At the heart of every major MMO lies the concept of “guilds,” which are collections of like-minded individuals who band together for a common purpose. Guilds are mechanically supported as a feature in most MMO-style games, and offer a framework with moderation tools that allow communities to organize themselves. However, guilds are more than just an organizational tool; guilds can and do expand past the borders of a single game. Many span several games and genres, and the most famous guilds are made up of a dedicated core group of players that have been a part of their community for many years.
My own guild experiences fit this bill precisely. I have been in several guilds across several MMOs, particularly in the Guild Wars series of games. After purchasing the first Guild Wars in 2007, I spotted the “Guild of the Month” feature on the game’s main website. The guild on display that month, “The Dragons of Eisengard,” caught my eye and accepted me into the guild upon request. I spent the next few years playing with this same core group of under one hundred people, and made friendships that lasted for just as many years. Some of my best memories in gaming came from this guild; I still remember doing challenge missions and speed-clears of difficult content with them, all while laughing and having a great time over voice chat.
The emblem of my first guild, The Dragons of Eisengard
Eventually, life got in the way and I drifted away from my old guild. In preparation for the release of Guild Wars 2 in 2012, I joined a new guild in the first game and surrounded myself with members equally as eager to make the jump. Over time, the names and leadership have changed as myself and many others have migrated to sister guilds and various alliances. However, I still play with the friends I have made in these guilds over four years later, and remain this same circle of people playing Guild Wars 2. Though many people discount online games as an introvert’s activity, I have found the friendships I have made in both of these games to be just as real as any other.
It’s not unheard of for guilds to retain the same members for many years. Some older guilds have their roots in MMOs released over fifteen years ago with games like EverQuest and Ultima Online. The death of a game does not mean the death of the guild; over the course of over a decade, the most dedicated members play together from title to title. Friendship is the sticking ingredient in these communities—the game itself is irrelevant, and serves as a platform for community interaction over all else.
Many prominent guilds have taken things a step further, organizing in-person meetups and successfully meeting together with dozens of guild members both on a local and international level. In many cases these social groups have provided an avenue towards creating lasting, life-long friendships between guild members. I view these experiences as a perfect example of how MMOs and MMORPGs encourage social interaction and the creation of meaningful communities on a level beyond any other genre.
The heart of MMO-style games lies in this ability to create lasting communities and meaningful friendships. Though the MMORPG may eventually die out in popularity, I don’t expect the heart of the genre to ever truly disappear. As long as players seek to connect with each other, the concept will thrive regardless of how it is categorized.