Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Collectivism in MMOs

Stubborn wants us to write a post about Individualism and Collectivism in MMOs. Truthfully, I don't think I really understand those concepts. But here are some observations.

It seems to me that guilds become more collectivist, or display more of the attributes associated with collectivism, as they get more and more hardcore. Loot Council, higher attendance requirements, higher performance requirements, more shaming for those who don't meet said requirements, more expectations in general.

Guilds at a higher level demand more of their individual members, and thus are more able to act as a single entity. So why would these players chose to subordinate themselves to the group?

I think the key is reciprocity. A player is more willing to sacrifice if she can be assured that everyone else in the group is sacrificing as well. If she is assured that everyone else is as committed to the guild as she is.

As well, this form of collectivism cannot be imposed on people. The right of exit in MMOs is very strong. It's trivial to leave a guild, or even to quit the game entirely. Every collective in an MMO is a collective because the individual members choose to be so.

This is, of course, very different from collectivism in the real world. Very often, the collective is enforced through shame and other rules. And they usually have tons of "free riders" who exploit the collective for their own benefit.

I wonder if that's a way of looking at the extended endgame. Rather than one collective, or a mass of individuals, it's really several smaller collectives, each with slightly different properties.


  1. Oh joy. Ayn Rand rears her head again.

  2. My feelings on Ayn Rand are best summed up here:



  3. Isn't smaller collectives Individualism (for self and immediate family)?

    Which means that WoW could be seen as individualist all the way through.

  4. I don't know. I have a hard time labelling a guild of 35 dedicated raiders as Individualist. Especially when that group displays collectivist characteristics.

    I think it's more correct to say that it's a small collective.

  5. I do not understand Stubborn's blogpost. I do not see how you can rate games in such a way.
    I find it tough to determine. I guess I would judge the games culture by looking at the quests and lore.

    Collectivism and Individualism are different approaches to the same game. They are, in my opinion, heavily influenced by the culture of the people playing it.

    There is, for example, a difference between guilds like Stars (with hundreds of players working to/assisting with a common goal) and Ensidia (a more individualistic approach).

    Culture can variate WITHIN the game however. I reckon that the culture of groups depends on the culture of the people playing it. I do think that there are enough people to form groups of like minded preferences within regios. This can be enforced by guildrules.

    Stubborn does raise an interesting question. Does the participation in types of content differentiate between cultures? I wonder if the participation rate of LFR/LFD is significantly different for different regios.

  6. Most people are logical enough to recognise that they can achieve more personal glory as part of a high-level raid team. You contribute to and comply with the group and the group provides you with rewards.

    Twenty-five people working together for the shared goal of personal glory.