So you want to join a clan

So you’ve been playing this online interactive game for a while now, and you’ve made some friends in the process… and now you think you have what it takes to be in a clan? Well, today I’d like to tell you about the ups, downs, ins, outs, do’s and don’ts of being in and getting in a gaming clan.

There are two basic choices when you begin to consider life as a clan gamer – you can join an already established clan, or start one of your own. As with anything else, there are good and bad points to both of these paths.

To join an established clan, you have a few options. Hang around the same servers for a while, let people get to know you, and get to know the clans that play around you. Chances are you’ll make friends playing anyhow, and when you’ve decided that you really like a few people who are in the same clan, and can appreciate their abilities and feel you could add to that, then apply. If you’re already friends with a couple of people in the clan, you have a much better chance of joining than if you just show up on server and say “Can I join your clan??” Begging to join a clan is like begging for status in an IRC channel – it just bothers the clan members, and it definitely doesn’t give you a warm place in their hearts.

Once you’ve established “playing relationships” with some people in the clan, let them know that you’re interested in joining their squad. Some clans have a membership application form on their website – if they do, fill it out. If they have an IRC channel, spend time in it chatting with them. Get to know them better – make sure you really want to play with them as individuals and as a team. (Interpersonal clan politics can lead to a lot of stress, but more on that later.) Also establish that you’re not just looking to get in the first clan that will take you.

The upsides of joining an already established clan are the fact that your new clan already has a reputation…. well, that’s an upside if it’s a good reputation. Wouldn’t be as nice if the rep is a bad one. Another positive aspect of joining an established clan is that the hard work is already done – someone else is in charge, you just have to show up and play. Sometimes its nice to just be a member of the clan, rather than the one who’s running the show.

Downsides to joining a pre-made clan include being on the bottom of the ladder for the first while. There’s always that touchy bit at the beginning, when you’re getting used to playing with the other clan members. In team-based games, like Team Fortress Classic (TFC), Quake 3 Capture The Flag (Q3CTF), and CounterStrike, it’s important that you’re able to play as a team. It also means doing what you’re told, yet still thinking for yourself – which can be annoying, but can also mean a win or loss against another team. If you disagree with how things are run, you really don’t have much say if you’re ‘the new guy’ – people haven’t gotten attached enough to you that they’ll really care if you leave. Sad, yes… but potentially true, depending on the clan.

So, to keep from being the lowest member of your clan, and to avoid disagreeing with how things are run, you can just start your own clan. First, you have to find some other non-clan friends, people you like playing with. I consider that the most important aspect of clanning – GET ALONG WITH YOUR CLAN! Once you’ve found some people you like to play with, come up with a name – preferably one that hasn’t already been taken by someone, and one that refers to something that relates specifically to the clan members tastes or abilities. My CounterStrike clan called themselves Jedi With Guns… if you don’t get that reference, then you may not get in the clan itself… Your clan name then becomes an acronym – your clan tag. When I play CounterStrike, my name is [JwG]Zith, where in my pre-clan days it was Zith.

Some clans are newly built out of the destruction of a previous clan. It’s the nature of people to argue from time to time, and sometimes it seems those differences are irreconcilable, and things are said that can’t be taken back. That’s where some of the bad aspects of clanning appear.

I went to my clan and asked them for some input on what their favourite things about being in a clan was, and what they didn’t like about it. Most of them never got around to answering me (you know who you are!!!) but those who did agreed on a couple of things. They like the camaraderie – playing with people you like is the best part of being in a clan, compared to playing on a public server where no one works together, no one really cares about anyone else there, and people are often rude to each other. Clans stick up for each other, watch each other’s backs when they’re on the same team, play fair when they’re on opposite teams, and teach each other whatever they can. It’s more fun when you play together. My clanmates liked the competition and prestige that being in a clan afforded them, as well – when your clan plays well against another clan in a match, that reflects on all the members of the clan… and it’s a nice feeling to share a win.

As for the things they didn’t like about clans, they were pretty vocal about it, and all said the same thing: they despise infighting, politics, and egos. An interior argument can destroy a clan, make it no fun to play as a team anymore, and wreck what has otherwise been a good friendship. It’s hard to not get involved when some of your clan members start taking sides or arguing about things, and it’s hard to look at it as ‘just a game’ sometimes. People get frustrated with each other, it’s hard to avoid. A good clan learns how to deal with it – which means all the members have to treat each other with respect, especially when they disagree about something. Putting too much emphasis on things that aren’t important, like who gets to play on what team during a match, or who was at fault for a loss in a scrim, only causes discord and unrest… and then you’re fighting outside the game, and it’s just not worth it.

As for myself, I wouldn’t like being part of a clan that is entirely performance-based… partly because it seems that when I’m put under pressure, my playing becomes a whole lot worse than it normally is, and partly because I know I’ll never be the best at the game, and expecting more than what I can do just makes me very frustrated. I’ve been known to sit out of clan matches simply because of the pressure to win. I definitely couldn’t deal with a clan that’s entirely based in how good a player you are… it seems less fun to me that way. I’ve accepted that I’m nowhere near the most talented of our clan, and I’d prefer that my clan accept it as well (which they, thankfully, do.)

When you do decide to join a clan, be prepared for it to take up a couple of nights a week, if your clan is involved in competitions, matches and scrims. Some people have found it hard to fight burn-out from playing the same game for months on end, and being in a clan has the potential to demand a lot of time and attention from a member. Not that you can’t take breaks away from the game – that’s to be expected, otherwise you might just burn out and hate the game forever after. Nobody wants that to happen.

Clans inherently improve your teamwork and make a game a lot more fun to play. They can provide you with people to play against and with, people you can learn from, and people you can teach. It’s a great way to meet people and make some wonderful friends. Some clans even hold LAN parties and meet each other in person, which can be great fun. There are all sorts of benefits that can be enjoyed from being a member of a gaming clan once everyone has learned how to deal with some of the negative aspects of them. After all, what you’re really doing is cultivating new friendships – with all the ups and downs that we already know are involved with that.