Imagine that you go to college for the first time and have no friends. Sad, but quickly you find a group of people that you like and you hang out with them regularly. With this group of friends you can better learn as a study group, better enjoy time spent outside of class , and have people you trust you can go to for support. Now instead of a college, think of your favorite online video game. Take the friends you made in that game and you have your college friend-group. Imagine now that in order to make your group of friends more efficient in helping each other and enjoying college, you form an institution and make a government. You appoint a leadership, establish procedures and rules, make a community mechanism for friends to communicate when they not with each other. This is a internet video game’s guild. When I was thirteen, I played online with my favorite Star Wars computer game and for the first time and discovered the video game guild. I was jealous of their stature and poise, their fancy titles, and the support they enjoyed from each other all for having a couple letters in front of their name. I remember my first moment was in a crowded guild-run server, two guild members were off in the corner whispering to each other when I stumbled upon them. I had no idea what it was about, and it probably wasn’t about anything important, but in my mind I could imagine all the important words going on between them. They were probably talking about mind bogglingly important guild business, I thought. A few weeks later, Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy would be released, and I would seize on the opportunity to found and lead my own guild, The Order.
Guilds are institutions. They develop governments, rule systems to insure fair play, distribute rewards, and punish dissident members. Leaders take themselves and their governments very seriously, putting their gametime into their roles as leaders over their intention of enjoyment. An example of this is fellow contributor, WalterstheGreat, who is the first officer for a small guild in World of Warcraft. He could describe it better than I, but imagine entering a game in order to have fun and instead of going out to kill some gnolls or do an dungeon, you are constantly whispered questions about the raid tonight or their friend’s application status, concerns over the behavior of other members or the failure of the raid to succeed as expected, and other guild business. It never stops, soon your gametime is, as Walters describes, a second job. Not spent enjoying the game, rather typing as furiously as you can. Unless you are a super nerd like me, this isn’t how you want to spend your time, and it’s not exactly the classic image of the modern day gamer, but what followed my founding of The Order would be nearly six years of exactly that. I met hundreds of people, learned valuable lessons about leadership, learned valuable lessons about myself, and developed bonds that I will have for years to come. Most of that time, I would spend like Walters does, a bureaucrat and a leader, giving my game time to the community rather than to myself. The most important result, far more important than any accomplishment of The Order, would be that I became a convert to the incredible power of the guild as an institution for learning.
Guild provide gamers with a simulation of leadership. Whether it be a squad based game like Counter-Strike or Call of Duty, a longer teamwork based rewards game like World of Warcraft, or an incredibly open game like my own Jedi Knight Academy, you have the opportunity for leadership. The players that lead guilds have to be real leaders, it’s not just a title. They have to keep their guilds running, retain existing members, recruit new members, all the while consistently providing whatever services their guild offers. Whether this be weekly scheduled events, guild versus guild contests, or organized role-play, someone has to keep it all going. These guild officers sacrifice their time to do things any real group leader has to do. The skills required to lead a guild are little different than those required to be a middle manager, a politician, or in my own case a technical director, they all share the same common leadership skills. Before, leadership skills were hard to teach, our schools are not exactly set up for it. Now opportunities to learn are all over cyberspace in video games. Perhaps most importantly, is that there isn’t anyone sitting you down and teaching you how to be a leader, you have to do it yourself and make it up as you go along. Sure, this is bad, and a lot of guilds will fail along the way, but the guilds allow leaders to learn from their mistakes and apply their lessons right away, an excellent learning simulation for leadership. Curiosity asks what will happen as these young leaders, enter the workforce for the first time in the next few years and what changes they might bring.