for talking up other games. Members still form a strong community around their game of choice within the larger MGG community and aren’t all that pleased to have someone come around and excessively hype up another game.

    We have members who are inveterate game hoppers and members who are nesters. I really think this has much more to do with individual preferences than being in an MGG. It’s nesters who stick around long term, set the tone, and form the heart of the community within a given game. I saw the same dichotomy when I was in an SGG, too: Long-timers vs. guild/game hoppers. There are just a lot more games to hop to nowadays. (Not dis’ing either style, BTW. It’s a symbiotic relationship.)

    What being in an MGG has done for me is given me some familiar faces and consistent expectations across games. I’m a nester at heart, and I am no more likely to hop games now than when I was in an SGG, but at least if I start to tire of my game of choice, I find a few familiar faces when I stick my head over the fence. I might even be slightly less likely to move on because even if some of my gaming buddies move on, others are likely to rotate in, giving me a constantly self-renewing community. By contrast, when I was in an SGG and a few key people moved on, it no longer felt like “home”.

    An MGG, especially a large one like ours, is definitely not for everyone, and it requires good leadership to keep it running smoothly and consistently, but it’s been a terrific experience for me. I wouldn’t want to go back to to SGGs.

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