A lot of bloggers spend a lot of time talking about how the mechanics of MMOs need to be refreshed. The level grind, the loot systems, the payment model, whatever… basically a lot of thought is put into how these games might be improved by the enthusiasts who play them.
I wonder if its time we look at the social aspects. Particularly, guilds. Depending on the MMO, being in a guild can range from pretty helpful to crucial. And on the face of it, guilds seem like a good thing, right? A way to meet people and make friends.
But the flip side is the guild drama. In the past few weeks I’ve heard from several different friends about guild drama implosions in each of their (different) guilds. In all cases this has created a lot of bad feelings for the people involved. In each case, these have been guilds of mature, lucid people who I know to be good-hearted individuals. And yet their guilds fractured amid much drama.
Why do these games try to force us into large guilds? Such groupings aren’t natural. We live in a culture of small, liquid groups. Outside of our jobs, what other activities do we, as adults, partake in that requires us to bind ourselves with large groups of people to work shoulder to shoulder with them? The only think I can think of are team sports, and those are generally small groups of people.
Outside of a game, when’s the last time you gathered in a group of 25-100 people to the extent of labeling yourself as a Member of this group and interacting directly with all members of that group. I’m not talking about “joining” a gym or a church. In instances like those, you aren’t directly interacting with all members of that group.
Guilds were a fine idea when we were all 15 or 20 and had endless time for playing games and no other pressures on us. But as the gaming population gets older, we by nature get less flexible as the matrix of our lives grows more complex. Free time grows more precious to us. Political views solidify. We develop Ideals.
The idea that I can find a group of 25-150 people that I can get along with day to day in a specific leisure-time activity is, frankly, ludicrous. I’d feel really really fortunate to find a dozen such people. I’m not saying there aren’t 150 people I can get along with in my social circles. I’m saying there aren’t that many people doing the specific activity (ie, game) in the specific place (ie, server) that I am.
I’m not talking about abolishing grouping or raiding. But I think a better system would involve allowing players to form small-scale long term groups (essentially friend-lists on steroids) and then allow those “micro-guilds” to come together for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task, then going their separate ways.
I realize nothing prevents this from happening now. But game developers could build in better tools for aiding this kind of short-term aggregation. It might be as easy as re-working the “looking for group” into a “forming a raid” system where you could list your group in the window and a raid leader could build a raid by inviting a selection of groups that fit the raid’s needs.
I admit I’m pretty biased in this, as I’m not very social to begin with. But it bothers me to see my friends being upset because of guild drama/implosions, and I don’t think we’d have this kind of drama if games weren’t developed in such a way as to favor large guilds over small ones. Let people form Friendships based on, well, LIKING each other’s company rather than on needing more warm bodies to fill out a raid.
Let’s place the value on the strength of the relationships between players, rather than on numbers alone.