Though I am not a social scientist by any means (well I guess teachers and professors are social scientists in a way), I do find it very interesting to look at how people interact while playing MMORPGs. I have had a vast range of experiences with this, from guilds with ridiculous hand-holding to guilds that ignored you unless you where at max level *and* geared. Additionally, there is a whole dynamic of general chat and battlegrounds that could take years to fully discuss, but that will come later. At any rate, here are some observations:
Guild reactions seem to be largely dependent on what stage the guild is in. For example, a raiding guild will not hand-hold anyone. They are there to gather resources for raiding, and, if you're lucky *and* max level *and* they need more of your class in the future, you might get to come along on a lower-tier raid for gear. Essentially, if they don't need you, they simply don't deal with you. The remedy? Well, there's really only one way: become useful to them. Whether its by becoming a competent addition to the raid (healers and *good* tanks are almost always needed, dps less so), getting geared (heroics gear is usually sufficient to start raiding, you need less gear personally if your raid is better geared), or by being able to produce something the guild needs. If you are a crafter who is consistently on, and in communication with your guild or raid leaders, you can be a supplier for essentials, like potions, gems, and other useful things. This may also get you brought along to raids so you can loot BOP schematics for your profession. The caveat is, you will not make nearly as much (if any) gold off of guildies as you would off of the auction house. However, guildies can also be supportive too. A guild will have several miners, and as a blacksmith, getting titansteel is a pain. Guildies may be willing to burn their cooldowns to make titansteel for significantly less than market price, especially if they are raiding and whatever you are making is going to help the raid.
What this says about the MMORPG society: Simply put, it speaks volumes. Raiding guilds are high stress environments, and generally, with raiding taking up many hours every week, people simply do not have time to mess around with the remaining time they have. Running others through instances, having incompetant raid members, and having to go slower because people are poorly geared all make raiding miserable. Raiding guilds are designed to avoid the Pick-up group mentality that you have to go slow because the whole group is a bunch of idiots. In essence, raiders are elitists in a practical sense...the more elitist they are the faster they get through a raid. Making a raider's life easier (by providing something they need) is a sure way to be accepted, and maybe even praised, by your guild. Your mileage may vary.
The opposite side of the guidl spectrum are social and levelling guilds. In general, levelling guilds are very large (one I am in has 160 members and it started just a week ago) and cover a wide spectrum of levels. Usually there are 5-6 times as many lowbies as higher level (60-80) people. Since the birth of achievements, there is massive amounts of coddling as well, with everyone congratulating one another for even minor achievements. While this is not my style, it does encourage levelling, at least in my guild. Additionally, lowbies expect (and usually get, if not through some arm twisting) support in the form of gold and instance runs. Instance running is something I will do for free for guildies if I have the time, but I never give away gold. I am constantly pestered (because my main is lvl 80) for gold, usually for ludicrous reasons.
What this says about MMORPG society: Simply put, it says that people who are given an easier option will always try to take it, usually to their detriment. For example, i one was playign with a new player, and I had helped her with a quest here or there, but she kept complaining that she had died while trying to run instances. Because she had only even been run through instances by a higher level, she didn't realize that they were meant to be group content. Similarly, one of my guild members kept asking me for 50 gold (he was in the low 20s). He claimed to need it for a class skill (which, obviously, no class skill costs 50 gold at that level, maybe respeccing talents, but if he's up to 50 gold on that he should stop until a later level). I do not give him the gold, and later find out he's trying to get it to buy a blood elf bandit mask (we're alliance, so they are expensive novelty items). This was his main character and he had no concept of money at all.
This, I feel, is the largest problem with MMORPG society. Helping people is one matter, but doing it all for them is quite another. I am an old grizzled vetran of this game. I have had to PUG my way through 60 levels of content (except when I was fortunate enough to have my four friends on, and we rocked everything because we had base competancy). I have had to learn to use every ability because I had to be a functioning member of instance groups as well as soloing. I also knew the value of every gold piece, because I had to gather and save for both an epic 60 mount pre-TBC, and for an epic flyer pre-wotlk. I also remember the *hard* reputation grinds, which are nothing like these much easier TBC and laughable WOTLK ones.
I am not trying to say that I am better because I am a vetran, I am saying I am better because I had to learn how to play. The end result of hand-holding and gold-giving is lvl 80s who are always broke, and don't know how to act in an instance group. I can't count how many party members have wanted to go faster and faster through an instance because they are used to run-throughs only taking fifteen minutes (as opposed to instance groups which take an hour or so). I also can't count the number of dps classes who are unable to control their aggro because they never had to, and because they want to look good on their damage meters (as a tank or off-tank, this is frustrating). Also, healers who cannot competantly heal shouldn't bother trying. I have wiped more times because healer either cannot conserve mana, or don't know what spells to use. The end result of these guild types is an incompetant player who will have a hard reality check later in the game, which doesn't help anyone.
That concludes my discourse on guilds. More coming up on PVP and the dreaded general chat.
If you want to contact me in game, here are the characters I play the most:
Rodserd, Cenarius, Alliance-side
Thundin, Cenarius, Horde-side
Darkkthunder, Darkspear, Horde-side