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When we ask players this question, their answers may be closely related to their life experiences, game experiences, and so on.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

July 31, 2023

8 Min Read

Think about a metaphor, what would a guild be to you?

When we ask players this question, their answers may be closely related to their life experiences, game experiences, and so on.

The "metaphorical" approach to users can be considered as a widely used tool in user research interviews. Researchers have found that analyzing the metaphors people use can reflect their perspectives on the problem, making abstract things more concrete, and to some extent affect their way of problem-solving and social habits.


Through metaphor, some abstract and difficult-to-understand concepts can be made more concrete and easier to understand. Different metaphors help us understand the similarities and differences in player's perceptions of things, and we can also see the social experiences and inner worlds of different people.

In game community research, sometimes we use the strategy of asking users to use metaphors to describe how they think of the community. Researchers have interviewed community managers to talk about what "community management" means in their minds. By summarizing and categorizing different metaphors and finding their similarities, they have come up with five major categories and 22 subcategories to describe the work of community management.


In player interviews, the definition of a guild by global players can be summarized as follows, with some of them being vague, though: A group of players in a multiplayer online game who gather together through certain techniques, have a specific common purpose (usually to regularly play the game together), and need to follow certain rules and order can be called a player guild.

For example, let’s take a look at the guild/clan definition of a Naraka: Bladepoint player:

Player A: It's pretty hard for me to define what a "clan" is in the context of NARAKA for now. There is no official clan system, so any group of players that regularly plays together can be a clan. i'm aware of a few clans that share a common tag on EU.

In our research on global player guilds in Naraka: Bladepoint, the boundary of the guild definition is a bit vague for some players.

To better understand what a guild means to overseas players using metaphors, we conducted a research project on guilds of global players, asking them what a guild means to them. We found that global players mainly compare guilds to families, protective umbrellas, study groups, friend circles, and so on.

1. Social needs: circle of friends, hometown association.

Players' social needs in game are often reflected in the guild. Therefore, many players take the guild as their "friend zone" or "hometown association" and play games with guild members, just like socializing with friends in real life.

For guild social activities within the”circle of friends”, in addition to playing games together, the main focus is on chatting on what’s happening outside of the game. Players can deepen their understanding of each other by chatting in the guild group, even if they are high-ranking players on the leaderboard. Being able to interact and communicate with them in the same guild satisfies players' social connection needs.

Player B: Another reason is that it feels like a circle of friends. its "unofficial" vibe is probably a selling point to some people, they feel like they get to see what some of the higher rated players are exchanging on chat and maybe it's like belonging to an insider club or something like that.

And sometimes, players' social needs also depend on the language, locations, and cultural background used for communication. In our research, many players said that the founders of the guild were initially real-life friends, and the guild can help players find friends with similar backgrounds or common language. For example, global players in Naraka: Bladepoint have formed guilds of different languages, and streamers will establish guilds/clans themselves to better cover local player groups.


2. Sense of belonging: family/protective umbrella

Player C: It is like when you had your first sleep over. The joy and relief you feel when you enter that room. When I think of what my clan means to me i see us laughing fighting sad in a way they are my second family that I can feel myself with.

In the research project, a large number of players regarded the clan as a family-like existence. Guild members are like their own family, protecting their members. Players play together with a fixed group for a long time in the game, "invest time" in the same players, "chat together," and gradually formed emotional connections. When the connection deepens to a certain extent, players will have a sense of "belonging" to the guild. Some guilds also like to add the guild ID to members' game nicknames, just like a family surname, to indicate this kind of belonging.

These guild members are eager to leave the guild name in every corner of the game inside and outside - on the leaderboard, custom room names, YouTube videos, and Twitch live streams. They will unite to set some common goals both inside and outside the game and work together to develop and maintain this big family, which further enhances the stickiness among players and the guild. Other players can also form their understanding of the guild through these members.

Player D: It's about the unity and solidarity of a group, the excitement of name recognition and indeed recognising other names. Like 'Oh lads, it's X clan - we had a great fight with them last week, eyes open boys.'

Toxic gaming environment is what many players encounter when they play online games. Similar to families, players believe that clans also have a protective role. By playing with guild players, they can better contact some core players and form a relatively fixed gaming circle. This can improve the quality of communication by narrowing the player circle, for example, when encountering control misses, players can just laugh it off instead of blaming each other during random team play. In previous surveys, we found that guild players said:

Umm, well a lot of people don't like playing games by themselves. So yeah, a lot of clans offer trainings or others playing with you, so that's one way of protecting. But also if you're playing with people, you're going to be exposed to less like toxicity or hate messages or stuff like that.


3. Learning vs Entertainment: Interest Groups

Player E: A metaphor? So maybe I kind of see a clan almost like a study group where people like you study stuff together, but you also play together.

Among player guilds, there are also some people who believe that the guild is like a interest group for them. Unlike family, some players do not like to deliberately pursue a sense of "belonging", but enjoy a feeling of coming and going freely. Seeing the guild as a club or study group reduces the responsibility that players must have, while also providing a relatively free and equal social environment. The behavior of players is not restricted by the guild - they do not need to fight for the honor of the clan, but they only need to choose the participation mode that suits them to progress and improve with others, just like the clubs in school, where everyone has their own interests and strengths. Players can freely choose which interest group to join, and do not need to bear the pressure for the future development of the interest group.

Player F: it feels like a circle of friends. its "unofficial" vibe is probably a selling point to some people, they feel like they get to see what some of the higher rated players are exchanging on chat and maybe it's like belonging to an insider club or something like that.


Guilds that are similar to study groups usually provide players with a more down-to-earth environment. This kind of clan players are also more relaxed, with more freedom to develop a lively/active game atmosphere that satisfies players' social needs.

4. Inspiration: Understanding Guilds from Players' Perspectives through the Use of Metaphors.

In different games, players have different understandings and definitions of guilds. Players with more experience in the same game or users who are particularly familiar with a certain platform may propose more similar metaphors: for example, Facebook and Reddit users are more inclined to support and nurture in terms of the metaphor of community management, because community managers have more time to think about the development and future plans of the entire community; Twitch live stream comments are real-time and usually require quick reactions without more time to think, so users' impressions of platform management are closer to the role of domination and regulation. Regardless of any metaphor, we can emphasize its use in the design and construction of the community based on feedbacks from the players, which have a certain impact on the development of the guild and community ecology.

In the research of game players, qualitative interviews can obtain a lot of information. However, quantitative methods are sometimes needed to complement qualitative results. If the "metaphor" questioning is added appropriately in interviews, this complementary and mutual verification effect may be improved to a higher and more credible degree, thus offering better insight of the players and assisting game design.

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