In some genres, but especially in FPSs, teams of players are often called clans. Why was this specific word chosen?

This is in contrast to guild or faction in RPGs, but here I can see why - they are analogous to actual guilds or factions within the lore or setting.

Clan however doesn't make much sense to me. The word itself implies kinship, and doesn't really fit with the typical FPS themes during the rise of online gaming - mid-to-late 90's - which were mainly sci-fi or militaristic.

Was there an influential game or community that first used clan (and why), and it simply spread? Or is there some other reason why this word was chosen?

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    I think you're mistaken, I know many games that use the word "clans", none of which are FPS games. I think "guild" and "clan" are used more or less interchangeably. Mar 3, 2015 at 23:30
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    @MooingDuck I didn't say they were restricted to the FPS genre. Read the question carefully. Also, I'm not aware of any specific games where the two are actually interchangeable, usually in one game, they are all called clans or guilds, not both. Clan just happens to be the usual choice for FPS games, guild in (some) RPGs and so on. Mar 3, 2015 at 23:52
  • I didn't mean they were interchangeable in a single game, sorry to be unclear on that. But I don't think clan is the usual choice for FPS either. Your question is a good one, I just think you should remove the implication that there's a correlation between "clan" and FPS. (Of course, I could be entirely mistaken. Wikipedia implies you're right, that more FPS use "clan" and other genres use other terms) Mar 4, 2015 at 0:16
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    @MooingDuck I don't understand why I should not imply the FPS/clan correlation. To reiterate, in my experience most FPS teams are called clans, but many non-FPS games also use the word clan. In fact, I know of no FPS game which doesn't call them clans; Doom, Quake, Half life, Halo, CoD... Mar 4, 2015 at 0:31
  • I believe clans extend to RTS too. Guilds tend to have more of a story behind them, an identity if you wish, that fits in directly with the nature of RPGs. Clans are more a collection of people just out to beat another team/clan competitively.
    – user101016
    Mar 4, 2015 at 3:10

2 Answers 2


As far as I am aware, the use of the term "clan" to refer to a group of players of a game was popularized by Quake.

Quake's multiplayer capabilities were pivotal to the nascent e-sports scene along the broadening availability of broadband internet, so it was one of (if not the) first FPS around which competitive and co-operative groups would form, communicate and self-identify on a scale that only the internet could foster.

The name likely came from Quake's gothic, medieval feel, although I can find no concrete information on who first coined the term. It has persisted as a common group moniker for FPS games since Quake itself was an FPS.

The concept of a calling a group of players something like a "clan" or "guild," however, is definitely older than Quake (references to guilds with "guild tags" can be found in Computer Gaming World back issues from the 1980s, specifically issue #29, in an article about Island of Kesmai, a CompuServe MUD).

  • It may also be relevant that "clan" is easy to type, and perhaps even that only color was used to distinguish teams in-game. Mar 4, 2015 at 18:51

The terminology "clan" is derived from the two different factions of the PC game "MechWarrior 2" released in 1995. (Quake was release 1996) The player could choose to be a member of one of two clans, either Clan Jade Falcon or Clan Wolf. Later more Clans from "Battletech Universe" could be selected.

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    Sounds plausible, but do you have a source for this? I'd be surprised if it's possible to precisely pin down the phrase's origin...
    – Alex
    May 12, 2015 at 16:06
  • My source is my first hand experience (yes, I am that old :-) in 1995 there were three games for LAN-matches that everyone played: DOOM2, Descent and Mechwarrior. For Mechwarrior there was an expansion called NetMech which allow up to 8 player to battle. Because there were only 2 factions in Mechwarrior, players had to choose one Clan.
    – radwar
    May 13, 2015 at 6:47

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