I’ll start with my disclaimer (and a little bit of background)…
I’ve never been a Guild Master. I was an officer for a while of a small-medium size Horde casual raiding guild on Draenor. We enjoyed a long and successful run before our guild dissolved and scattered in its own little Diaspora.
What essentially prompted our dissolution was that our Guild Master and a few other leaders of the guild decided it was time for them to leave. We had successfully made guild leader transitions before, but this time we couldn’t find an established and respected member who at that time had the time and willingness to take on the responsibility.
As a result, about four months ago (although it seems much longer than that), I with some of the other officers in the guild helped to facilitate a merger (of sorts) with another guild on the server that appeared to have a culture and approach to the game that was close to that of our original guild. I, along with a number of my previous guild mates, are still at the new guild.
Currently, the new guild is experiencing its own growing pains and evolving from where it was at the point of our addition. All of this has gotten me thinking about the purpose of guilds, what it takes to make them successful, what causes them to fail and what is going to happen when the next expansion is released.
The Purpose of Guilds in World of Warcraft
It may be obvious to those who play, but Guilds exist within the World of Warcraft by design. Within the game, guilds serve a few very specific purposes.
The primary purpose of guilds is to facilitate progression through the end game content. Without aligning yourself with other players, progression through the end game content becomes exceedingly difficult.
Progression through end game typically occurs as the result of two factors.
First, it occurs through collective learning.
Most of the collaborative events (i.e. raids or instances) in WoW are similar to choreographed dance routines. To be successful, players must learn to execute their own individual part – their positioning, their role, etc. in the encounter. “Strategies” are simply the scripts of each one of the parts. “Learning the strategy” is essentially the rinse and repeat process of each player learning their role in a particular fight so that the group is able to complete it successfully on a frequent basis (i.e. to put it on “Farm” status).
Another element of the game which determines a Guild’s ability to be successful is the collective quality of the gear that the group has during a collaborative encounter. In the game, players frequently refer to some encounters as “Gear Checks.” A gear check is a designed barrier that serves to determine whether or not the group has successfully mastered the previous encounters sufficiently (as measured by the overall collective quality of its equipment) so that it can continue to progress.
In this way, guilds serve a secondary purpose which is to collaboratively optimize the quality of the gear of its individual members so as be able to enable the continued progression of the group through content. In this fashion, a guild obtains and allocates “loot” as a means to the end that is progression.
In short, the ability of a guild to progress is dependent on the collective ability of each individual to learn their part as well as the ability of the guild to optimize the overall quality of gear across its members.
A final purpose of guilds is to create the ability to connect with people we like and to filter us from having to deal with people we find annoying or disruptive.
In my experience, it is generally accepted among players that “Guild runs” are generally preferable to “PUGs” (i.e. pick-up groups). This purpose ties directly Jane McGonigal Four Key Principles of Happiness – specifically, “Time spent with people we like.”
Understanding the purpose of guilds is important because it serves as a basis for understanding why guilds succeed and why they fail. It also serves to understand how to make a guild from succeeding and how to keep it from failing.
Upcoming: Some thoughts on why Guilds fail.