Guilds: What For?

Secret World, Headstand

This is a “Talk Back Challenge” post, created for the Newbie Blogger Initiative. This sort of post is designed to encourage conversation about a broad topic and to entice conversation about the topic. One of the New Blogs on the Block (NBOTB), Away From Game, has been tasked with writing about the same topic. So, once you are done with my post, please go check theirs out. Or now. Whatever works for you. I’m easy. If you are coming from the NBI pages, feel free to comment, or write a piece of your own and link back. As always, thank you for reading! 🙂

First, a universal truth: The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.

The reason this truth is so universal is it not only applies to Euclidean geometry, but to the world at large. The easiest answer is most likely the correct one. When walking, our collective feet naturally create the pathways that make the most sense, even if it’s not on the pavement. Scientists look at patterns found in nature, and they resemble patterns we use or could use in our lives. In other words, we will always take the easiest path to achieve our goals. Keep this in mind.

Guilds are the primary social structure of these MMOs that we play. We use them to chat with others, to share resources, and to run group-oriented content. But what is our motivation for joining them? Is it because we are social creatures and that we feel that our addition to a guild can make the overall guild better? Or, really, do we join them for purely selfish reasons?

Star Trek Online, Need, Greed

Except Damianus, and whoever that Ambrose fool is, it’s all about the Need!

Time and time again, I’ve seen that MMO gamers have proven themselves to be selfish. I mean, just take a look at the picture on the left there. I took that in Star Trek Online just a couple of days ago. In a random group with random strangers, for an event that lasts less than a few minutes, almost every single person, on every piece of loot dropped, when given a choice of whether to “Greed” it or “Need” the item, chose “Need”. Did they really need it? No, of course they didn’t! In a random group, hitting “Greed” on a drop, in this case, was literally handing the loot to someone else.

With loot being one of the primary paths to success, having more loot is the straightest path to our goals, even if that involves skirting the social mores of fairness. If our goal is to reach the top level fastest, we will take Experience Boosters, or only do the missions that reward the most Experience points. If our goal is to make the most money, we will farm the most profitable materials we can sell to others, we will manipulate the in-game auction house to corner the market on goods, and we will essentially spend our gaming time eeking out the highest Gold/hour ratio we possibly can. And if our goal is to get all the best end-game gear, only obtainable through grouping and raids, we will join guilds that make this process easier.

So if our collective gaming goal is one of selfishness, that we are just trying to improve our own characters, why do we form guilds at all? In my opinion, we form guilds paradoxically because it raises our individual success. If, in a dungeon, you join a PUG with random players, they are more likely to exhibit behaviors found in the above Need/Greed example. A random group is less likely to complete the dungeon in the first place than an organized group, and then when loot drops, they are less likely to be fair about it’s distribution. An organized group is significantly more likely to be fair in it’s loot distribution as well as it’s competency, thus improving individual progression chances.

This is even more evident when players drop a guild they are in and move to a big raiding guild. On an example I have made previously, once guild members reach the upper echelons, and the current guild they’re in isn’t giving them any more progression, they will generally seek greener pastures that will.

Secret World, TSW, Polaris

This should be no surprise, though, as it is also found in nature:

We’re used to thinking of social groups as fundamentally cooperative entities, but with some kinds of groups, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the best-known biological theory of herding, William Hamilton’s “selfish herd” idea, proposes that herds are the result of individuals trying to ensure that other members of their species, rather than themselves, will get eaten by predators.Michael Price, From Darwin to Eternity

“Get eaten by predators” may be extreme, none of us are eaten by a predator when we lose a loot roll, but the execution is similar. At the end of a boss fight, a piece of loot can only be distributed to one individual. That individual significantly improves, but the group only improves if that one individual continues to play with them. The choice, ultimately, is in the hands of the player.

Now, I could just have this stance because I haven’t had the best of luck with guilds in the past. They would either demand ridiculous amounts of time, or have almost zero activity that made staying in them the same as not being in a guild at all. And now? With my transitive nature, the best guild I’m in is one with players in multiple games, with Twitter our primary contact. So it goes.

I know this isn’t the most efficient manner of getting loot, but then not all of us join guilds just for the loot alone.

// Ocho

15 thoughts on “Guilds: What For?

  1. Too much science!!! 😛 Just kidding, I do like the greed/need/pass system Cryptic has though – it’s the same in Neverwinter Online. Just needs to be tweaked a little so that the Need option is greyed out more often, like the subsequent 3 questions for it or so. Still pretty sad that you’re right about the selfish part of gamers, but there’s always the minority right? The ones not soley interested in game progression? I know they exist. 😉

    Here’s my take on the topic:


    • Need/Greed has been around forever, but it’s far from perfect. I think it needs a revamp… like in auto-made groups (like in STO, Neverwinter, WoW, etc.) all loot should be greed/pass. Period. However, if the group is hand-made, like a guild or just a hand-made 5-man, then you should still keep the Need/Greed system. I just think it could be better, and more fair. Now, I’m not saying to go to an entire random system ala Guild Wars, although that does have its benefits, too, but maybe a hybrid system between them.

      And yes, what I’m describing is based on the majority of players, but when there is a majority, there is also a minority, and it certianly doesn’t apply to everyone. I believe that I am of the minority… but even I won’t help everyone else all the time. I like helping others, but in moderation. 🙂

      And there is no such thing as too much science. 😛


  2. I concur that has been my guild experience also on most of those points.also gave me a few new selfish ways to look at guilds. Without selfishness no progress is made in capitalism. But then again the most successful capitalists are the most generous. How this applies to guilds as social structures? I dunno.


    • Most capitalists are the most generous because that also suits their own goals. Be it philanthropy that gives tax breaks, or a boost in public image, those who are rich didn’t get that way by giving it away and receiving nothing in return. They still get something, and the something they receive is generally more than the moral boost we get for doing good. The leader of a guild works tirelessly for those under him, and their organization makes it possible for all the better themselves. In return, he not only betters himself like those around him, but also receives a great amount of social power in return.

      This is also part of the theory that when we donate our time and money to social causes, that we are really doing it so that we get that dopamine fix that we have done right in the world. As the saying goes, “There is no such thing as a purely selfless act”.


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  4. I believe that is why I shy away from MMO’s for the most part anymore. I am a semi solo player by nature in those games but I do like to explore and a few friends to play with, or guild, etc is almost a requirement for the folks with my mindset of wanting to experience content. I will say though that I never found myself to be a good guild member…I was never comfortable being a regular joe, I always either wanted to be in some form of leadership or leader itself. That also may be where I found most of my stress. It was hard to keep a semi casual semi serious group working well together. Like you said, folks reach their limit on progression and wander off to bigger better things. It leaves those left behind though lacking.

    Its human nature though, you find this sort of thing everywhere. I joined a FB group recently. It was a local group. Was not long after I joined that something happened and there was some sort of drama. This butthurt person who happened to be an admin decided to nuke the group like a selfish child. What sucks is I wanted to help the group grow. I wanted to get some group service going etc but now it looks like I may have to do it myself. I guess I thought this group wouldn’t have the BS drama I hate but I was wrong. I am working on possibly trying to rebuild the group myself but it will depend on the admin in charge of it currently. Possibly a mistake but its that leadership thing in me that wants to try.

    Great post btw.


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  6. Oh your science is so selective 🙂

    I think you’re right on how our cultural values influences the behavior we see, namely selfishness. This is something we learn and are taught in capitalist society is the best thing for our survival. It also happens to be contrary to everything that has helped humans survive this long. It’s true that all groups aren’t cooperative, but humans are unique in that we actually are a species that thrives on cooperation and usually does horribly (even perishes) under competitive environments. The point?

    The evidence we see in games of people being selfish jerks isn’t validation of some scientific theory. It’s only proof that are party to a set of beliefs, which we learned and have chosen to follow, which glory in selfishness. Nothing in the world is more vain than a selfish person, a person who thinks they are worth more than anyone else 🙂

    We also don’t just take the “easy” path. Humans make very tough decisions, often deciding that the hardest course is best. There’s no analog between distance and being right or wrong as you tried to imply. The shortest distance can also be the wrong route to take depending on ones goals. So this emphasis on what is “easiest” leads people astray a lot. We’re better off asking what is best, because what is best and what is easy are not always the same thing.

    But guilds …what do we do with them? 🙂 I do find it intriguing, the question of players leaving guilds once they’ve risen to the top. In a way, guilds should expect this, but what really happens is we demand loyalty for building that person up. The player who leaves for greener pastures is a deserter and disloyal, but all things being equal this is exactly what should happen. I’m not saying many players who do this are driven merely by greed and self-interest, but I do believe players should continue to seek challenge and if they aren’t getting their social needs met where they are, they should depart. They should, however, try to part on good terms.

    Very excellent food for thought here. I clearly have too many to continue with this comment 🙂 I look forward to the ensuing discussion.


  7. I’ve never liked guilds much although I quite like making them and inviting, very selectively, only people whose main interests are similar to mine – playing lots of characters, gathering, exploring and seeing new content etc, people who mostly just want a guild tag, a guild bank and another chat channel. Joining guilds run by other people, who tend to have any number of interests and aspirations that I don’t share, usually ends up with me feeling like a resource to be allocated for someone else’s benefit. I’m pretty sure there are better social constructs to be designed for MMOs than guilds but unfortunately guilds came along right at the start and somehow embedded themselves into the infrastructure.

    As for the Need/Greed thing on loot, again it’s a historical problem we seem to be stuck with. I always preferred Can Use/Will Use but I gave up suggesting it in groups years ago because no-one else seems to like it. As you say, in PUGs there’s really no reason for more than Roll/Pass. I wouldn’t even use emotive words like “Greed” and “Need”.


  8. All human behaviour, that includes social behaviour and even so-called self-less or altruistic acts are selfish; not always purely or primarily so, but there is always a self-centric component to our actions. when you think about it in greater context, there’s nothingn wrong with that either (and it has nothing to do with erm capitalism, it’s the ancient, natural psychology of survival all beings refer to). we can’t do anything that doesn’t in any way relate to us. we need others and when we give, there is also either a ‘need’ to give and contribute or other motivation at play. the entire idea of social behavior is a mutual flow between individuals and that means everyone benefits, yourself included. that’s why I am usually lost in discussions where somebody tries to disvalue actions/decisions “because they are also selfish”. so what? the ideal outcome is both selfish and benefitting to others – it can be both. the right guild delivers that. selfishness in social context is only a problem when it’s destructive for others.

    Everyone who joins a guild hopes to get something out of it – company, progress, loot, fame, extra responsibilities. I used to be in competetive raidguilds for all of these reasons combined and they’re great common ventures if you manage to find like-minded people. guilds only ever become a burden if that last criteria isn’t met and when people want different things. I also believe that guilds happen naturally, whether an MMO features them or not – we gravitate towards others and we form groups with them for whatever reason. nobody can be friends with an entire city. some games have attempted the ‘whole server guild’ approach but the bottom line there too is that you select your own longterm. the only people who usually don’t value guilds are irregular players in my experience who also happen to roll more solo – or then the few who bring their partner or best friend along (which is a mini-guild of sorts). guilds reflect human needs and behavior as a whole and that’s why they’ve always existed in cooperative games such as MMOs, inbuilt tools or not.


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