Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guild Governance

Tobold recently wrote a post on Guild Governance. In it, he talks about democracies vs dictatorships vs communists and how different forms of guild leadership fits into these things. It's an interesting post, and worth reading.

But one thing struck me, and I've noticed it in previous discussions about this topic. Why do we keep comparing guilds to nation-states?

If you think about it, other than being an organization of people, nations and guilds really have nothing in common. Nations are orders of magnitude larger than guilds. Moving between guilds is far easier than moving between nations, and there's no real defensive purpose to guilds. (Well, in most games. I'm sure Eve Online might be different.)

Perhaps it's because civics and politics generate so much noise and attention, and thought and study, that we automatically start to view all groups of people in terms of politics and political ideas.

However, political systems are not the only systems for organizing human groups, and I think there are other real world systems that would be a better match. For example, take small businesses.

In a small business, you have a few founders, and the employees. Everyone works together and earns profit together, but few would argue that the founders are somehow dictatorial for giving orders. It's generally understood that they are the ones who put in the capital and lots of time and effort. They lead because they started the business, and the employee chooses to be employed by them.

In many ways, guilds are very much closer to the small business model than natrion-states. You have a group of founders, the officers. They don't put monetary capital into the guild, but they put in the MMO equivalent, which is time. Your group does activities together and earns profit (epixxx!), which is distributed in rough proportion to the amount of effort put in by all parties.

Like small business employees, regular raiders can and do quit and join other companies. New raiders apply and can be "hired". It's not so naked as I am discribing, but there are a lot of similarities. In my opinion, far more similarities than to democracies or communist societies.

Looking at it this way implies that if you want to make a better guild, rather than trying to apply different political theories, you should look at ideas dedicated to improving small businesses. And I am sure that there are tons of such books and discussions out there. It's just not as sexy as politics and doesn't get as much ink.

There are other models that may apply as well. A guild could be modelled after a small military company, and the dynamic could be examined in that light. However, the guild as nation-state idea is really misleading, and is not really that helpful when trying to improve a guild.


  1. The small business model does make sense.... the one thing that guilds do have in common with nations though is the choice of economic system (re: loot distribution). Does the guild distribute loot to the person who bids the most? Or are there restrictions on who can bid on what? etc. I think this is something you've covered before, so I'm suprised that you left it out of your post.

    Of course, economic choice does not necessarilly equal political formation of the leadership... for leadership formation, you're dead on with the small business analogy.

  2. People aren't getting "directly" paid on schedule. People get loot based on chance and dkp mostly.

    Your guild must have the appearance of a democracy so that people feel they have a representative voice. If they thought they weren't getting loot, IE: loot for performance (job/business model) they wouldn't raid mindlessly.

  3. Well, I kind of wanted to leave loot distribution out of it. All loot distribution systems tend to have the same aim: distribute loot to those people raiding. They just differ on what is the best way to accomplish this.

    See, I'm not so sure people need to feel that they have a representative voice. They need to feel that their concerns are addressed, but that's not necessarily the same thing. After all, if you work at a small company, and you think something should change (ie you need a raise), you bring it up with your boss. That doesn't make it a democracy.

  4. I think it is a really good comparission. However in most companies the "employees" are more mature than your average mmo gamer. In the raiding guilds I've seen only a few top notch guilds on the server get to pick their raiders, others will have to do with whats available to have enough people to raid in the first place.

    Another problem might be the DKP system. In guilds they are usually very socialist - everyone gets a fair share, just show up. In the real world employes usually have varying wages depending on experience and skills.

  5. I like the fact that you've added another analogy to the analysis. Two, actually, that I can identify with. Corporate and military environments.

    I think a WoW guild generally incorporates aspects of governmental, corporate, and military organizations, at varying levels depending on how the guild is run.

    It also greatly depends on the overall focus of the guild. Raiding guilds don't mix well with democracy, but role playing guilds often do.

    I think, though, that Hexapuma has brought up a good point. Despite how you want to run things, you will often have to deal with immaturity at astounding levels. In a real life corporate, military, or even governmental environment, there are ways of dealing with those situations. But what if you have an immature player you'd really like to get rid of, but is a very good friend of many of fellow guildmates?

    I run my guild like a dictatorship. All dictators need some delegation, so I have "officers" assigned to do tasks that take up too much of my time. One of my "warnings" to prospective members is that depending on personality types, I may be difficult to get along with. However, my guild generally reflects my attitude about most things, else why would they bother staying in my guild?

    Loot is one of the more annoying factors in WoW. It's so random, although Blizzard has improved it somewhat. Coming up with a real life analogy for the WoW loot system is like trying to make a living at gambling. Example: Gambler #1 is a gambler who does nothing but gamble. Gambler #2 has never gambled before, and is trying for the first time. Gambler #2 walks up to a slot machine that Gambler #1 was just on for 10 straight hours, and proceeds to win a million dollars with one lucky pull. Gambler #1 hasn't won anything more than barely the ability to keep himself alive.

    That's the default WoW loot system. What they do to guild leaders is take that same situation and tell the guild leaders, "Okay, now somehow make that fair for both parties." So, some guild leaders say, ok, just leave it as is. It's fair, because it's based on luck. Others will say, well, we should give the winnings to Gambler #1, because Gambler #1 put 10 hours into getting that slot machine to the point where Gambler #2 would win. Still others might try to divide up the wealth. In any event, the end result is that someone feels cheated. The way most of us get out of having constant mutiny is that we establish a pre-existing loot system that everyone agrees on, regardless of its perceived fairness.

    From all the stories I've heard, loot disputes is one of the top 3 reasons for guilds disbanding.

    Whew, sorry for the rambling!

  6. Not just a company, but a small, not-for-profit company.