World of Warcraft Wisdom: Community Building

By | 5 years ago 

Last week my wife’s niece made us god-parents. Judah Bradford James Cundiff was born last Thursday, and after a week in the hospital, he is finally home. And yes, he is beautiful. If I have anything to do with it, he will be a Pearl Jam fanatic, a reader and writer, a lover of walks, and adore watching Avalanche hockey.

He will also work to establish a community similar to what we can find in World of Warcraft.

Alan Fiske, an anthropologist at UCLA, argues that there are four basic forms of social structures. In Azeroth, we find all four represented with the primary form being what Fiske calls “communal sharing,” as represented by most guilds, and “market pricing,” which fits most of Azeroth. In the end, though, all four are needed for a functioing social group, but one must reign over others.

The most primal social structure is “authority ranking.” As it sounds, this structure is rigid in its order. We can summarize this structure with the idea that might makes right. As in any rigidly ordered system, there is a strong adherence between subordinate and superiors. This works well for the military and other institutions where blind obedience is needed for order. But, when members are given some free will, for lack of a better term, it does not work so well.

But, let’s face it, on a raid, there needs to be order. Each raid group has a leader who calls the shots, this person lets the group know where to stand, what to do, and the like. In order for a raid to succeed, this works well and is needed. It also works well when there is time to pause and explain. Which is why PVP groups that are not organized and do what is expected don’t fare so well. Egos get in the way and players don’t do what needs doing. They get all gung-ho and attack some wandering player form the opposing faction in the middle of the road, leave their node unattended, and wham, that team loses.

World of Warcraft Guild Picture

The way I see it, Blizzard seeks to create an “equality matching” system, especially in the arenas. As it seems, this social structure aims to keep things equal between the parts, if you will. With the arena system, when a team goes up against another team, the system pits teams that have an equal ranking (or close to it) against one another. The other night, The Young Frankensteins were having some fun in arenas – and at each turn, we fought teams of a close ranking. I realize that I am an old fart and thus never call the shots. I let the other guys do it – and in the midst of a fight, the “authority ranking” idea took hold.

Guilds provide an excellent opportunity to teach lessons on social structures. I have been in a variety of guilds during my time in Azeroth, the most successful have been those which thrived on a “community sharing” model. Here, according to Fiske, people treat each other equally and in undifferentiated terms. What this means is that, while there is some sort of hierarchical order to the guild, all have a say in the direction of the guild, at least to a certain degree.

The “community sharing” structure offers a commons for the people in the community. In the guild to which I belong, we have equal access to the guild bank. The guild is currently at level 25 and our bank is quite full. As the single requirement to be in our guild is that a player is over the age of 30, it seems that this is not much of a problem. I don’t recall anyone taking more than they needed from the vault. I also have seen each giving when he or she takes.

This is a good way for any community to work, but there is quite a bit of trust involved here. I have been in guilds that had a variety of social structures. At each time, they functioned as expected and as the guild leader wanted. Players in it for fun do better in a “community sharing” structure, while those who are serious about raiding, do better in a guild with a stern hierarchy. Mine is a blend, but leans very heavily in the “community sharing” idea.

World of warcraft Instance group

The Hooligans, again, are a group of old farts. There are some serious players involved in the guild, but the bulk of us have quite a bit happening outside of the game that we can’t donate much time to it. As such, many of us only play a few hours a week, but there are many who raid on a regular basis, do rated battle grounds, and the like. Then there are many who come on just to say hello and see what is what while clearing a dungeon or some quests. A”community sharing” structure works well for us. We share quite a bit, if a player needs some mats, we easily share what’s needed. It is easy to get runs in a dungeon for lower characters and dungeon groups. When egos are cast aside, it is best to function in this manner.

The problem comes when egos get in the way. It also arrives when there are power struggles. As it stands, the world Jude is inheriting is a mix of many social structures. Any system such as ours ideally is an “equality matching” system where we get one vote and our voice matters. Sadly, we lean more heavily toward a “market pricing” system. In this structure, social relationships are determined on the potential value similar to a cost/benefit analysis.

While we have left a rigid “authority ranking” structure behind us in social evolution, we still have not reached a level where we easily share within the community. As in battle grounds and some guilds in Azeroth, egos still get in the way. And, as a result, we will live in a “market pricing” model with some hints of “community sharing.” In the end, though, one system can’t work alone, it needs to be balanced with other structures of socializing.

I hope that when Jude comes into his own, he sets aside his ego and becomes an equal member in his society. As in the Hooligans and other guilds, Jude can take what he needs, gives back when he can, and does what he can to help the group. Welcome to the world, Jude. Make of it what you can.

World of Warcraft Wisdom: Jude

Jude and Leo

What kind of a world do you hope for Jude? Are your experiences in Azeroth ideally what you would like to see in your own world?

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