In the beginning of playing games, having a multi-player aspect meant having someone stand next to you at the arcade, or sit on the couch next to you with a controller. It could mean split screen action, or trading turns back and forth to play. There was stress when the person or people around you were not as good as you would like them to be, but people were generally nice to one another, even if you weren’t as good as they were, because they were typically your friends and or family or because you could always punch them in the nose.
Then the Internet happened. With the rise of gaming online from the first Multi User Dungeons(MUDs) over dial-up connections to the latest Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) or First Person Shooters over broadband, a new type of social interaction was born. I have written previously on ‘griefing‘ which was an unfortunate side-effect of this new type of interaction. But another spin off was organized groups of players. The most common names of which are Guilds or Clans. The desire to join a group is natural for human beings and, as games have matured, many developers have embraced this need to offering tools within their games to help gamers organize themselves. In more modern games there are even group Achievements that can only be met by being in a Guild\Clan, with each individual contributing Experience Points and Gold to the Guild\Clan help finance the group’s ongoing maintenance and adventures.
A good Guild\Clan can teach the gamer social skills in a larger group. Often a Guild\Clan has its own rules and code of conduct for acceptable behavior, much like a company. There are social norms and scripts that a gamer must adhere to to remain in the group, and it is important for kids especially to practice being part of a larger group. Since many games require large groups to reach the most coveted items (though, sadly the 40 man raid has pretty much fallen by the wayside), there is incentive to band together. This incentive forces people to work together and provides leverage for the Guild\Clan to help regulate some behavior that they see as bad for the group. For example, excessive rude or disrespectful behavior by the members of a Guild\Clan can earn it a poor reputation which Guild\Clan Masters can crack down on by disciplining or kicking out the offenders.
A Guild\Clan will typically crack down on the most egregious of behaviors (Griefing, name calling, outright sexism or racism, etc). But that does not mean that they are appropriate for all ages. The bulk of gamers still tend to be adult males and the language and choice of topics that is acceptable to their social group may not be acceptable for the youngest gamers in the group. I have seen more than one Guild\Clan started by and kept for families to play together, thereby enjoying many of the benefits of guilds\clans without having to concern themselves that their children are being exposed to the adult conversations.
guilds\clans are a great way for a gamer to find a ‘safe’ group of friends to play with. They provide support, feedback, help, training, tips, and shared goals that enhance the gaming experience and keep a gamer enjoying a game much longer than if they were playing by themselves. They teach gamers to be excellent to one another, and they are generally great things. The parents of a younger gamer should exercise some caution and discretion, but by and large guilds\clans are excellent constructs that help us learn to be better people and better gamers.