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The Guild Counsel: Is shared interest in an MMO enough to justify a guild?

Karen Bryan

It all starts out so innocently. A few friends are casually chatting and realize they all are excited about an upcoming new MMO. Maybe a group of gaming bloggers connect over their shared appreciation of a certain game. Or even here at Massively, readers notice that there are many others who share their positive impressions of a game's launch. Next thing you know, someone suggests that it would be a great idea to start a guild, and the roller coaster begins.

Forming a guild based on a shared interest in a game doesn't guarantee success, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. It does come with its own unique set of issues to address early on, however. Let's take a look at these connoisseur guilds and how to make them work in this week's Guild Counsel.

Passion is just the starting point

It's great to see players who are so enthusiastic about a game that they want to take the leap and form a guild, but that shared interest is just a starting point. Normally, guilds work on the assumption that everyone who joins is a fan -- after all, why would someone be playing if he weren't? You can certainly use that to launch a guild with others who have the same viewpoint, but you'll quickly need to address the bigger issues that every guild needs to consider when chiseling out the guild's identity. Playstyle, playtimes, chat etiquette, loot rules, and overall goals are just a few areas that need to be addressed before they evolve into drama.

Decide on a leader

It's very hard to keep a guild together without some form of leadership. And for guilds that expand and become large, it's really a necessity. It doesn't have to be just one person, and there are plenty of guilds that are successful under a dual leadership or even a small council. But players need to know whom to turn to for questions and concerns. Just remember that being a leader doesn't have to mean a lifetime of commitment and burden. While you can run a tight, active, organized guild, it's not a requirement. It's up to you to decide how much time and effort you want to invest in guild management -- the key is making sure everyone in the guild knows whether you'll be visible and active or more "hands-off."

Two paths to guild direction, so choose quickly

There's a tendency to assume that being in a guild means you're expected to always be a part of the herd and that your game time belongs to the guild. While there are plenty of guilds that are shaped around a team philosophy, it's not a requirement. Your members might all have signed on because of a common enthusiasm for a game, but they come with a variety of playstyles and playtimes. One member might be curious about the crafting, while another might love running group dungeons. You can certainly embrace the diversity in your guild and adopt a philosophy that everyone's here to play the way she wants to and "kick the tires," so to speak. The key is to make sure everyone understands that upfront so that Bob the raider isn't disappointed when he sprints to the level cap and realizes that Tommy's chained himself to the crafting forge and Suzie's too busy chasing random achievements to be bothered with leveling and raiding.

Expect that some will move on

As time goes on, there will undoubtedly be people who will decide to leave, either because they want to invest more into the game than the guild is currently doing or because the guild ends up taking a more serious approach to the game than they had planned. Avoid assigning blame and keep in mind that the shared passion is still there even if there are differences in playstyle. If nothing else, the creation of the guild helped introduce the game to many gamers and offered a way to explore it with others rather than alone.

Build on that shared interest

If your guild was built on a common appreciation for a game, make time for everyone to share his experiences in that game, especially if you have a more "hands-off" guild culture. There are a growing number of players who find real enjoyment in exploring the nuts and bolts of a game rather than the game itself. For them, it's more interesting to compare the mechanics behind dynamic gameplay or debate whether a game is better with levels than without. What better place to do that than in a guild with others who share that same enjoyment?

Pop-up guild

There are probably many players who avoid creating a guild because they're afraid of being forced to commit to a game that they might not end up sticking with for the long haul. With so many MMOs available to choose from, it's understandable that players end up leading a nomadic gaming lifestyle. There are many guilds now that have chapters in several MMOs, but what about a guild that embraces the very valid playstyle of moving from game to game?

A growing trend in the food industry is the rise of the "pop-up" restaurant, where a chef will open a restaurant for only a few days or weeks before closing up and moving on. Why not create a "pop-up" guild, where players who share a common interest in exploring a particular MMO for a few weeks or months can find kindred spirits, with the knowledge that it won't require a long term commitment and that the guild will move along with you as you explore a variety of MMOs. A guild like that isn't going to see and do everything in a game, but it will most likely accomplish quite a bit in a few months since everyone knows the clock is ticking.

All in all, a shared love of a game can be a good foundation on which to build a guild, but you need to decide whether that's the centerpiece of your guild's philosophy or you're going to take it further, and the sooner you do that, the better. For many players, the real fun isn't in gearing up, raiding, or climbing the PvP leaderboards -- it's in exploring what makes a game fun and comparing notes with others. That in itself is a great guild goal to have.

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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