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Another book about MMORPGs

June 14, 2007

Well, actually it’s mainly about an MMORPG guild. I just read an excerpt from ‘The Legend of the Syndicate’ on Gamasutra – it follows the history of the MMORPG guild The Syndicate, from their early days on Ultima Online through to their present World of Warcraft incarnation.

I’m not entirely surprised that a book like this has been published, although beyond the MMOG community I’m not sure if it will be widely read, which is a real shame. Because, despite the proclamations of the new media/web 2.0 literati such as Christopher Locke, Rick Levine and Doc Searls in The Cluetrain Manifesto or Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks, there have been few in depth studies of how online communities actually operate.

Perhaps it’s because online communities are perceived as rather ephemeral (think of the exoduses from Friendster to Myspace to Facebook [great article on that subject here]) that journalists and academics have steered clear of historical approaches to them. This would of course be the classic act of mistaking the medium for the content, because as anybody who participates in any of those social networking sites mentioned above knows, you tend to stick with many of the same people regardless of the site you’re on. Obviously, there are many fly-by-night guilds, and one-man guilds around, but many guilds have long and fascinating histories.

Coincidentally, I am in the process of exploring the history of my World of Warcraft guild, The Tempest. Unsurprisingly it too has a history that stretches back to pre-World of Warcraft days to a gaming forum. My approach to the history of The Tempest is going to involve some Wikipedia-esque co-operation from the guild themselves, so the first version I post here won’t be the final version but a work in progress. As is the case with any form of oral history, there are lots of half forgotten figures lurking in the background who will hopefullybe brought to the fore.

From the perspective of the brands/franchises that these communities build around it will be fascinating to explore what their lure is and what, if anything beyond the community-bonds themselves, persuades them to stick with it.

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