Now, that is the question – for MMO players, at least!
Well, for some of us. For many MMO players (and I would hazard to say, for most), a guild is pretty darned important – for raiding, fighting bosses, clearing high level instances… Sure, there are PUGs (Pick Up Groups: random players, often from a queue, who form a group solely because they are in the same place at the same time), but those often are uneven and unreliable. At lower levels, guilds help a player level up their character, and assist with resources and knowledge. At higher levels, guilds are invaluable in end game achievements, often working as a group on behalf of a member (or few) at a time, in order to eventually benefit the entire guild.
Then there’s the social aspect of guilds. For most of us, the hours spent on the near side of our avatars are much more fun if shared with others that we know, and there’s something to be said of having a safe haven from the morass of interaction that is General Chat. Add to that the social resources of guilds (dedicated chat, banks, guild halls, tabards, etc.), even using Ventrillo or other group voice programs, and it’s no wonder that strong guilds often cross over from solely ingame presences to fostering a full spectrum of “real world” friendships.
So why is it, that in all my years of gaming, I can count the number of guilds I have belonged to on one hand? One in WoW, one in the pre-release days of Lord of the Rings Online (I’m not even sure of that one counts!), one in Dark Age of Camelot, one in NeoCron. Oh, I’ve “belonged” to other guilds, but mainly as a placeholder, or only as a signature on a charter, or with the best of intentions but absolutely no follow through.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out why I’m so shy of guilds, and I’ve boiled it down to two basic reasons. The first is that I am NOT a multi-tasker; I have a hard time concentrating on even a few things at once. So if I’m fighting in a game (or questing or farming, or pretty much anything), I really can’t follow guild chat; it’s either my avatar or the chat. If the chat reflects something I’m doing, like going through a dungeon, then it’s no problem. But otherwise, my gaming time feels hijacked by having to be socially polite and follow along with conversations that, while perhaps entertaining or informative, still pull me away from my avatar experience. That was fine when I had hours upon hours to be online, but not with the limited time that I have now.
The second reason is due to my play style. It’s hard to find a good guild when you’re not really into mastery concerns like the best gear or obtaining the most prestigious items and achievements. When your main focus is experiencing the world and the lore by sliding into a role when you load your avatar, then it’s hard to be a participating (re: valuable) member in a guild where hours are spent organizing and executing a raid or a boss fight, or where members love to argue the merits of different builds or different skill trees ad infinitum, or operate as a cheering section for sharing loot gains or DPS levels or achievements. All of those are very valid and valuable aspects of a good guild to many… just not for me.
It’s virtually impossible to find a good role-playing guild nowadays because today’s MMOs, even as RPGs, are not conducive to traditional role-playing: an individual player cannot truly affect their environment (there’s a topic for another post or two!). So any guild that claims to foster role-play tends to be either a vehicle for lots of personal drama, or tends to have a very well developed guild environment outside of the game, usually via a website with forums where members can interact with each other as characters and as players. That takes a lot of focus, time and dedication (and a certain amount of financial input) outside of the game, so those guilds are few and far between.
I will say, though, that the few guilds I have been in have been exceptional experiences; many of the friends I met through those guilds have stayed in touch even years later, and some of the role-play that came out of those guilds and forums have been of the highest caliber.
What about you? What have your experiences with guilds been? Do they mesh well with your play style? Are they essential to your gaming experience, or just a fun sidebar?