A meta-guild -- i.e., a guild with a presence across a number of virtual worlds and/or MMOs -- allows a group to share their experiences of gameplay in various environments, and eases the process of traveling among such worlds for the individual. I don't play CoH/V, but members of my EVE Online corporation do. As a result, I have a good idea of what the game is like (a better idea than I can get from the press), and I'd have an instant group of co-adventurers should I decide to join, a group which would provide me with tips and aid to speed the process of my getting acclimated (and grinding out my time there).
But just as such groups can serve to funnel information out of virtual worlds to their members, they can also serve to bring information about the group into the virtual world, if the group culture is strong enough. One such culture is that which has arisen on SomethingAwful.com, a Web site devoted to general Internet outrageousness, satire and irreverence of all things . . . well, of all things, really, let's leave it at that.
The rule on SA seems to be, If it exists, it exists to be made fun of. There are some extremely creative minds on the site and in the accompanying forums, and if you can stomach some occasional political incorrectness, juvenilia and scatology, it can be an amusing place to check in. (Try the Missed Connections in World of Warcraft page, for instance.
What fascinates me about SA culture is the way it's manifested itself in the Something Awful meta-guild. The "Goons," as they're known, have a presence in World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Second Life, CoH/V and a number of other games, in most of which they're very active. (There are more than 90,500 users registered on their forums.) In each case that I know of, the edge-of-offensive SA forum culture (sometimes way over the edge) has replicated itself in the native terms of the world in which they're playing, creating what are to me some really interesting examples of emergent gameplay.
In Second Life, the Something Awful Goons are known as "W-Hats," after a forum meme that would get you banned for using the word "what." Members and past members of the W-Hat groups there have been responsible for some of the most outrageous builds in all the virtual world -- including satirizations of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the assassination attempt on the pope. They are also among the most creative and talented builders and scripters in the world, however. A rotating gallery of their creations can be found in the Baku region.
Being outrageous in Second Life is no great accomplishment, to be sure. More interesting to me is the GoonSwarm alliance in EVE Online, which boasts almost 2,600 pilots (or about 1,500 players, by EVE alt averages). While the Goons can't help but hew to EVE's game mechanics, they do so in their own way: they make gleeful zergling suicide runs at enemies and are regularly accused of using exploits to gain an edge. They color as far outside the lines as the game will let them -- as they do everywhere. The in-game profile of one Goon I encountered in EVE summed it up nicely (I paraphrase): "You may be playing EVE Online, but be warned: we are playing Something Awful."
That profile line is very telling: For the Goons, it's Goon culture that comes first, and game culture a not-very-close second. Is this somehow a failing of the games currently available? Is it a mark of how strong the SA culture actually is? Outrageousness aside, is this a desirable condition for a meta-guild? If so, is it something developers could build for or seek somehow to promote? Or would that merely extend the boundaries, and necessitate even more creativity from those who will always seek to bring something more to a virtual world than the world itself could ever offer?