(This is part of the Talkback Challenge for the Newbie Initiative. It is one of the two themes chosen. The other one is "Armchair Game Designer" but I think I will be skipping the second one for now)
I have some social phobia. I say some because it is not enough to make me stop going out of the house or doing stuff I must do. But it is enough to make me avoid parties, if I can, to hate speaking in phones or other voice chatting devices, avoiding dealing with strangers, not liking to eat in public or go shopping for clothes plus a few other things. It makes life very inconvenient and things that are simple to others are harder for me. So what is a person like this doing playing MMOs, one of the most social games out there? Or even caring about guilds?
Well, to answer those questions we need to go through my history in MMOs and, by extension, guilds. It all started, a long time ago, with my love with tabletop RPGs. Since I always had trouble finding groups to play with here MMOs seemed like a good solution to it. I mean, it would be like mixing the best of a tabletop RPG with the graphical parts of CRPG games like Baldur's Gate! What was not to like?
Unfortunately I live in Brazil and being a teenager at the time without a credit card meant no means to import those early MMOs much less paying for a subscription. My brother though found a private server of Ultima Online (before I even knew what that was!) and I gave it a try too. That lasted like 5 minutes because I couldn't figure out what to do or something along those lines. Later on there was an open beta for Ragnarok Online that I could join so I decided to give this MMO thing a try again. I saw people attacking monsters and did the logical thing in a situation like that. I tried to attack monsters they were fighting too! Except then people scolded at me for doing it, leading me to be completely confused. So while I was waiting for some monster that was roaming free of any irksome player for me to attack I got a random group invitation. I accepted because, hey, why not? The guy wasn't a bad sort of person but kept rushing for us to attack mobs and that wasn't a very pleasant experience, much less the roleplaying I was looking for. So I gave up on MMOs thinking there was nothing of the tabletop RPG experience I was looking for.
Some time later after that a friend of mine was telling me about game he was enjoying, a MMO called Fairyland. I don't know how he convinced me or what was going through my mind at the time but I decided to give it a try. For the most part I liked it. And you could say this was my first real MMORPG experience.
Still my real life issues heared its ugly head into it. If he invited someone else for a group I would scould him because I believed that the proper thing would be consulting everyone else in the group first and only invite someone else if everybody agreed on it. In truth it was just my social anxieties trying to disguise itself as something reasonable. I think I had similar issues with our clan (the same thing as guilds for other games). I also had problem accepting in-game gifts to the point that they pretty much had to twist my arm to accept it. Although that last one would be more of an issue of pride I guess.
After Fairyland there were other MMOs we drifted through. Eventually we settled in Lineage 2. Again I blame my friend for that and he would blame a friend of his. :p
Anyway, while we were still a wee newbie, I was going to one of the bigger towns to buy some gear for my character as I heard there had better options from the NPCs shops there. When I was almost reaching town a woman approached me in the road inviting me to her clan. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and I decided to accept it. You see, by the time we got to Lineage 2 both me and my friend had given a try at the leadership thing both without much success. So I figured I'd risk it and see how a stranger handle things.
To this day I still consider that a lucky meeting. Lineage 2 is an extreme hostile enviroment, not only because if it is a Free-For-All PVP game but because theere were so much things that people could get away with that it really created a toxic comunity. That woman, and the other people of our clan though, were always nice to me and my friend. In fact they became friends over time too. I learned a great deal about the game with them, learned to be a lot less proud about accepting gifts and borrowing items in-game (I was always pretty much broken. And you know what they say about beggars and being picky...) and stopped being such a jerk about group and clan invitations. In fact they are responsible for me for playing that game much longer than I would normally play. Something that would happen later on in other games, with other people. They also set to me my expectations for a guild and my part as a member of it: friendly, selfless and who do things just for the fun of it.
I guess you could also say this is where my hatred towards voice chat began. Well, besides my distaste for any voice chat device and troubles hearing in english, it was also when I realized that if your are not into voice chat in some form all you will have a very quiet clan/alliance chat channel. :p
At the time I was also going through treatment to deal with my social issues. That helped too to make friendships with the clan and deal with that tulmutous part of my real life.
After Lineage 2 I drifted through different MMOs again. I also lost contact with the people I met in Lineage 2 for various reasons. The game I eventually settled on was Everquest 2. By this time I was very disillusioned with MMOs, their conventions and trappings. Still Everquest 2 had some interesting neat ideas (*coughs*playerhousing*coughs) that seemed interesting. I was also by myself so I decided I would give the roleplaying server a try, hoping that would make it easier to deal with the grind.
I went through a couple of guilds, once again learned a lot and made some real good friends that I am still lucky to hang out with to this day. They are also the ones that made me play Everquest 2 for much longer than I would otherwise. Heck, they are a good part of the reason I came back to Everquest 2 recently. Because of them I also got to try a couple games, and got really close to try a few others, that I would otherwise never step my virtual foot in. With them I finally realized that MMOs are just as fun as the people you play with. The guild you are a part of.
And that is what guilds are for me: friends who can make what could be an otherwise uninteresting genre into something very fun. In fact, I think they would also be the definition of the multiplayer part of MMOs for me too. Take away all those other strangers from the game and the experience wouldn't change much for me. But take away my friends and my feelings towards the game will change dramatically.
What others are talking
Since this was a Newbie Blogger Initiative challenge, there were also other participating bloggers writing on the topic. I highly recommend reading these as each give their own point of view about it, ordered by posting date. I am going mostly by the posts on the Newbie Blogger Initiative thread on this, so if I am missed anyone, apologies and let me know so I can correct it!
NBI Talkback, a Late Entry on the Relevance of Guilds - by Stubborn of Sheep the Diamond