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Application Contemplation

October 17, 2011

Reading Hunter’s blog post about guild applications this weekend, I was inspired. It struck me that I have quite a few thoughts on the subject too, and as usual, he comes up with a really good topic to contemplate. I’m just going to expand on my original comment on his blog, not for the purpose of changing any minds but in the hopes that maybe I can come to terms a little better with how I personally feel as well.

Is the guild application process really necessary?

Ah, the dreaded guild app. Honestly, I wish I could say no. Who likes filling out forms, anyway? I know I don’t, and I’ve done my fair share. Still, I think how I feel about filling out guild applications is also separate from my feelings of the value of a guild application. I suppose it stems from having been on both sides of the process.

To share an anecdote, once upon a time I was an officer in an World of Warcraft guild that took a very liberal stance on guild invites. We had no application, no forum for people to introduce themselves, not even a real website to speak of. It was as casual as you could get. Everyone had invite privileges and we picked up people from all over, from recruitment blasts in general chat and announcements on our server forums, to inviting anyone we encountered who expressed interest. Basically, anyone who wanted in was in, no questions asked.

I’ll give you this; being in that guild was a lot of fun, probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a guild. And yet, it was also the most drama-filled guild I’ve ever been in, and I don’t think I want to be a part of something like that again. EVER.

One of the biggest problems was the huge turnover rate. Yes, we had our share of trouble-makers and there were kicks aplenty, but it was also because people left as casually as they were invited. There was really no strong sense of guild identity or any reason for loyalty or cohesiveness. It made sense — after all, if being invited was treated as no big deal, neither should leaving. Needless to say, the turnover rate hurt us when our guild started working on content progression, which was probably why I think our guild leader eventually gave in and set up a website and a guild application process to help improve retention.

Here’s the thing — it worked. I suppose I ultimately became a fan of the guild application process not only because of how effective it was with regards to retention, but also because of how it cut down on the amount of riffraff considerably. As an officer, I was part of the reviewing process, and it is surprising how much can come out in an applicant’s writing, like personality and attitude. I confess it’s not always an accurate assessment, but I can also understand now why a lot of guilds use applications to hopefully weed out immaturity and potential trouble.

That’s not to say our guild was drama-free after the application went into effect. Periodically, members still rage quit or were kicked. But the pattern had shifted, as most parted ways not because of bad behavior but instead because of differences in play style. Reasons cited included “guild is raiding too much or too little!” or “progression is too fast or too damn slow!”

Which brings me to my next point, that it’s not just about having a guild application, it’s also about the questions you ask. I’ve seen things from a potential recruit’s point of view, and yes, filling out an app is usually a pain. I also sometimes find myself squirming under personal questions especially those about details like my name, sex or date of birth. Part of the reason is I have gone to great lengths keeping my gaming persona apart from my real life, and I like to have control over how I reveal my information.

Still, I don’t think I can hold it against guilds that ask me questions like what are my hobbies or interests, how often and when do I play, or what games I’ve played in the past. I think much can be gleaned from answers to these questions, if you know what to look for. How hardcore/casual someone is can come across sometimes, and even if you believe these questions are unnecessary or irrelevant, I find that one of the most awesome things about being part of the gamer culture is that there’s a good chance many others in the guild will share some of the same pastimes as you. It’s a good jumping off point and added benefit for friendships once you are in the guild, and I have seen many lively conversations spring forth just like this in threads where recruitment and applications happen right on the guild forums.

While I admit most of my experiences with guild applications have been positive, I can also understand why sometimes they get a bad rap because I’ve had my share of negative ones too. I’ve encountered some apps in the past where I believe the guild leaders have the best intentions, but are maybe unaware they come across as elitist in the process. It is true that depending on the type of guild you’re looking at, the questions may be directed in other ways or have a different focus, but it’s still a little weird to see casual guilds asking for things like gearscore, how many bosses you’ve downed or raids you’ve cleared, or putting members through a humiliating “probationary period”. Likewise, it is unsettling to see some hardcore progression-minded guilds completely ignore the “human” part of the recruiting process and instead view you only as a role and a set of in-game abilities they can use, and not as an actual person. I don’t really get that either. Hell, even at an actual job you’d probably want to make the effort to get to know the guy in the next cubicle.

Anyway, as much as I advocate guild apps, I know I said filling out guild apps are never fun, but I guess that’s not exactly true either. I think I’ve written before on this blog that the best question I’ve ever been asked in a guild application is “What is your zombie plan?” Yeah, at first I was like “WTF?” and I probably wasn’t the first or the last to react that way, because there was an addendum in the app explaining why they ask all applicants to answer that question. And in retrospect, their explanation made a lot of sense. For the guild, it wasn’t just about the answers they receive, but also so that we as the potential recruits can know just what in the world we’re getting into. Obviously, they were a guild with a somewhat bizarre but good sense of humor. Also, they were into zombies. Like, really into them.

I admit, I’ve never really thought too much into this topic, but now that I’m stepped into officer shoes again as a founder of a Star Wars: The Old Republic guild, I have a discovered a renewed interest. Perhaps, really, the most useful question on a guild app should be “Why us?” Like, why the interest in our guild specifically? Or what would you like to get out of the experience? It’s a tougher question to answer than most realize, but it’s perhaps the best indicator or whether or not we’ll all get along.

A good guild leader will want to create a good community in his or her guild, and will want to know if a newcomer will fit in with the guild culture. I agree with Hunter in that the best way to know a person is to spend time in game with them. But if there was a way you could screen out people you know right away won’t work out, it could also save a lot of time and headaches down the road. I’ve been in a leadership role and have seen people leave or have asked them to leave, and it didn’t always happen on the best of terms. It sucks. It doesn’t feel good. It breeds a lot of negativity and bad blood between guild members.

So I understand. If an app can help a guild avoid some of the obvious cases, it is a hassle I can live with. It’s not perfect, but with the right questions it can also give a good idea of who the applicant is, especially if you don’t know them. What it all boils down to is that I don’t think it’s an infallible test, but it can be a very helpful tool.

31 comments

  1. For me an app and a site shows two way commitment. The Guild shows that it has it together if it has gone to the trouble of creating a site and telling people what to expect from the guild. The applicant shows that they care enough about being in the guild to at least jump through a few of the hoops asked of them.
    Some guilds don’t need that level of commitment or responsibility from their members. Guilds that plan to do progression content really need it. If you are building teams within your guild and you want them to be good at what they do, you want quality members, people who can play nice on a team, people who can and will follow rules, and people who are considerate of the other members of their team. Anyone who isn’t willing to go to a site, register for it, and answer a few basic questions probably isn’t unselfish enough to be as considerate as you’d like.


    • After being in both types of guilds, I think I’ve also developed more of a preference for those that ask for commitment or responsibility from their members, whether it’s a progression guild or not. They tend to be smaller, though not always, and I’ve always just felt more comfortable in a tighter community where I know most of everyone.


  2. I’m of two minds on this, as are many who commented on Hunter’s post. I recently filled out a guild application for the first time in a long time–if ever. And some of the questions there were a little personal, in the way that Hunter objects to. Your ultimate question, “Why us?” can usually be answered by me with a friend is ion the guild and says you guys a re great. I wouldn’t join a guild of total strangers. So I guess it depends on how serious a guild is about some aspect of the game.

    The two guilds in WoW that I have been a part of that were/are arguably progression-oriented raiding guilds did not have an application process other than friends recruiting friends. None of them ever knew my real name, until we became Facebook friends. And that was long after I’d joined. I normally have little use for external guild websites, either, spending much of my non-game leisure time on Twitter, G+, and blogs. The time I have to be on the website is usually the same time I have to be actually playing the game itself. The MMO I have been in that needed coordination of some kind had a built-in calendar, with raid sign-ups.

    OTOH, I once was in a supposedly casual guild that was insisting that people already in the guild sign up/participate in the external website. They had grown too large too fast to know everyone in the guild. But the way they went about it in guild-chat, and through /tells, was a huge turn-off. Identifying players and alts in-game is not usually too hard if the leadership uses the in-game guild interface, IMHO.

    So I guess I’d say they have a place, but too often ask the wrong things or get too personal for something that–from my perspective, at least–is far too casual an activity.


    • If your answer to “Why us” is that someone you know is in the guild, I find that as legitimate as any reason. In fact, my personal view is that close friends and family should be automatic invites, since obviously the best “friends-and-family-oriented” guilds are based on this system. I figure if a GM still wants the person to fill out an app, it’s probably just a formality to know more about who you are. Both my husband and I actually did so when I joined my brother-in-law’s WoW guild, and I didn’t mind. After all, everyone else is a stranger still, and if they want to know more about my interests I was cool with that.


  3. Coming from a smuggler who’s been around the galaxy a few times, you have addressed a controversial topic very well. I see both sides of the argument. I have been dissuaded from joining reputable guilds because of the app requirements. Either because, as you pointed out the questions gave off elitist alarms, or because I felt these guys are taking this way too seriously.

    At the same time, and again you addressed this, I very much prefer to be a part of a guild that has as little drama as possible. It is absolutely impossible to have a drama free guild as long as the makeup consists of human beings. However, I firmly believe a guild app process is a valid and useful tool when screening for members. This may sound elitist. In the end, I just want to play with people who share the same view as to what a guild can be. With as many hours as we spend together, we often become like extended family. In the least at times a support group. To let just anyone into that circle can be setting yourself up for failure. So yeah, I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting just anyone into ‘our family’ as pretentious as that sounds. On my phone or I would flesh my opinion out much better than this ;)


    • I hear you about drama. I don’t think it’s really that pretentious say you don’t want to just let anyone into “your family”, It all depends on the guild, right? And the way I see it, if it’s your guild it’s your call. That’s the whole point of a guild to me, that is to find other like-minded people who share the same values and goals as you. There are so many out there today, that most anyone can find what they are looking for in a guild, and if not they can always start one.


  4. I’m not crazy about super formal application processes, but I’d much rather have at least a basic application/approval process than nothing. As you mentioned, if there’s no investment to join then there’s no speedbump to leave either. Having an application means that someone had to have more than an impulse interest in joining, plus the questions give applicants an idea of what a guild is really about. If it’s supposed to be a super casual RP guild and half of the questions are about raiding, something’s up.


    • Absolutely. Like one of my previous commenters pointed out, it’s a two way commitment. The guild gets to know something about the applicant, but a well-structured application that asks the right questions should also let the applicant know right away what the guild is all about just by looking at it.


  5. I think as far as the good or bad aspects of an application, the only evidence we seem to have is anecdotal. I wouldn’t say that guilds I’ve been in without applications have been drama filled, and I’ve been in guilds with applications that were drama filled.

    I also often find applications to be a hurdle at the worst times, when activity is low and recruitment needs to go up,

    Overall I do see your many splendid points, but I still hold my opinion that the guild application is often useless.


    • In the MMO world, experiences are definitely everything. All our opinions are generally only backed up by personal anecdotes. For example, we hear complaints and nightmare stories about MMO communities all the time, but I personally have had very good experiences in general. It depends heavily on the people you encounter and interact with in game, and I think one of the reasons I’ve been so lucky in the past is because of my guilds.


  6. We had a really simple process…. granted we were not an overly serious guild. But basically we had 2 rules. 1) that in order to be a member you had to get a member in good standing be willing to vouch for you. 2) The golden rule… “Don’t be a D!ck”… this covers guild member, public community, and forum interaction. Those two rules pretty much allowed us to grow very organically and keep folks willing to work together.


    • I feel the golden rule “Don’t be a dick” should apply to pretty much everything in life ;)


  7. I have been in both and my experience has been the same. In my original days of WoW I ran a small guild which had a web site but no formal guild application process. It was simply a matter of someone already in the guild vouching for the person who wanted to join. We didn’t grow too fast so we eventually merged with a larger guild.

    That guild, too, had no formal app. process. Unfortunately this led to wildly different expectations and no end to drama. In the span of about 9 months we split and reformed under different names and leadership no less than half-a-dozen times. It was the same group of people but each time the leader and officers changed. We’d be ok for a while until something caused us to be annoyed with the new leadership and, boom, they were out, another set was in. Worst. Guild. Ever.

    After that I checked other guilds on the server but none fit. I then looked for any guild on any server which would fit. I found one. It had a formal guild app. process. My wife and I were accepted and we spent a collective $150 moving our major toons from one server to another to join that guild. We were with that one for a year-and-a-half before parting ways over a major disagreement.

    We’re now members of a large mutli-game, multi-server guild. It, too, had a formal app process. It’s a casual guild (though we do raid in games which support it) so the application process is more to weed out people who would bring drama with them. There’s a probationary period, too, but it is little more than confirmation of the application process. IE, the application is where you say you’re not a dick. The probationary period is simply a few weeks to show you’re not a dick. Gear levels, raid times, skill level, all of that doesn’t matter. Be a good person, you’re in.

    My wife and I joined that guild in the Runes of Magic chapter 2 years ago. Since then she’s been in the WoW Alliance chapter and the LotRO chapter. I’ve been in the Aion, Rift, LotRO, Fallen Earth, Atlantica, Champions Online, City of Heroes, Global Agenda chapters. Well, those are the chapters I can recall off the top of my head. In those two years the sum total of drama we’ve encountered can be counted on one hand and have the majority of fingers left over. Not to say there isn’t drama but what drama there is will often be addressed swiftly and fairly by the officers.

    Is the success solely because of the application process? Not at all. But I think it is a great foundation upon which the system is built. It signals to the people who wish to join as to what type of guild we are. It also introduces them to the culture the guild has built up over the years; to the processes they’ve built up to handle drama at the local level.


    • I think you hit the nail on the head with your point about expectations. If anything, an app can be useful just in establishing some guild goals. In the WoW guild I talked about in my post above, that was our main problem. The mix of members we had from the early days with the members who joined afterward didn’t really work, as the two groups had wildly different expectations as well. One group wanted to progress faster, one group either didn’t or had no time. There ended up being a lot of bad blood and bitter feelings.

      I do have a soft spot for guilds with multi-game chapters as well. It makes things a lot easier each time a new game comes out everyone wants to try.


  8. My current guild in Rift doesn’t actively recruit, but we are otherwise just as open as the guild you described — we take all comers.

    After you join you are encouraged (not strongly and it’s NOT required) to sign up on the guild website and “claim” your characters. Once that’s done, any “claimed” characters have invite privileges. Since it takes all of about 3 minutes to do, most people do have invite privileges. But again… we don’t recruit, we will simply invite anyone who asks. If we group with someone who isn’t guilded, we may say “hey wanna join a guild?” but that’s as far as it goes.

    2600 characters in the guild, estimated 1500-1800 actual accounts. Only rule is “Blades out, not in” — ie no bad mouthing guild members. That’s about it.

    I’ve not seen any drama, as if there is any the person can simply leave as casually as they joined. We have guild events all the time, plus there’s almost always *someone* on to group with for a dungeon if you want. Or to craft something for you, or to chat or RP with. And we are so large we have our own internal guild market so we don’t have to use the AH if we don’t want to.

    TBH, it’s the best guild I’ve ever been a part of. Wish I’d been in one like it before.


    • That actually sounds kinda neat. Even though with so many accounts, I would imagine being in a guild like that I would still only know or be familiar with only a handful of members. Essentially a community within a community, but the internal guild market thing sounds really cool :)


  9. A great post and some really interesting comments. Chaotic furball guilds can be very entertaining, but I don’t appreciate the high level of drama in them. On the other hand, I have only ever filled out one guild app when I joined a raiding guild in WoW. I thought it was strange at the time, but I did feel a much stronger tie to that guild than any other.

    For the one guild I ran (in Guild Wars), I recruited solely by asking players that we PUGed missioned with if they acted mature and knew what they were doing. Met some good people that way.


    • I’ve been in guilds that raid, but never any guilds that describe themselves as a “raiding guild”. They intimidate me :D But I was interested in hearing your experiences. I’m not surprised at all to hear about the stronger ties; I can imagine strong bonds forming between people who play together all the time and are in situations where you have to cooperate. It has happened to me.


  10. I belong to an RP guild in EQ2, and it would probably be difficult to process members without an app, and still be able to remain an RP guild. I didn’t find the questions on the app to be too terrible as the questions are very simple like if we’ve been in any other guilds, if our character is a main or an alt, what times of day we usually play, and how we define RP. Also, we are required to post a simple character bio for the character that is applying. No real life personal questions, or anything about gear or that sort of thing. I’m not a guild officer or leader though, so I don’t know if there have ever been any complaints about the app process. I do find reading the posted applications fun though. Many people write really good character introductions!

    I would probably be very turned off by an app that did want what I consider to be too much information, particularly if it seems too personal like with the real name and age questions. Note that no guild I’ve ever applied for in any game so far has ever asked those kinds of questions.


    • Very cool! I’ve never been in a heavy RP guild so I’ve never seen an application like that, but the character bio thing intrigues me. I’d imagine that’s common and no doubt required for most RP guilds. That must have been so much fun to read your fellow members’ backstories.


  11. [...] evenings on?) to identity theft.But MMO Gamer Girl responded with an interesting counter-argument from the point of view of the person reading the application –“A good guild leader will want to create a good community in his or her guild, and will want [...]


  12. Love reading you…
    One dynamic that I think has changed the entire way we recruit or are looked at after joining any guild is Teamspeak, Ventrilo or some other.

    Your mood and attitude can and will come across as people listen to each other. A harsh word etc will come across allot clearer over Vent than ever being typed.

    Many people don’t feel comfortable speaking on Vent and obviously your sex, accent and even age can come through on Vent.

    Without question I think using Vent or teamspeak has done more to help and often hurt any Guild, in recent years. One of the first things any raid or Guild says is “…get on Vent. ”

    Breaking into your new guild without hanging out on Vent ? Good luck…


    • Hanging out on vent does have the added benefit of being able to bond with your members on a whole other level. I’m personally not a heavy vent user, like very rarely would I get on just to “hang out” with my guildies outside of doing an instance or raid, but only because I’m usually not playing alone (husband is always playing with me, so I’m already good on conversations :D ) but in general I have no problems with the idea of chilling on vent.

      I do know a lot of people who are uncomfortable with using vent though. A majority of them have been women, who have been burned in past guilds where they were harassed when others found out their sex. Their reluctance to “out” themselves on vent is totally understandable. Which is why I’m happy all the guilds I’ve been in have not have strict rules about using vent. Most of them simply ask that you have vent so you can listen in for any instructions during raids, etc. but you don’t have to have a mic or talk if you don’t want to.


  13. [...] of talk about guild applications recently, a process of which I am all too familiar.  I’ve thought about writing about this a [...]


  14. I am co-founder of a guild. We have an application. So I suppose I have a bias in this argument. I can state my case however.

    When the idea for the guild first originated and was passed around, we wanted first and foremost to create a social guild. Our interest was in community building with like-minded friends, not in progression, or end game achievements, or PvP dominance. I wanted an application that helped us find these people. Friendly, outgoing and open people, who like us wanted a communal gaming experience. I was asking questions that I felt would find these people, and weed out the ones not interested in our goals. It was never meant to be anything rigid or to be scrutinized for error. It was just to separate those who were really interested from those just auto joining, and make people think about WHY they were applying.

    Will it work? Only time will tell. Is it a fallible system? Certainly – I won’t state to be anything if not flawed. But we have amassed some amazing people thus far with the application in place, people I am glad to know and game with.

    And in the end, when people gripe or question, I just direct them here – it sums up my real desire for our TOR guild.

    http://s3-ak.buzzfed.com/static/imagebuzz/terminal01/2009/12/11/10/darren-just-wants-a-drama-free-relationship-28563-1260546957-4.jpg


    • Like I said, definitely being on both sides of the recruiting process has biased my views too. I am a fan of the application and I understand the need for one when I myself am an application looking for a guild to join.

      A guild application has to be the whole package, I think. As long as the questions are structured and targeted towards the kind of members you want to recruit. I am with you on that a guild should be like a family. I like to log in and feel welcome, comfortable, and safe. I want my guildies to be my friends and I want us all to build a community together.


  15. My guilds application consists of putting in your name…

    If you went that far, then you must be willing to answer a few questions from me. I then send a followup before approval…how long have you played MMO’s, how long in our game of choice, do you have a family and are you casual…

    If the applicant cant answer that, then they must not be that interested in playing with us.

    It is not a lot to ask…but, using this system has kept us full of tight knit players…and as long as a leader or officer shows interest in that player…then answering those questions is not a lot to gain a few good friends.


    • I agree. It’s about commitment both from the guild leaders and from the potential recruit. I like the way you put it. An app is like a first step. E.g. Your guild wants to see an applicant put some effort in on their part + an applicant who wants to see a guild leader that asks for quality and commitment and doesn’t mind filling out an app usually will = good fit.


  16. Never put in an app. Never had to go to website to put in said app. Not keen on the idea of ever doing that, either. I did join a cross-game group/clan before that used forms and forums to keep organization in check, but I’ve never gone through hoops merely to join a single guild on a single game. Not really fond of the idea of starting now, either :/ Simply isn’t necessary and it’s kinda standoffish to require one in almost every situation (barring the hardcore groups).

    I’m not saying they are bad, just they aren’t my cup of tea unless I REALLY wanted in.

    First guild I was in I met via wailing caverns in classic. Everyone seems mutally cool and there you go. That is probably the best way to handle getting more people and keeping them as you make a connection, but the current ‘go-go-go’ random queue nature of the game is squashing that pretty firmly.

    I think the issue is different guild mindsets. The first oper door guild you mentioned had a ‘problem’ with retention. What was the problem with it? It was a casual guild. If the goal is to have a casual and friendly guild, who cares if people come and go as long as you had fun? I mean, I’ve been in a few myself, but commonly they are also referred to as ‘starter guilds’ that you level up in. If you have a blast in it, stay and have fun. If you want something more, *that* is when you seek out/app raiding or pvp guilds.

    Once you add structure to that you lose the casual aspect. It goes hand-in-hand with the purpose of having forms to fill in the first place. “If they cannot fill out this form… they cannot show up on raid night on time with pots and buffs.” That’s what it boils down to. I agree with the practice, mind you. I just don’t agree that every guild should require SSN# and blood type just to say hello which is what a lot of things are headed towards as of late. (As Gear Score did to grouping, for example.) As for the anti-drama aspect, most of that can be handled with an age requirement :P Unless that is the only question on the form, most forms are over kill.

    As for needing a forum or a site, unless the hosting is free, people are bleeding a lot of needless costs in my opinion. I gather that before a game goes live you need something to organize on, fair enough. But if a guild is made after it launches and still does a website and forums and lah-dee-dah, it’s a waste to me. If I wanted to talk to people in my guild I’d do it in the friggin’ GAME we are all playing, not on a website or forum >.< It just boggles my mind. I'm more about playing the game and having a good time, than talking about playing the game and having a good time XD

    Side Note: just checked the guild finder in WoW yesterday, ironcially. You check off what you are and what you are looking for (DPS/Healer who likes to do dungeons and quest, in a casual setting, for example) and see what other guilds are looking for before sending out one ore more requests to whatever catches your eye. That's all you really need, imo. And it is all located IN-GAME. Blizz ain't perfect, clearly, but that idea or at least mindset to include those tools entirely in-game gets my vote.


    • But! I’ll also counter-act myself and mention I’m a bit firmly entrenched with shooters and the like that don’t really need all that mess of papers and passwords of websites and all that. A simple mentality of “You’re a cool dude, you have cool skills, you’re in” suits my playstyle just fine.

      Interject that in an MMO now and it’s more like a Vogon from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the GM. “You seem like a skillful indivitual. Here: Fill out this paperwork.” Yeah… uh, thanks?

      So I admit MMOs are a different breed of games than shooters and my thoughts likely reflect the more twitchy nature of zee FPS genre.


  17. The idea of a guild application is good, but you have to ask the right questions.

    For my guild we have a guild charter and it is very important to know if they person that is apply agrees or disagrees with it and if so what they disagree with so we can grow as a group.

    The next section is on game play. It pretty much asks if they want to be a social, progression, or different type of member. Along with voice chat and what they like to do while playing.

    Then the last section is asking if they know anyone in the guild, why they picked us, if they were in a previous guild and why the left, what can they bring to the table to help our community improve overall, and if they want to they can tell us about themselves.

    It takes 5 minutes to completely fill out the application and if someone is too lazy to then they are probably not meant to be in our guild or are trying to start some type of drama which leads us to the final question which is:

    Do you understand that we have a zero tolerance policy to drama. Whining, begging, and harassment is prohibited:



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