CBT: Kill The Perks
This week’s Community Blog Topic asks if guilds do more harm than good.
I think all this emphasis upon the inevitability of grouping is misguided, and I’d like to respond with an anecdote. Last week I was running a level-40 LFD in a group with two hunters.
One of them was solo: unaccompanied by anyone else.
The other was grouped with someone else from the same guild, a shaman.
And that shaman spent the entire dungeon roasting the first hunter alive. (Stop doing that, n00b. Why did you need on that? Control your pet better! God, you’re fucking retarded. Your mom should be shot for giving birth to you. Fucking twelve-year-olds.)
So here’s the thing.
It’s true that the solo hunter was making mistakes. He pulled accidentally a few times, his pet was set to growl, he had a lousy rotation (Scatter Shot? In LFD? Really?)… there was a lot he could be doing differently or better.
I don’t think it was bad enough that he deserved public callouts, especially not of the gratuitous “go kill yourself, you fucking fag” variety.
But more importantly, the guilded hunter was making the exact same mistakes. Like, literally, the exact same errors: her pet was growling, she was using weird abilities, and her DPS was substantially lower than the solo hunter. (An order of magnitude lower, so not the ordinary level differential either.)
However, for some reason, this guy found it completely appropriate to tear the limbs off a complete stranger, while the guildmate—by virtue of that guilded status—gets a free pass. No criticism, no public callouts, no demeaning insults.
Those are for other people.
The guild is the default unit of social organization within the World of Warcraft. Everything revolves around it.
Your Guild will give you all kinds of privileges. Even if nobody knows you, even if you joined literally minutes ago, you can tap into an immense wealth of assistance of all types.
Guildmates will cheerfully run you through dungeons, dish out massive gifts, offer crafting materials, answer questions, help you refine your character, and probably give you a blowjob behind the bike shed if you ask nicely enough.
Conversely, what happens when a stranger asks for the mildest of these favours?
"Can someone point me towards Thousand Needles?" ("What, you’re too retarded to use a map? lol")
"Sorry, I’m new at this. Where’s the next boss?" ("OMG why do I always get these #$%$ing noobs? Go read a guide, you scrub.")
"What’s ‘growling’? What do you mean, ‘please make your pet stop growling’?" ("Let’s just kick this assclown already.")
Why is it that we place so much value upon the experiences of guildmates, even cutting our own throats to do so (how many GMs have horror stories about getting their bank cleared out by an opportunist, or someone taking a ton of free gear and then leaving, or something else in that line, yet continue offering the exact same privileges to new members?), yet we display outright hostility to strangers?
I think the fact that guilds are the main social unit of gameplay is a deep, deep flaw. Guilds are fantastic. They’re great. They offer a number of wonderful things that simply cannot be obtained from any other source. (Predictable gameplay. Long-term social projects. Raiding. Familiarity. All that yummy stuff.)
But outside these guilds, things are downright barren. Thumbing your nose at the broader community is fashionable. Not only is it an accepted practice to rudely “teach people a lesson” for the heinous crime of being new to the game or not playing optimally, it’s often the only response people get.
So. How do you fix this problem?
I’m not sure.
But I know that the solution involves moving people beyond guilds and into the outer world. Rather than only incentivizing guilded behaviour, players should see some sort of material or emotional reward for putting themselves out in the world in helpful, productive and creative ways.
And, conversely, players should bump up against material punishments for being dicks, especially for being gratuitously dickish to new players.
With all this in mind, I think Blizzard should get rid of guild perks.
Perks should instead be rolled into a karma system of sorts. However, this system has no player-assessed component.
The longer you go without racking up a disciplinary infraction, the more karma you accrue, and the more perks you acquire. If you’re consistently a good and helpful player over the course of a six-month period, you eventually hit level 25 and get all kinds of bonuses for your good work.
Blizzard CS staff could work within this system to provide fine-grained punishments which are directly proportionate to the alleged offence. Instead of just giving a player a slap on the wrist for being a jerk, they could see their karma drop a level or two, while suspendable offences might knock you all the way back down to zero.
Best of all, this would link into the existing guild system. If you want your guild members to be eligible for [Cash Flow] or [Mass Resurrection], then you need those members to behave themselves. This introduces a significant social cost for violating community standards: when your karma tanks, not only do you lose your perks, but your guild begins to lose privileges and rewards for your behaviour.
Taken together, this package would be a far more effective way of incentivizing good behaviour (and good guild leadership!) than the existing approach, and it could be implemented in a way which wouldn’t substantially increase the amount of CS time needed to run the system.
What do you think?
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