After a lengthy absence from playing military shooters know, against other real people...I recently hopped back in the fray with a tour of duty in Call of Duty: Ghosts. After playing several rounds with a number of different players I was teamed up with four or five players all bearing the same clan tag.

It seemed kind of odd when I saw it...even odder when I say it.


Now, it could be me I suppose but it seems like we've witnessed the rise and decline of the clan. Which is odd considering online gaming continues to grow and prosper. I guess it was the late 1990s into the early 2000s when clans seemed at the height of their popularity. While I was never really an active member of any one clan I did associate with a few of them (for several different games) and always admired some of the more organized and active ones. They trained together...played together...and supported each other. Some of them ran their own game servers and managed their own websites and forums. At one time it was so popular if you saw a fellow player with a clan tag it was almost seen as a status symbol. But all of that seems to have faded. I used to be able to recite the top clans and their rankings, and now when I think of clans I think of, hmm...maybe the Frag Dolls.

Of course the concept of a clan hasn't totally disappeared - I've heard the term tossed around in close proximity to the League of Legends crowd...but the truth is I have no exposure to that, so I don't know if it is still relevant, because I've also heard the word "team" used quite a bit too.

One of my all-time favorite clans was the Emperor's Hammer, a group that has existed since the early to mid-1990s supporting pretty much all of the big Star Wars games from that time. You know, when Star Wars games didn't suck. Games like X-Wing and TIE Fighter and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. It doesn't seem right to call them a clan now, since they have evolved into something more than that. They are divided into a number of sub-groups and even have an internal rank system. They created all sorts of content, from their fleet and tactical manuals to a regularly distributed newsletter. Last time I saw, they numbered in the thousands. The Force was strong with them.

I always preferred the smaller clans with limited rosters and actual try outs, especially when it came to the military shooters. A small core group of gamers who play frequently and get to know each other can be an unbeatable force in combat. Maybe it's the teamwork or camaraderie  associated with a clan I enjoy, but it doesn't hurt to have teammates who can complement your skills, and you theirs (which loosely translates to - someone who can carry me).

Perhaps the turning point can be attributed to online gaming services and friends list. Have PSN and Xbox Live replaced the traditional clan, automated it and made it more transparent? I suppose that could be true. Or maybe it's just the word clan people don't like Are there hundreds of groups out there people are joining instead? I know I seem to get an invite or two every day on Steam...but these aren't like the old clans. They seem more interested in membership numbers than building up a strong team of like-minded gamers who share a similar interest in a particular game.

I kind of hope it isn't the end of the clan. In fact, if anything, I'd like to see resurgence in this element of online gaming. Bring back the team websites and logos and clan tags.

All for one and one for all...