12 August, 2018
A little while ago I was talking to a friend of mine who helped to run an MMO guild in a game. They lamented to me about the problems of running it, particularly when things changed in the guild. It went from a small group of friends willing to help each other to a group of strangers. Worse, some of the core people were fleeing the guild to form their own rather than try to help fix the perceived problem.
So I figured I’d write a bit about what it takes to build and run a small community in a game based upon my experiences as a developer and as a player of MMOs.
This will be a nice overview, and I’ll go into more depth during the week on individual points. I think for this post, I’ll identify some common pitfalls of people who start and run guilds.
The biggest problem I’ve seen is trying to grow too big. There’s a bit of ego invested into forming a guild, thinking that you can do a better job at running a guild than all the other ones out there. And so there’s also a bit of ego invested into wanting to be the biggest and most popular, thinking this equates to success. But often a community that grows too large too fast has trouble holding together.
I think the next most common problem deals with having a purpose. Most guilds seem to be the type where, “We’ll do whatever!” This makes it easier to recruit people, but also makes it hard for people to have a common purpose. A guild centered around raiding and helping get people equipped for raiding has a focus, but excludes people who don’t want to raid, or at the very least don’t want to be social with raiders. Having a purpose, and sticking with that purpose, is important.
Related to this is the culture you want in your community. Ideally you want an inclusive culture that lets people participate how they want. But there are always issues to consider: do you value free speech or the ability to feel safe? How do you resolve conflicts, in public or in private? How do you deal with bad actors, through reform or banning? Keep in mind that your culture needs to be communicated, and this is easier if you grow the community at a slower pace.
I also think that you need to find good leadership. Even beyond the actual guild leader, officers need to be there to help with specific issues and when the guild leader simply isn’t available. Some guild officers may be more like the leader but still subordinate, where others may take charge of specific areas while overseen by the leader. Sometimes it’s useful to work in conjunction with another officer: the old bad cop/worse cop routine can influence people where more a more direct approach fails. Or some people may just feel more comfortable with an officer than with the leader.
Finally, there’s just dealing with reality: a game that requires 20 people in a raid won’t really support a guild of 15 raiders unless they have a steady supply of people or can work well with PUGs. A guild centered around the idea of a tribe won’t work if people can’t leave their human concepts of a nuclear family behind to fully experience the RP. Adjusting to these realities is important.
So, what do you think? Any other sins you can think of? I might write about your idea if you propose something I missed.