Clan Theory 101

Clan Theory 101

Back to school!

The concept of “Clan Theory” has existed in my head for quite some time developing most at those times I have nothing better to think about such as when mowing the lawn, attending a lecture, or driving to school. Many blades of cut grass later this idea has developed into a somewhat robust understanding of how groups in the gaming world work. Based on my own experiences as a semi-successful clan leader, I have come to the conclusion that there are five basic types of clans in the gaming world that have vastly different levels of success, longevity, and resources. In this article, mainly for my own entertainment and because I just enjoy writing from time to time, I will overview each one of the five “tiers” of clans I have identified and talked about from time to time beginning with the least organized tier 1 clans and proceeding in order all the way to the most established tier 5 clans. It is my hope that even just a few other people will find my ideas relate-able, of interest, and at the very least a source of enjoyable reading.


Tier 1 clans, what I have dubbed as “Weekend Warrior” clans make up the first and lowest tier in the gaming hierarchy and are characterized by nonexistent or extremely minimal structure, inter-member cohesion, and leadership. These clans are always spontaneously formed at the spur of the moment, typically by people fairly new to gaming who don’t yet fully grasp the concept of clans or by those players who do not care to be submissive to existing clans but think it would be cool that have their own clan. This type of clan rarely persists longer than a few weekends. Those few tier 1 clans that do exist beyond this time-frame are generally capable of transitioning to tier 2 status as the main difference between the two tiers is longevity and the persistence of core members. Tier 1 clans have no traditional voice communication system in place. The only means they have are through in game communication, xfire, etc. These clans also enter into matches they are not prepared for on a whim just to see what they are like and generally get embarrassingly defeated. Recruiting is also an area of serious deficiency for tier 1s as experienced or valuable players will rarely take interest in joining or will “fake join” just for kicks to mess with what they see as a joke of a clan. Even those few players who may be legitimately interested in investing in a new clan are frequently deterred by the difficulties of joining an organization with no structure which leads to confusion from members not actually knowing who is a member and who is not. Regardless of the challenges this tier presents, clans that fail to move up from this tier will fail within weeks.


The tier 2 clan is a more developed version of the prior tier. They have made the effort to expand and have shown an eagerness to succeed and as a result a discernible structure is now taking shape. These clans still lack the resources to do anything other than create a free forum or simple static webpage but the addition of these abilities is an important step as it finally allows for some structure to take shape lifting the group out of the tier 1 chaos it used to call home. A clear power structure can now be seen through the use of forums and a list of members typically in forum post form eliminate much of the confusion there is with membership in a tier 1. The addition of a central forum now allows for coordination amongst members and now provides a place for recruiting to take place. However without any sort of game server it is still a struggle to recruit as most clans with active game servers aggressively defend their exclusive rights to recruiting so tier 2 clans are limited to recruiting at their own risk or in public demo servers. Tier 2 clans also remain vulnerable to players “fake joining” although it is not quite as frequent a problem at this level. Despite the advances made by clans in this tier, they still rarely persist beyond a months time without failing completely or advancing to the next tier. Plentiful evidence of this exists and can be found with a simple Google search for common clan names resulting in a few of the thousands of abandoned freewebs sites and free forums that litter the net. Tiers 2s like tier 1 siblings are not destination tiers, they are merely steps on the way to a more stable existence or failure.


Tier 3 is where things start to get interesting, clans that reach this level of development cease the near static existence of the lower tiers and begin to dynamically grow. They gain the ability to adapt to changes and withstand challenges that would destroy a lower clan. This is also the tier where clans begin to earn some brand recognition. They start to be noticed, respected, and taken seriously by the game community at large. A suitable structure to foster serious growth finally appears at this stage, access to tangible resources becomes available. Most of these clans have a well established forum although generally they are still free forums at a subdomain of a free ad based host ( and have abandoned the amateur freewebs style website in favor of just the forum. However there are a few clans at this level that will host their own website and forum professionally but they are very much the exception and not the rule. By far and away though just a simple free forum provides for the basic needs of this tier. This tier also sees the first purchases of top level domain names ( for clan use, an important step toward serious brand recognition for a clan and enabling an easy way to funnel traffic to their site due to the short and memorable nature of top level domain names. This tier is the first time that voice communication software becomes part of the clan structure. The resources are now also available to rent a voice server be it Teamspeak, Ventrilo, or some other solution. This is a key attribute of a tier 3 clan, the ability to easily communicate via voice. It allows for actual success to be found in matches and in general it significantly improves the structure of the clan by fostering improved interaction, a friendly environment, and a dramatically increased feeling of community not seen in lower tiers.


The 2xS clan is an example of a tier 3 clan frequenting a tier 4 clan’s server and contributing to their success.

Tier 3 organizations still either by choice or inability depend on other clans for game servers to play on but they are a recognizable group on the servers they frequent and have the ability to significantly alter the balance of power in gameplay sometimes heavily stacking one side. However their presence is usually highly beneficial to the clan that runs the server by providing some form of consistency to the server as regulars and by their members being easily recognized as players who “know what they are doing”. This recognition can also improves the ability to recruit members which at this level transitions from the clan seeking new members to players seeking to join the clan. Additionally these clans may also begin to test the waters when it comes to server hosting. This may take the form of a small lightly used public server or a match server for the clan to use. At tier 3 clans have reached a destination and moving to higher tiers is no longer a necessity to survive but now becomes optional. Clans can exist indefinitely at this level although most will burn out or transition to a higher tier within one to six months of reaching this tier. These are successful clans that tend to leave lasting impacts on the gaming community corners they contribute to.


Now enters the tier 4 clan, these are highly respected, well developed, and  successful clans that have a far reaching impact on the game communities in which they exist. This tier has the resources to define entire styles of gameplay through means of game server hosting where they control mods, custom maps, and enforce their own rules. They can count on the donations from members and even from those in the community who just enjoy the clan’s contributions to support their servers. These clans have well developed and heavily used professionally hosted forum and website as well as robust voice server capabilities however they are still somewhat dependent on a game server provider. An occasional few enterprising tier 4 clans make attempts to host more things in-house reducing their dependence on outside providers and improving their ability to do things that regular providers might not typically allow. These clans are typically inundated with more applications than they can handle which affords them the luxury of picking and choosing only those players they are really interested in. Once a clan reaches tier 4 status they really cannot regress to a lower tier since once they gain tier 4 influence it is quite difficult to lose that recognition. Even in death people still recall the clan name and recognize former members. The latter characteristic is something interesting in and of itself that I have called the “Tier 4 Effect” and will likely be the subject of a future article. Tier 4 clans are typically highly ambitious and are often unsatisfied with tier 4 status and aggressively pursue the resources to permit them to reach the tier 5 pinnacle of the clan hierarchy. The length of time these clans exist is no longer measured in months but years. It should be noted that the amount of time typically needed to reach tier 4 status exceeds the average time of existence of a tier 3 clan at around six months time although it can be achieved in less time with a little luck and fortunate timing. Finally, in this tier you start to see the development of maps, articles such as this one, mods, and other original content that is absent in lower tiers. This tier is full of some of the most successful, persistent, and recognizable groups in gaming. They don’t just impact, they define the gaming community.


Tier 5 clan 7th Calvalry has the resources to have a live recruiter 24/7. Oddly he was offline when I got this.

Upon reaching the fifth and highest tier clans are no longer just clans, they are “gaming corporations”. Tier 5 clans share many of the same characteristics found in tier 4 clans but they differ in scope by an order of magnitude. These are very large and extraordinarily influential juggernauts. Their websites can pull more traffic than some commercial businesses are capable of sometimes measuring traffic in the millions of hits. These clans have extensive resources and pull in almost as much money from outside donors as they can from members. Some tier 5 clans pull in over 5K in donations each month. According to one of our members, Lipton, some of these clans even set aside some donations to purchase parts for members who cannot afford to upgrade their systems on their own.


A demonstration of the tier 5 clan 82nd Airbourne’s multiple successful servers.

Tier 5 clans are not dependent on on a game server provider but rather own or rent an entire dedicated server(s) to run whatever they please. They host multiple large and sometimes heavily modded public servers in several different games that will generally see heavy usage. These servers only serve to push the clans image further and further. Recruitment is once again a challenge at this level but for completely different reasons that other tiers. There are simply too many applications and they are drowned with them. Most tier 5 clans are forced to resort to mass denials based on very trivial things just to be able to manage their recruitment. With memberships that almost always exceed one hundred players these clans can often see sub groups form within the parent clan with some member never even interacting with all the other members but these are typically kept in check with a robust chain of command that keeps everything securely under the control of the governing leadership be it an individual or a council. Very very few clans ever reach this level of development in part because the time just to reach this level can easily exceed a years time. Most tier 5 clans have been in existence for over five years time, few are younger. This tier is made up of only the most insanely successful clans. Their names are nearly household within the gaming community and they are recognized on hearsay alone.


I do hope this piece has broadened understanding of the gaming community and perhaps brought a realization that there is a lot more to gaming than people often recognize. Being a member of a successful gaming clan is not only fun but it can have a valuable impact on ones life outside of gaming. I hope to continue to release content of this nature that takes a unique look at aspects of gaming that are often overlooked or ignored.


- PWH “Wright”

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Posted in Best of Elite, Gaming Wright, News | 8 Comments

8 Comments on “Clan Theory 101”
Comment #323

"Michael" (Anonymous Member)

nicely said. Good way to put the the different types of clans down on paper. From my experience, this is what most people basically follow. You know who the “weekend warriors” are and who the top notches are. Nice job, i believe in my eyes we are definitely a top clan, i don’t want to sound arrogant or narcissistic but its what i have seen over the 3 years i have been in this FIVE year old clan. I remember clans like the ones Luis made which sucked a big wiener that everyone knew was a clan just made up. And then you saw clans like ~El!te and -=USAF=- and thought wow and bringing them back up you remember everyone and past scrims with them. I want to say thanks for everything you guys, its fun to play with you all and joke around like real friends. I definitely will miss these times when, if i ever stop gaming. I hope you all too have had fun over the years and regret nothing. Good Luck and I wish the best to everyone and their future endeavors.

July 7th, 2011, 5:04 pm
Comment #324


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Thanks Michael, who are you exactly though I know many Michaels?

July 7th, 2011, 5:10 pm
Comment #325

"Michael" (Anonymous Member)

someone whom you know but will never guess.

July 8th, 2011, 6:14 am
Comment #326


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Tulkas is my best guess. But other than that I have no idea.

July 8th, 2011, 11:32 am
Comment #387


Nicely done, as I am going to run a clan with two other people, I have been gathering information on “clan theory”. In example what makes a successful clan, how they are able to breach other games but keep their founding principles the same etc.

September 12th, 2011, 4:03 pm
Comment #388


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Thanks for the positive feedback. There is more writing on the subject to come in the future as well as several other topics.

September 12th, 2011, 4:19 pm
Comment #486


Thanks so much very helpful I added this page to my favorites

December 5th, 2012, 10:53 pm
Comment #487


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Thanks for the feedback. I am going to do a follow up piece sometime in the future, gaming has been changing and some of the theories here no longer hold completely true. It is possible for a clan to be grow and become highly successful with no server at all.

December 5th, 2012, 10:58 pm

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