Friday, 23 April 2010

The mysterious vanishing guild

I logged onto my main a couple of days ago to find that my entire guild had vanished. Since I was one of the officers in that guild, that was something of a surprise to me!

At first I suspected that the GM's account had been hacked, so I tried to get in touch with her via the alt she was on at the same time. Nope, no hacking, she'd just decided to close it down. When I asked why, I got a complex story along the lines of "A left because they fell out with B, C went to play on a different a server, the GM had fallen out with D because they'd been nasty to her friend E etc".

Now that's a fairly normal story of guild problems, but what I found baffling was why the GM didn't discuss this with her officers. The guild had been a typical small one, with no internal conflict that I'd ever seen, yet it seems that there was a complex swirl of difficult relationships beneath the surface that had never been discussed. As far as I can tell, this whole feud was being carried out via MSN or private whispers and never emerged into guild chat.

It's not the decision to end the guild that I find baffling here, it's the furtiveness about it. At the very least, the GM could have asked the officers if they wished to take it over. If nothing else, it would have been handy for my bank alt.

Perhaps this all goes to show how ephemeral social structures can be in MMOs. It's easy to simply disband a group you find inconvenient or ignore people you don't feel like talking to. It's already happened with PUGs - many people treat them as disposal tools to get loot. If the drop they're after doesn't turn up, they quit, leaving everyone else in the lurch. Who cares, eh? It's not like there's real people in the game with you.

Perhaps we are moving into the age of the disposable guild as well. It's always existed to a certain extent, especially amongst wannabe hardcore raiders, who guild-hop relentlessly in an attempt to gear up on the backs of others. But I wonder what that will do to the game long-term. For an MMO, the social relationships are the game (no matter what Gevlon says). Without other people, the repetitive content, undemanding graphics and lack of plot would make WOW a poor single-player game.

It will be interesting to see what effect Blizzard's proposed guild-changes in Cataclysm have on this.

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