Monday, 16 May 2011

Paper - From tree house to barracks

Williams D. From Tree House to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture. 2006;1(4):338-361. Available at: [Accessed March 25, 2011].

"However, the structure and rule set of the game world have a clear impact on what kinds of people play, what they do, and how and why they interact with one another."

Interesting paper on the social dynamics of guilds. The authors focussed on the player behaviour, attitudes and opinions to get at the meanings, social capital and networks that people formed in World of Warcraft.

There were two parts that I found extremely interesting (other than the above quote): methodology, and passing remarks to play style and guild behaviour.

The methodology used had three parts. They played the games, to understand what questions they needed to ask. They used bots to log data about who was online and for how long over a given period (which was necessary as they did not get any help from Blizzard) and surveys to try to understand teh different player and server types. They then did player interviews in-game to get opinions and explanations of behaviour. These were long interviews with an average time of 1 hour 39 minutes.

They used data gathered at each stage to inform the next stage in the methodology: an understanding of the game to know what to survey, then the results of the surveys to understand which players they wanted more information from. I think that is a useful approach to understand. The use of bots to gather log in duration and so on is also something I don't think I've seen in too many papers.

There is some kind of guild topography, explaining the difference between social, raid or pvp oriented guilds. They also give some size indicators, placing their boundaries between large, medium etc based on the surveying they did on group sizes within the game. I think there is soem correlation with business sizes, where they noted that larger guilds needed (by and large) more formal processes in place to keep the players happy.

"It is notable that people join, or in some cases, create guilds for their pragmatic or social needs. In some cases this is an issue of personal style; the player wanted to play with others of similar personality, real-life demographics or even sense of humor. Yet the most common reason to seek a particular guild type out was to accomplish game goals. This is a powerful case of the game mechanic influencing social decisions with unintended consequences."

They found that size of guild mattered, with smaller bonds focussed on social activities/bonds, and larger guilds focussed on game goals. That was not a hard rule, just an 'in general'. Large guilds are necessary for some game goals, so it may not be the player's individual preference to join a large guild, but important to access some of the game play.

(The treehouse to barracks relates to the group dynamic - informal like a group of kids in a treehouse or rigid hierarchy like a barracks.)

"Medium-sized guilds show the progression from the small, tightly knit groups to
the large, sometimes less personal ones. ... But with more members, there is a higher chance of a conflict in styles or ethics."

"While the purpose of guilds is to transcend the ephemeral nature of pick-up groups and questing parties, their longevity remains very much an issue. From earlier research (Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore, 2006), we know that about 21% of the guilds present on a WoW server at any given time disappear after a month. This high level of “churn” highlights the difficulties inherent in managing these entertainment communities: guilds appear to be fragile institutions.
Our interviews confirmed this fragility. For the vast majority of respondents, the guild they belonged to when we spoke with them was not their first guild. A lack of alignment between the player’s individual objectives and the guild’s objectives was often cited as an important reason for leaving a guild. As noted above, some merely used guilds as stepping stones and left, typically when the guild did not allow them to join the end- game raids. Other common sources of dissatisfaction were elitism, social distance, poor leadership, a lack of players at their level to play with, and the wrong level of seriousness (both too high and too low). Two players felt that women were a destructive influence on guilds because of their rarity and their potential to be sources of conflict. Pre-existing groups within guilds were often seen as problematic by newer members, especially if that group had played another game together beforehand."

Interesting things to investigate here about misalignment with original guilds. Also some interesting comments about what people didn't like about PUGs: different expectations with the other players about friendliness, sharing, leadership, roles.

No comments:

Post a Comment