Gaming Identities: The rise of Clans and Guilds
Game Hub has recently looked at the impact that the internet and online gaming has had on the way we play games. Digital distribution of games together with cloud gaming have and might shake up the games industry in a big way, but in this 3rd part in the series, we're looking at how the internet has changed who we play games with and how it has changed our personal and gaming identities through clans and guilds.
If and how we can define ourself through video games is really made possible with multiplayer gaming. Before 'the internet', gaming was, at most, only a 4 player pursuit and multiplayer aspects of games limited. Gleaming rays of hope of what was to come came from games like Goldeneye, but the ability to identify yourself as a member of a group of gamers was stunted. Moving into online gaming, FPS's and MMORPG's are the genres most commonly associated with clans and guilds and both allow the player to identify themselves and associate themselves with an organised group of gamers and as a member of that clan or guild.
Different species and character groups within MMORPG's mean identity within a game can begin easily while guilds and groups that have grown up within them mean an identity within and without the game can be extended and explored. Common abilities, back stories and appearance may serve to reinforce character group identities while common personal experiences, opinions and abilities may be reflected within the game by joining and participating in guilds. Within FPS games there is an apparent in-built feature to join and compete within a clan as matches are drawn up team Vs team. The ability to control, join and host games together with organised ladders and tournaments has naturally given rise to groups of players who want to compete together, against other groups. The forthcoming PS3 game Massive Action Game (MAG) will feature 3 individual, pre set groups/clans/teams within it. It is unknown how membership to these will be distributed and if they will be fixed, but it'll be interesting to see if and how identities grow around this forced identity.
The very existence of Clans & Guilds within multiplayer games demonstrates the rise of group gaming identities better than anything else, rising out of common objectives or interests within a game, common enemies or in the case of MMORPG's, often out of protection. While some clans and guilds rise out of non-gaming friendships, identities outside of the gaming world, others spring up entirely out of participation in the game, which in itself really is something. The complimentary gamer tag/gamer name prefixes, clan websites and online and offline events for clans to compete in further strengthen the point. So too does the rise of sub industries such as team apparel, logo's and sponsorship deals for high achieving clans. The clothing and manufacturing industry are seeing new areas of business from gaming clans and clubs designing and buying t shirts, t shirt printing, hoodies, kit bags etc etc, to express and represent their common gaming identity. Ever one for thoroughness and completeness, here is a Game Hub T-shirt we had made to demonstrate how easy and cheap it is to get team apparel and extend your gaming identity!
Personally, out of pure interest in the subject, I'd like to see bigger media coverage and exposure of the top gaming clans and groups, moving out of the relatively niche online coverage and moving into print, TV, radio and mainstream internet. This should give rise to more lucrative sponsorship deals, public knowledge and strengthening gaming identities for everyone and hopefully pushing forward the industry.
While online gaming and digital distribution of games has changed the gaming industry and how we play games, it has also changed who we compete with and against as well as our ability to join and take part in clans, guilds and group identities, adding a vital social and group element to the traditionally held belief that gaming is a lonely and single player hobby.