In computer and video gaming, a clan or guild is a group of players who regularly play together in a particular (or various different) multiplayer games . These games range from groups of a few friends to 1000-person organizations, with a broad range of structures, goals and members. The lifespan of a clan also varies considerably, from a few weeks or months to several years. Numerous clans exist for nearly every online game available today, notably in first-person shooters, massively multiplayer games, role-playing games, and strategy games.
There are usually different ranks and positions within any clan. A small clan usually has a leader, but sometimes a bigger group will have two or more. There might also be co-leaders, who are usually the main leader's closest friends. The rest of the players are simply the regular members. If a leader decides to leave the clan, doesn't feel like being leader anymore, or if the other players simply decide for a new leader, another member will take their place. Most clan leaders usually have the ability to delete players from the clan, although this is not always the case.
Many gamers who organize themselves into small groups of people do so in order to play with each other and socialize beyond just by playing a game. These groups may contain only a handful of members, particularly when there is a focus on a single game. Occasionally, some of these clans or teams will become going concerns, and enjoy significant longevity and large membership. There can be hundreds, or even thousands, of these clans or guilds active at any one time in some popular online games.
Clans of this type are generally long lasting, self-contained groups devoted to obtaining items or money. Admission into elite corporate clans is usually selective, while this is generally not the case for less established clans. Corporate clans benefit from a strong leadership group who are in charge of recruitment, resource allocation, discipline, strategic, and tactical decisions during the course of the game. Corporate model clans rely on long term cohesion generally sustained by the sense of community created in the individual members. This long term cohesion improve execution in battle scenarios, since corporate model clans generally have a higher amount of cumulative experience. Efficient division of labor is key to the success of a corporate clan. Corporate models may or may not include a communal bank controlled by one or all of the leaders. The bank, which is a pool of the clans collective resources, may include currency or items, and is used to reinforce good behavior and play among rank and file members. Distribution may be either a points system, random chance, or leader discretion.
Some gamers are organized less formally in communities, which may also contain clans or guilds. Often these communities include websites generating a fair amount of news and active forums to give the members their sense of community. It is not uncommon for a community to be based on more than one game.
There are a number of more persistent and more organized groups that field players in a variety of games. These groups share some of the characteristics of the single-game groups and communities.
E-sports clans are organizations created solely for competition. They are often small in size but their size is also usually determined by how many players they need to meet numbers for competing regularly. Social interaction and friendship is often a requirement for the stability of these teams but it is not the main purpose for the organization. This means that many of these teams are short lived but those who do not fall apart due to social conflicts tend to last for a long time and stay together should they change to a newer game. E-sports teams also often have a tendency to form larger multi-game groups.
Joining a clan places one within a social network which provides access to resources, knowledge, and help needed to accomplish many game related goals. In addition, banding together with like-minded players seems to fulfill a human desire for social interaction. Taken together, these two factors can vastly enhance the gameplay experience of many players.
Some clans focus on competition and may arrange recruitment, scrimmages and training sessions to reach their goals. For example, some clans only recruit skilled players who they think can help their clan win matches. It is common for a prospective clan member to be asked to prove their skill in a game, by taking a series of tests against current clan members in a private server. Some teams will also only recruit players who have a proven history with other successful teams, in order to prevent cheaters from joining their team.
Belonging to a clan can enhance a player's game experience by providing them with a group of familiar people with whom they can interact. In some clans, the stated purpose of the group is to talk to each other that simply enjoy playing. When clans are not competing in formal matches, they often operate a looser, more relaxed server for their members and the public to play in.
Trivia clans are a growing population of clans with bots to host trivia competitions and keep score. Some clans even give out prizes such as CD keys or moderator positions. Trivia in clans is a good way to challenge each other, attract members, and entertain visitors to the channel.
Gamers form guilds or clans in order to assist each other. Some members may focus on supporting roles, while others focus on more direct action. In role-playing games, members could focus on trade skills, such as mining or blacksmithing, to be able to provide their members with good weapons and armor at little or no cost. Similarly, in first person shooter games a player may establish themselves as a sniper, a medic or some other specific role, knowing that their clan mates can fill complementary roles with little discussion, and thus hoping to more effectively use their available manpower. Often this division of labor extends into the overall administration of the clan as well, with an individual having specific areas of responsibility such as recruiting, coordinating league play or server administration.
Clan members will sometimes make it a habit to all join the same team in a server, often in order to put well-rehearsed strategies into practice or to use their knowledge of the playing style of teammates gain an advantage on the opposing team. Often, clan members will make use of verbal communication, like Teamspeak, which is frequently unavailable to the other team. This is usually frowned upon in the gaming community. Because of this, some servers are configured to randomize or shuffle teams between rounds or games, automatically assign new joiners to the team that is in most need of players and/or auto-balance teams - most servers have rules against team stacking. Team Stacking can provide relatively new or low skilled clans with practice opportunity, as well as creating an instant challenge effect for other players who connect to the game. However, some gamers feel that this detracts from their experience by placing them at an unfair disadvantage from the moment they enter a clan-controlled server. Conversely, splitting clan members up can lead to a practice called ghosting, in which "dead" clan members will relay the position of their remaining teammates to the clan member of the opposite team. "Ghosting" is equally frowned upon.
Clan members often use a variety of methods to collaborate, communicate and improve their gameplay.
A website is often the central focus for publicizing upcoming activities such as training sessions or official matches in leagues. It can also be used for sharing tips and tactics, jokes, and general discussion topics. This all helps people to get to know each other and build team spirit, yet conversely may also be the source of personality clashes.
Being able to talk to your team during a match and change tactics instantly gives an obvious advantage, but it is also widely used for chatting outside of competitive play.Several Voice over IP applications are available free to download that enable players to talk to each other via their computer, using a microphone or headset. TeamSpeak and Ventrilo are in common use, both require a small central server, either rented from a hosting company or hosted on someone's computer or server. Other voice chat services include Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM, Skype, and Google Talk.
Instant messaging by utilities such as IRC, MSN Messenger, Xfire, or GameStreet Talk allow gamers to write simple text messages to each other providing both have the utility and have set up an account on the system. Many games actually provide simple in-game messaging facilities. A player can send a message visible to everyone on a server, or this can be restricted to just the player's team. Such features sadly lend themselves to abuse. The less savoury or immature players use it as a method to be obnoxious or disruptive (see note below regarding spamming and trolling).
These games initially only offered "deathmatch" play, where gameplay is focused solely on killing the characters of the other players. The popularity of clans and team-based versions of deathmatch led to the design of objective-based team games such as capture the flag.
Due to the relatively unorganized structure of first-person shooter games the players tend to take on the organization themselves. This has led to the genre generating a large number of websites to help organize these gaming communities as well as the vast number of different styles of clans in these games. Some clans are large and have loose associations with each other and may only play on public servers with each other for social reasons. At the other end of the spectrum other clans may prefer to keep a small, tight team of players and concentrate on playing competitively against other clans in arranged matches and possibly in leagues. While the clan itself provides the social element in larger clans, the social aspect for the smaller, more competitive clans comes more from interaction with other clans.
Competition between clans is common but also takes many forms. Some clans have been known to be content with playing against each other on public servers, while others organize matches with other clans. Notably, some take this further and take part in leagues and tournaments. Some clans may even "war" with each other, using their members for surprise "attacks" on the other clan's servers. A lot of the time this is purely for fun but some of these leagues and tournaments have become fiercely competitive to the extent that practice and planning will become highly organized. This kind of competition is starting to be referred to as electronic sports (e-sports), though there are many other similar terms for this. E-sports can be purely amateur over the Internet or for large cash prizes on local area networks. This kind of competition also applies to other genres, particularly strategy games.
Many clans have their own private servers to play their game of choice on. These are most handy for holding practice matches against other clans and other forms of practice. Private servers are also convenient since they do not have problems that plague public servers, such as griefers and other behavior that is the gaming equivalent of the anti-social behavior when people have anonymity over the Internet such as spamming and trolling on message boards and chat rooms. As a side note, there are even clans who set up just to perpetuate this kind of abuse.
Most popular multiplayer strategy games such as Warcraft III and Command & Conquer series' offer a matchmaking service to find matches provided by the publisher or developer of the game. Often these services have their own structures for organizing clans. Some of these services offer tournaments and ladders for clans to compete on either directly clan versus clan or indirectly by giving clan members points for winning 1v1 or 2v2 games and adding that to clan totals.
Clans also exist in other genres, where they often go by a different name and serve a purpose more suited to the game. Many online massively multiplayer and computer role-playing games tend to call them "guilds" or invent their own term.
Examples of this include Star Wars Galaxies in which they are "player associations" and EVE Online, where they go by "corporations". EVE Online is also notable for having defined the system in more detail than is common in most MMOs, with "alliances" being a larger grouping. In the superhero-based game City of Heroes, they are called "supergroups", and are similar in structure to comic book hero organizations like the X-Men. Lastly, in Final Fantasy XI, such clans are called "linkshells" and players of the game have the tendency and ability to be in more than one at once.
There are few guild versus guild tournaments in online RPGs, although the number of games with guild versus guild combat is increasing. Guilds usually are a cooperative planning and play group in these games, sometimes paralleling the functions of medieval guilds. In Neverwinter Nights, where the first such guilds appeared, they declared their own quests and scheduled cooperative play. Sometimes in MMORPGs, guilds take on the role of vigilante groups or the mafia, protecting its members from other players and guilds. These guilds form in the most literal sense in games that feature player versus player combat.
EverQuest (1999) led to the birth of so-called überguilds, which are highly specialized guilds formed by the most dedicated players on the server for the purpose of defeating the game's most difficult encounters and securing for its members all the newest and most powerful abilities and loot. These guilds typically have regimented and selective application procedures that may take into account not only the desirability of an applicant's virtual character and playing skill but also a recruit's time commitment and even, in some cases, computer hardware and bandwidth. They typically do not share strategies or admit non-members to their adventuring groups or "raids"; High-end EverQuest guilds invariably censor the in-game chat display when posting screenshots to avoid revealing sensitive information. Uberguilds often race to be the first to accomplish some particular task in the game; in the case of new items, such guilds often place their logo on screenshots of the item's properties in order to record their accomplishments. Most of these guilds, particularly in EverQuest and World of Warcraft, use an often-intricate variant of DKP (dragon kill points) to determine loot distribution.
See main article Virtual Airline & Virtual militaryMany simulation games, such as those in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, have clans that follow similar patterns to other genres. One notable type of simulation clan are Virtual Airlines. A Virtual airline (VA) is a dedicated hobby organization that uses flight simulation to model the operations of an airline. Virtual Airlines generally have a presence on the Internet, similar to a real airline. It has been proposed that there are over 100 Virtual Airlines of significance currently active, with tens of thousands of participants at any one time. 
The larger a clan gets the more hierarchical the organizational structure tends to become. Usually there is at least a clan leader, in small teams a clan leader may only be a team captain heading the team in game and initiating discussions to solve problems. In larger clans the leader is often responsible for the entirety of organizing the clan, with a number of basic members. If the clan expands, experienced members are usually promoted and are delegated various tasks such as recruiting, disciplining rule-breakers, member training, webpage maintenance, and others. Certain clans take this type of organization to a higher level where they emulate the structure (and sometimes name) of a military unit with specific ranks, positions, and groups. These clans are usually found in shooter or MMORPG games and are referred to as realism units.
In some games, players show they are a member of a clan by using a unique tag which takes the form of a prefix or suffix "tag". Tags are often enclosed in brackets or symbols and colored differently if the game allows it. In some clans, there is also a suffix, which would include your clan rank or status.
In MMORPGs and strategy games the game may feature a separate mechanism used to identify the clan a player belongs to. For example in Dark Age of Camelot, the player's guild appears in full below the player's name. In games that allow players to customize their appearance (usually by picking the color of their attire), clan members might all share a similar look, or bear their clan's logo on their character's outfit. The MMORPG Guild Wars has Guild Capes which can be customized by the guild master. The MMORPG World of Warcraft introduced tabards, in which a guild leader could customize a tabard to any look they wanted. After the guild leader had purchased the tabard design, guild members could then purchase a guild tabard in order to represent their guild. The game City of Heroes goes even farther. A player can switch between their entire regular costume colors and the "Supergroup's" costume colors. It can also be refined to not apply at all or to only apply a certain areas.