This article documents the life cycle of a sim/online role-playing club. Please note, this is a guide and the development of actual clubs may deviate from this. In addition, development is not linear, as this article might suggest. Rather, clubs could jump from stage to stage, perhaps 'fall' from a higher stage (such as maturity) into a lower one (such as development), pull itself together (such as out of decline and into maturity), or never evolve past a certain stage.
All clubs are founded - either officially or unofficially. There may be a grand plan to start a club, or sims purposely leave one club to start their own. Alternatively, people might just start simming, not intending to become a club, but they nevertheless grow and become one.
Leaders may work behind the scenes for months to put everything in order before the official founding, but once an official announcement or decision to found is made, it is important to move quickly. People must be recruited and organized, a guidebook written, a website created, and the first sim held, all in a matter of weeks. Long delays cause the club to lose momentum and credibility.
After a club holds its first sim, it can be considered to have passed from the founding to the primordial stage. This stage is marked by the struggle to develop an identity and rise above the week to week struggle for survival.
During this stage, the club needs to focus on having fun, well run sims, recruiting and natural growth, making a name for itself, and establishing a basic community (usually in the form of a guidebook, periodic logs and newsletters, and occasional special events). It should shun mergers and have a vision for where it wants to go - otherwise the club will drift along following whatever comes its way.
The club in this stage will also face numerous challenges. Troublemakers may appear with alarming frequency and some members will challenge the leadership until the leadership and club establishes itself and gains respect. The senior staff may fight among itself, especially if there are personality clashes, or if there are different ideas for the direction of the club, if the main leader is weak, or if leadership is spread among too many people in the club (the too many chiefs, not enough Indians syndrome).
Recruiting for a primordial club may be difficult, but this can be overcome if its members buy into the club, enjoy its sims, and bring their friends to the club.
Clubs in this stage are also frequently tempted to create elaborate websites, develop grand schemes to become a massive club, or engage in other activities that have no bearing on the immediate needs to have fun, well run sims, recruit, and make a name for itself.
After a period of three to six months, most primordial clubs have either collapsed (or are on their way to), have moved into the takeoff stage and are on their way to becoming a large club, or have equalized as a small club and are moving into the development stage.
The takeoff stage can occur at any time, and some clubs may experience several takeoff periods during its life. The takeoff stage is marked by rapid, almost exponential growth, during which the clubs membership doubles and maybe even doubles again in a very short time (a month if the club is small at the outset, several months if the club is larger).
More to come...