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Musings Upon a Guild

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To what degree can members be offered an incentive to play, and can this extend to the wider game too?

I continue to learn in the midst of play, which really helps put my mind at ease given the amount of time spent in Azeroth of late! This week, amidst scurrying thoughts about other projects which include trying to subtly direct emergent behaviour in virtual worls, I’m thinking about my guild.

Just to offer a brief catch-up: I am a member of Future Tense on the US server, Misha. It’s a guild which we one day hope will evolve, but which currently supports a small group of casual-experienced players and those still new to the game, such as I once was. It’s given us a framework for supporting each other in levelling professions up, for organising dungeon raids both ‘run’ (supported by a high-level player) and tackled head-on with an appropriate party, for keeping us tied together socially, and for simply letting us simulate the running of a small guild.

This guild exists for one prominent and unstated reason, too – it lets us all learn the rules and culture of play in World of Warcraft as a matter of academic interest and personal training as players. I owe a lot of my growth as an online computer gamer to the framework which Future Tense has provided me. The trouble is that eventually, there comes a time when a dozen unique members (i.e. the players, not our 50+ character ‘alts.’) can teach you little more about the way a guild is run. It’s no slight on my guild, of course – just an interesting turn of events.

Two new aspects of guild culture were brought to my attention in this discourse – a guild’s interaction with the server (potentially a community in its own right), and the incentive it offers its players. The former is a tricky attribute to comprehend when you’re playing to such an inclusive membership. There are a number of large guilds on Misha, and while none of them display any particular hints of ritual, prestige or fellowship, a guild is potentially capable of many of these things. The Spreading Taint is the best example I know of – a collection of half a dozen guilds under one banner, propegated onto the Proudmoore server to such an extent that it has unofficially become ‘the Taint server’. Tied in to a guild’s presence upon the server is the manner in which it recruits, and just what sort of players it would recruit, too. For the time being, Future Tense takes the Terror Nova model, discussed in my GLS recap article – it’s formed of friends and colleagues we know either from other online world platforms, from conferences or day-to-day life. How this changes in order to facilitate open recruitment will also impact the second new insight I was offered – incentive to our members.

I’m well aware of course, that apart from those surprisingly common players who simply wish to join “a guild, any guild”, a group wishing to openly recruit will have to offer its players some incentive. Played right, this could be a matter of prestige, or offering the player a chance to join a friendly and supportive guild. These things would be communicated in the guild’s day-to-day interactions with its server. What interests me more than “the big sell” though, is the continued incentive managed by the community’s upkeep. How is a guild to convince its players to keep signing in to this server? The player may have alts. in other guilds on that server or on other servers entirely, and it’s a compliment to the guild when they continue to sign in on your watch. How is that compliment best repaid?

Extraneous to this, I wandered to thoughts about incentive to play the game, too. I already pay to play Blizzard’s World of Warcraft on a monthly basis, and so have a consumer’s incentive. Whether or not we keep the subscription rates in mind, I wonder to what extent Blizzard Entertainment owes its customer base to the hard work of guild organisers? If guild-based play is so essential to many players’ experience of the game, but guilds began turning their members away, it’s not hard to imagine that those players would stop playing the game altogether. In some regards, this model of guilds incentivising its members may carry on upwards, to Blizzard incentivising its guilds. Just some food for thought.