I'd managed to get in to a squad with one chap who was many battle ranks (PS's version of levels) ahead of me, but we still had a brilliant night of play. I'm not convinced I made much of a difference individually, but I followed his orders and killed as many of the enemy as I could. The following night, he invited me into his squad as soon as I logged on. I took the hint, added him to my friends list, and noticed that the other squad members were the same people from the previous night's battle.
After a couple of weeks of play, a little bit of chat and a few visits to his clan's website, I joined the clan. Thursday nights were dedicated to drill practice - here we'd log on, find empty or near-empty continents and go up against poorly defended towers to practice assault drops. It was all terribly banal, but it genuinely enhanced the experience. We were a unit in a world gone nuts. We looked down on the standard grunts, handily distracting laser fire from us while failing to achieve anything. We'd capture videos, post them on the site, chat about successes or losses and push on - every night - with this endless war.
Some of you hopefully think that sounds cool. Many of you think I'm nuts. For me, though, this was exactly the type of group I wanted to be a part of, and they retained my interest for the same amount of time the game did.
It was so successful because its leaders took the time to identify people who would not only benefit the group as a whole, but who would also benefit from being a member of it. They managed to drive forward and influence our motivation for being a part of it to the point where there simply wasn't an alternative. When I re-subscribed to Planetside months later, my guild was gone and the game was empty and sterile. The combat was the same, but the social aspect was dead for me.
It's time the wannabe big-men of the gaming worlds realized that being able to get a guild charter signed off isn't enough to provide you with longevity or a particularly rewarding experience. You need to lead from the front, dictate a path for those you recruited and recognize that leading starts a long time before you conclude your cold-calling sales pitch through the in-game chat client.
Hitchhiker is a freelance videogames journalist who spends too much time sat on his own playing multiplayer games. It does give him a sense of belonging, though, so that's ok. He hangs out at www.alwaysblack.com.