MMORPGs are well-established as a gaming genre thanks to the explosive popularity of titles such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest, and they have drawn the attention of computer and social scientists for years now because they are such a strange social phenomenon. Playing an MMORPG seriously can require as many hours as a full-time job for comparatively little compensation, and yet hundreds of thousands of players choose to put in these hours day after day, year after year. I find this phenomenon noteworthy and would like to break it down further over the course of the next few weeks, in particular by looking at guilds in MMORPGs.
My source is a 2008 article titled “Player Guild Dynamics and Evolution in Massively Multiplayer Online Games.” It comes from a handful of researchers (Chen et. al) at the College of Computer Science in Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University and offers a very foundational look at guilds in MMORPGs, namely World of Warcraft. Given that guilds dominate high-level gameplay (according to the article, 93% of high-level players join a guild), they are a good gateway into understanding more about what influences players to keep coming back to MMORPGs despite the massive time sink. The article lays out three factors that specifically influence guild development: game world design, changes in guild member motives, and guild management. It also comes up with five basic guild types (small, large, elite, newbie, and unstable) from analyzing data on average guild member level, number of guild members, and member leaving/joining patterns. While discussing these guild types, the researchers don’t really refer back to the three factors of guild development, but they hint at the fact that ability to complete end-game raids is a crucial component to guild success in the long-term. The paper concludes by offering future researchers some suggestions as to how they could better study guild dynamics going forward.
The article was useful as a foundation that lays out what areas I might want to do further research in, but it was not quite at the heart of what I wanted to learn about guilds. Going forward, I’d like to do more research on the dynamics of successful guilds and the management strategies involved in running such a guild (which often has over hundreds of players). I then want to explore the phenomenon known as “work-like play” that often occurs in a guild setting but also applies to the larger picture of MMORPGs and see how we could possibly replicate that in real life situations such as school and work.