Oct 14, 2011

Posted by in Features | 3 Comments

United We Stand: If We Play Together, We Stay Together

United We Stand is an Ask A Jedi series focusing on guilds, groups, and other communities in Star Wars: The Old Republic. By examining the communities that we form, we can create a stronger game for ourselves, build relationships that will last a lifetime, and perhaps even change the world itself.

So, here’s where we’re at: We’ve talked about how you should never be afraid to share and talk about how much you love online gaming because our interactions with others are what makes the online real. So real, in fact, that communities formed online will slowly emerge into offline communities. But why is this important? Who cares if a bunch of random people play video games together and then occasionally awkwardly talk about said video games at TGI Friday’s? One answer is how important they are to our own personal stories, if you want proof just look at the stories in the comments. For us, it’s the experiences of meeting people online, making friends, working together, and getting the purples that makes it important. However, I wish to make an argument to you that guilds are important for a lot more than just friendships.

If you will bear with me, the first part of my argument begins with the difference between Star Wars: The Old Republic’s guilds, EVE Online‘s corporations, Lord of the Rings Online‘s kinships, and Star Wars: Jedi Academy’s  clans. Now, each of these types of communities can be classified as a guild or a clan. This distinction at first seems petty, that this is just two ways of saying the same thing, but this is actually important. Guilds are created in games where the game supports and allows you to create player organizations, as opposed to games that do not support player organizations and players create clans anyway.

On one side of the spectrum you have Star Wars: The Old Republic which gives the guild leader all the tools they need to create a guild. You get a bunch of friends together, you go find the guild NPC, and you create a guild. The most important thing about this is that the game recognizes and supports what you are doing. Your guild’s name appears under yours, you get your own private guild chat, and you get access to ranks, guild information, and other cool tools. The developers have incorporated the idea of a player organization into the structure of the code. This is awesome, but it has not always been nor always is like this.

At the other end, you have games like Counterstrike, Starcraft, and Star Wars: Jedi Academy. These games do not have interfaces that help you make player communities, player communities are instead powered entirely by the imaginations of the players. Players have to add tags to their name to show they are in a clan and have to use player made mods in order to have tools like private clan chat. There’s also no goal for clans other than to exist, these games rarely have in game goals like loot that require extensive teamwork. This leads to all sorts of fun complications that I want to talk about in later articles such as legitimacy, clan security, virtual identity, and some very cool role playing opportunities.

Why is this important? Regardless of the code of the game, whether it allows you to or not, players will create gaming communities anyway. Nothing can stop us from forming groups to play together with other people. Even when a game does not give us the tools to make communities, we make the tools and force communities into the game. If this truly is “just a game”, this wouldn’t happen because there’s no need for it. Online gaming communities are actually important, and as we’ll talk about in the next few weeks, they are politically important as well.

Leave comments or tweet me @TwinHits with your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

  1. Grinstone says:

    A question that gets far too little attention is, “What does it mean to play together?”

    Let’s take a question that might at first blush look odd: how do you lead a guild that’s working well?

    Most people might consider that a non-issue, but it can become a very real problem. Guilds that are running well, chugging along under their own impetus, offer the guild leader(s) a very tempting opportunity to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. Why fix something that’s broken, right? The trouble is that the impetus will, eventually, run out. Like will find to like, so that the same four, five, six, etc. players will hook up to do flashpoints, operations, etc. If someone else in the guild wants to jump in they might regularly find themselves stonewalled with, “Sorry, dude, got a full group”.

    I believe for a guild to retain its identity it is imperative that it regularly engages in events together. The trick is knowing whether the guild master can organize others into groups and let them romp or whether the GM needs to be the firm, knowledgeable, hands-on leader (especially for operations). In short, how do we play together?

    Personally I think the first step to that is for the guild leader to have a strong sense of what they want from the guild. Guilds that “do whatever” tend to have revolving doors, with people coming and going quite regularly. Guild identity and cohesion is going to be hard to come by.

    A lot of work, thought, and information has gone into how to deal with guild drama, especially for a game like WoW. As with any human endeavor, that receives a lot of focus because difficult situations often face us with challenges we are ill equipped, or incapable, of facing – at least alone.

    I think that goes to show just how little we realize and appreciate that leading a guild, and managing it well, in the good times is even more important than being a firm leader when trouble pops up.

    • These are questions that you find in any social group, and I don’t have a perfect answer. I think one needs to start by remembering that guilds, particularly clans, are just like any other social group. Being in a guild, or being in a group, doesn’t mean instant or infinite loyalty from your fellow guild members. As always, friendship is the strongest bond.

      I really like your comment about how a “guild leader needs to have a strong sense of what they want for a guild.” I was thinking about this the other day, the idea of what the ‘purpose’ of the guild is. If the guild has a clear goal and objective, it’s going to have a lot easier time staying together and cohesive.

      You’re right, a lot of work has gone into how to deal with guild drama, Wow.com (basically AskaJedi’s WoW equivalent) has an entire column, Drama Mama’s, dedicated entirely to drama. I’m about to start reading Scott Andrews’ book (the author of the wow.com Officer’s Quarters column) about guild leadership, then we’ll return to these issues.

  2. Community is definitely important…. I know I would not be nearly as excited about the game if it wasnt for the rest of the d20 Network community and the guild it has formed around it…. They daily elevated my excitement for the game and I know that I’ll have no problems finding a friendly face to play with at launch….

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