Social Contracts

When I started WoW, I really was surprised at how people got around day by day.  I was starting Westfall on my second, and what was to become my main, toon then, before I found my current guild.  My first toon was a hordie undead warrior, I think.  He only made it up to lvl 7.   I have long since deleted him.  During those first few levels, I was mostly alone.  There were people who were all around me, but I was alone.  Whenever I spoke up, I was laughed out of general chat, or just plain ignored.  I very much considered leaving the game at that point, but I really didn’t want to waste my money (it was $40 bucks then, buckaroo, and another $40 for the expansion), and not play a game I payed for.

So I trudged along.  80 levels later, I am currently in endgame content, with a guild (and network) of people who I adore.  So much so, that many of us continue to stay in contact even outside of the game – Facebook, individual e-mails, etc…  I very truly think of our guild as a large, game playing family (Shout out to Houndawg, whose family was all diagnosed with H1N1 (ya know, the swine flu) – hope you get better soon!).

What holds us all together, as a group of players in an online game, and as human beings outside of game?

Some would say that there is a social contract involved.  We all treat each other with dignity and respect because we don’t want to ruin our game time, our escape time.  I think that is the biggest cop out of all time.  Drama has and will happen, just like in a real family. One of my very cherished friends decided to leave our little guild (it is a very complex situation, one that I am glad is over), and it essentially split the guild into two.  Those who left, and those who didn’t.

You see, at the heart of a social contract is simply an unspoken (ok, more often than not, it is voiced very loudly) rule set.  In feral situations (anyone remember Lord of the Flies?), it can more accurately described as group forces.  If little Johnny takes the coconut, no one has food.  So the group makes sure Johnny doesn’t take the coconut.  Furthermore, johnny understands that the group would beat him to living shreds if he took the coconut.

In a social contract there is a definite set of rules, and there is a definite set of consequences.  This really doesn’t translate well to the WoW guild structure – especially now in Lich King.  Raiding and end game content is very accessable.  Those that left our guild, simply formed another, and continued trucking on.  We both made new friends, expanded our social network.  And after several long months, many of them ended coming back to our guild in a no-harm, no-foul situation.

The old social contract in BC (you don’t raid with us, you don’t see end game content) by and large is gone.  People have become more like free-agents, they can and do move at will.  There are very few consequences (other than getting branded a “guild hopper”).

So, what really holds a guild together, as one unit?  What draws so many people out of the player base to form this huge online community?  You have to admit, it is massive.

Perhaps we all have a gooey center, dripping with hormone packed maternal/paternal instincts to help one another.  Perhaps there are larger, more complicated mental issues (just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they arent really out to get you 😉 – hell, we all have mental issues with the world we live in.  Perhaps we are all just geared to navigate into groups of like minded people, where you are accepted, not because of the *bling bling* you have (although, that is very much happening with gear right now in game), but rather that you play the game.  You got to know people through the ultimate icebreaker – an online game that penalizes you for NOT participating in group ventures.

{Authors Note:  I really didn’t intend for this post to come out so philosophical.  I am reading it now, and it sounds a bit cheesy.  Hell, I didn’t even intend to write about this when I wrote the title down – I was going to write a bit of a rant about a jerk healer and the changing state of Groups in WoW.  But, instead, this is how the post came out.  Michaelangelo was once quoted as saying about how he sculpted “I just removed the parts that don’t belong, and what comes, comes.”  This is very much similar to what happened while I was writing this.  Every time I tried to sway the words to where I wanted them, it felt…  off…..    So, I just wrote, correcting only mistakes in spelling or grammar.  Sometimes the writer guides the pen.  Sometimes, the pen guides the writer.}

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Comments
3 Responses to “Social Contracts”
  1. Tutunkommon says:

    I have decided that if I ever come back and decide to play a paladin, I can learn everything I need from the “How to Paladin” series of videos!

  2. Tamarind says:

    You really shouldn’t be worrying about the way this post came out – it’s great 🙂 I’ve been thinking a lot about guild issues m’self lately so this really this really hit the spot. I don’t have anything to particularly to contribue, except praise and interested noises, but it’s definitely made me think 🙂

  3. Tutunkommon says:

    I agree that the tone seems fine to me. Regarding your lvl 7 warrior, Tut was the first toon I made. I never played any of the other warcraft games. I knew nothing about the classes, yet the Warlock just seemed to call out to me.

    Guess it’s in my blood…

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