When 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.
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