For the Herd! — I mean Horde!

Warning: Geek Post Ahead. So anyone that reads this for the food and (at least I think they’re) funny posts can skip this one.

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft again for about a week and I am definitely hooked again. Not obsessively, but with it being about mid 20’s outside, and very little on tv, I see no problem with getting online for an hour or two after I’ve done some chores around the house. Since getting back online, I’ve immediately noticed the things that annoy me about MMO players. It seems that any stereotype that was out there exists, and may have stemmed from, WoW. My biggest pet peeves are probably worth a post all on their own, so I’ll just share an article I read in the magazine Games for Windows. It’s a total shill publication, the back half of it is pretty much ad space for Microsoft, but the team of writers and reviewers is good. The column is about guilds in MMOs, something that’s been kinda bugging me though I’ve been ignoring it for the most part. I did finally join a guild on one character today with my first question being “So what does being in a guild do for me?” — I was honestly asking because I never really got that, aside from having people to chat with. It’s like in City of Heroes, a Super Group is nice, but really it’s evolved into just having zone teleporters within easy reach. My question was never answered, so until I find a more appropriate one (perhaps filled with older, non-netspeak using, queer casual gamers) it’ll do for now. It’s an amusing read and makes some good points. I don’t think MMOs have given much thought about the point of guilds and groups, nor have they done much to encourage and/or reward those that actually are committed to them.

Committed

Chicken Tenders is now recruiting! We are a new guild accepting members of all levels. We have a guild bank, tabard, and lots of nice guildies. We do Battlegrounds, run instances, and quest together, and we are gonna start raiding Karazhan pretty soon. We are looking for more nice players to help the guild grow fast, and to have fun together. All are welcome! PST for info.”

Chances are you’ve probably seen many messages like this in the general and trade chat channels of whatever MMO(s) you happen to play. Perhaps if you’re a fresh-out-of-the-account-creation-screen-newcomer to these sorts of games, the rush of open guild invites seems warm and welcoming. After all, you want somewhere to belong, right? Somewhere that appreciates you for you?

For jaded, grumpy, get-the-hell-off-my-virtual-lawn-you-damn-newbs blowhards like me, guild invite spam is a bright red flag. Unfiltered enrollment leads to what I term “Zerg guilds”: masses of immature idiots, all with different goals and agendas, and most looking out for their own interests above all else. These guilds might mold themselves into effective teams, but they aren’t families, per se—outside of whatever nightly raid you happen to sign up for, guild chat is largely just another channel for the kids to unleash streams of profanity and hilarious Chuck Norris jokes.

Forth The Hand

Here’s a story about a guild from the good old days: Back in 1999, I applied for membership in a fairly infamous guild on Ultima Online’s Pacific server called The Black Hand (or BH, for short). BH had a reputation as a merciless PVP-oriented guild, with an all-for-one philosophy and a very close-knit relationship among its comparatively modest member base. As a prospective member, I underwent a weeks-long getting-to-know-you period, followed by a verbal interview (the Inquisition, we called it) to gauge the limits of an initiate’s loyalty. Membership required a unanimous vote among every active guild member; a single “no” vote was all it took to deny an applicant—no questions asked. It was a strict, effective policy that guaranteed extreme trust, dedication, and unity on an emotional level. A BH title above your head meant something. And, as my one-time guildmaster once succinctly noted to new members, “If you call for help in this guild, don’t be surprised if like nine people show up.” That’s commitment for commitment’s sake.

Nowadays, those guilds are gone. Quantity trumps quality, and every MMO from World of WarCraft to Guild Wars sends the same message, loud and clear: Smaller guilds are second-class guilds. Join the herd or get left behind. So it is that the Zerg guilds mobilize predominantly for the accumulation of phat loot (the one true be- all, end-all goal), while the Black Hands of the world—the players who stood together because they felt they’d found other people of quality with whom to spend their gaming hours—wither and die. Not racing to clear the Black Temple? That retribution Paladin over yonder’s got no time to waste on you; he’s got epics to grind. Sure, he can hardly stand most of his 80 other guildmates (three-quarters of whom he doesn’t know from Adam)… but if you can’t do anything to up his all-important DPS number and they can, why should he bother joining your guild—close-knit or not?

Even the guilds that craft careful mission statements and recruitment policies only parse the word “quality” in a how-good-are-your-stats manner, with little consideration for chemistry or other social intangibles. Applying to one of these organizations amounts to the text-chat equivalent of a job interview: a clinical, number-crunching, so-what-can-you-do-for-us affair. You’re only worth as much as you bring to the weekly 25-man raid, and if you’re not committed enough to that cause… well, we’ve got plenty of other applicants in the queue. Next in line, please?

— Ryan Scott for Games for Windows Magazine

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1 Response

  1. William Mize says:

    Thank GOODNESS I never fell into the MMO trap. I played “Dune III” MUSH/MUD about 10 years ago, and damn that was addictive. All the Houses, all the intrigue, murder, politics and sex.
    Good stuff.
    I would be seriously tempted with a Star Trek MMO, though.

    “I can’t write books now! I’m phasering the hell out of the Romulans!”

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