“Casual” is not a four-letter word
Blogger’s Note: I intended for this to be a relatively short post, inspired by the fact that one of my guild’s Casual Raiders recently asked me to change the name of her rank since the word “casual” has negative connotations in the WoW community. It ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated, so I’m going to break it into parts. I realize the theme has been done to death, but it’s become an issue again in my guild (there was a /gquit last night, and I’m expecting at least one more to come), so it’s very much on my mind.
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My guild has two raiding ranks: Core Raider and — until recently — Casual Raider.
Core does not refer to “hardcore”; no one I play with is serious enough about raiding to want or deserve that particular distinction! Even the members of the (thankfully defunct) Cool Kid’s Club are pretty casual in terms of actual playtime. The ret paladin has season tickets and would rather miss a raid than a game. The mage-turned-resto-druid-turned-mage-again is two hours ahead of the server and has a firm bedtime. Even our single-highest attendance raider, who likes to boast that he’s the most “hardcore” among us, took three months off in the middle of our T5/T6 progression to concentrate on school.
Yes. Hardcore. Likes a Maltipoo on a fox hunt.
No, in this context, “core” means exactly that: the dozen or so raiders who form the core of my raiding team. These are the players I know I can count on to attend more raids than they miss and always keep me in the loop when their plans and priorities change. Most of them have my cell phone number; the few who don’t live in other countries*, but can still reach me via MSN or G-mail.
I use a two-tiered rank system to differentiate these Core Raiders from our much larger pool of Casual Raiders: players who can’t commit to a set raid schedule — often because of school, work or family commitments — but are welcome and encouraged to sign up for those raids they can attend. I can’t promise them spots in every raid, because I won’t displace a Core Raider for a Casual Raider, but our roster is such that I need at least some of my Casual Raiders to show up for each raid in order to get it off the ground.
As a whole, I depend on my Casual Raiders every bit as much as I depend on my Core Raiders. I just can’t depend on them individually, but such is the nature of their membership in the guild. They may or may not be available on any given raid night, and I may or may not have spots for them when they are.
Flexibility for flexibility.
It’s a fair arrangement, but it comes with its share of frustrations — for both sides, but especially for me: the one person in the guild charged with the task of reconciling everyone’s individual needs with the raid’s overarching one.
The Casual Perspective
If I can only raid one day a week, then I want to raid – not ride the bench. It isn’t my fault that I can’t raid as often as everyone else; I shouldn’t be penalized for having a life. After all, I work just as hard on my gear as everyone else … sometimes even harder, because I can’t count on farming Naxx for all of my upgrades. I’ve been a member of the guild forever, contribute to the community in immeasurable ways and am always, always willing to help other guildmembers outside of raids, even when it cuts into my limited playtime.
I understand this; believe me, I do! If I had only a few hours a week to raid, then I imagine I would want to spend them raiding too, and could easily become resentful of those who are able to do more in-game simply by virtue of the fact that they have a seemingly unlimited amount of time in which to do it.
I also think there’s some merit to the thought that casual raiders (by my guild’s definition) have to put some extra effort into keeping their gear up-to-date. For those of us who attend every raid, gearing up becomes a group effort; the guild even provides gems and enchanting materials for most main-spec upgrades. In contrast, those who are only able to step in for a few bosses each week are often handicapped by our EPGP system (which rewards time as well as effort) and at the mercy of the RNG. There is an abundance of gear available outside of 25-man raids — crafted epics, BoE’s, badge and reputation rewards and even Heroic and 10-man drops — but very little of it comes easily, or cheaply, to someone with a limited amount of time to invest in farming.
Because my guild is first and foremost a community, I value the contributions that my casual players make even, and especially, outside of raids. Guild chat is seldom quiet, and is often LOL-funny … not the kind of “lol” you type at the end of a snarky sentence to take the sting out of it, but the kind that makes the dog bark because you find yourself suddenly choking on your Mountain Dew.
The point that I’m trying to make (in my typical, long-winded, replete-with-irreverent-parenthetical-asides fashion) is that our casuals may not come to every progression raid, but they are as much a presence in the guild as our core raiders are. Far from finding them a burden, I want to accommodate them as much as possible — in part I feel obligated to live up to my end of the bargain, but also because I genuinely enjoy raiding with them. As I’ve said many times before, the people make the game for me.
Perfect example: We have an ultra-casual rogue who works on an oil rig and can be out of commission for days and even weeks at a time. He logs on from a laptop to keep in touch, but doesn’t have a stable enough connection to raid; I think he’s come to three or four runs since Wrath was released. But on those rare occasions he is able to join us for a few bosses in Heroic Naxx, he comes armed with enough Comfortable Insoles for the entire raid. Why? Because they’re comfortable, of course! (At one point, he had half of us convinced that they actually decreased durability damage. Quite a few people dove off the cliffs in Mount Hyjal just to test it out. Tyrande was furious.)
I can’t imagine a guild without Testybones or his Comfortable Insoles. I’m sure they exist, and do quite well … but I wouldn’t want to be a part of one.
Next: The Core Perspective