This is a question that keeps popping up in every game I play and guild I join — should there be age limits? Upper, lower, in between?

The younger players, unsurprisingly, usually feel that excluding them from guilds is unfair and rather discriminatory — and they’re right, it is. But game guilds aren’t governed by fair recruitment laws; if a guild wants no members under 25 or no members born in February, it can do as is pleases, provided it can actually enforce its criteria.

This is another issue I’m ambivalent about. On the one hand, chronological age isn’t always a good indicator of maturity; I know plenty of great young people and old asshats. On the other, the simple truth is that I do not always have that much in common with people 20 years younger than me. Our energy levels likely aren’t the same. Their lack of patience usually makes me want to scream, while I’m sure my plodding old codger pace and my determination to “experience” things makes them want to chew their desks. They want everything NOW or it’s not worth having, and a lot of the time they’re not too interested in the journey to getting something — screw the journey, just get me the damned item/quest/phatreward.

Some young players are giant pains in the ass (so are older ones, but usually for different reasons); the younger the player, usually, the less they mind begging for stuff in guild chat, be it items, assistance, time, attention. And if they don’t get it, they often get surly and mutter about people being mean and nobody liking them. Ah, puberty.

The thing is, etiquette isn’t innate, it’s learned, and that goes for MMOs just as much as any other social pastime. Kids have different concepts of doing and having and sharing — asking people to give them stuff isn’t, to them, a gross breach of etiquette … it’s just a reasonable request; if you have lots of money or items and they don’t, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give them some. They’d do the same for you. Wanting things right now isn’t totally subverting the point of the game … it’s sensible. Why spend 4 hours obtaining something when someone can get it for you, or help you get it, in a quarter of the time?

They’re not entirely wrong, either. Sometimes when I beat my head against the time-sink wall of MMO mechanics, I’m sure they’re almost entirely right, in fact. They haven’t been subverted into rats running docilely through the maze they know is there, aiming for cheese that will sustain them for even less time than your average Chinese take-out.

So, yeah. Part of me likes the energy and uncomplicated enjoyment younger players bring to games, which is often blessedly infectious. Another part of me thinks it’s rather hypocritical to rail against “bad” behaviour in games if I’m not prepared to help educate newer/younger players as to what we consider “good” behaviour — while at the same time examining that etiquette for cracks or excessive nicety; not all our MMO rituals are sensible or even relevant anymore. But part of me feels that I spend enough time trying to share, enjoy, and educate in my REAL life, so that when I log into a game, I should have the choice to turn that off and associate only with the kind of people I want, whatever that may be. If that doesn’t include a certain type of person, that’s just the way it is.

However… If I replaced every instance of “young people” with “men” or “European people,” this post wouldn’t be thoughtful, it’d be petty and discriminatory. Not regulated by law, perhaps, but still unfair. I’m quite happy to exclude people based on age or apparent maturity, but I’d go postal if any guild I’m involved in suddenly decided it didn’t want women or French people in it. Isn’t that rather too fine a distinction to be making?

And if so… how am I going to stay patient when my gaming guilds are over-run by teenagers?