“Casual” is not a four-letter word

March 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm 10 comments

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.

*   *   *

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.

Awww.

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 

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Entry filed under: WoW. Tags: , .

Gonna Go When The Volcano Blows! Tagged! What’s in a name?

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Crucifer  |  March 19, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    There will always be a significant issue with any type of categorization of people.

    In the run up to start raiding 25mans in The Burning Crusades, we had a Team A and a Team B. Both teams were filled with good players, but for some reason Team A had a lot more applicants than Team B. People had assumed that Team A was better because Team A came first, and that they were an Alpha group (or even a reference to A-Team). Team B, on the other hand, was a second-rate group and therefore the chances of succeeding was not as likely.

    In the end, the titles of the team were changed to suit the names of the leaders of each team, and predictably, applications began to even out.

    With the argument between Core and Casual, Core may not refer to “hardcore” but it may refer to the nature of the person in the guild and their status. By definition, you suggest that if a Core person leaves the guild, they would get a larger fanfare than a Casual – because a Core puts more time into the guild. A Casual, on the other hand, may put less time in, but may equally put more effort in, by trying to keep up with “The Cores”.

    I’ve always thought of my guild-mates in two seperate terms – Family and Raiders, since the title Family cannot be misconstrued to being less-loved. Raiders, on the other hand, are happy to be thought of performing a function. Occasionally, people can swap betwen the two titles as there is plenty of grey area for ambiguity.

    Reply
  • 2. Tessy  |  March 20, 2009 at 12:38 am

    My guild is similar to yours, with a full spectra from people who raid with the guild on our runs twice a week and go pugging the other five days to people who never raid, and all of them are vital parts of our community. But balancing the wishes of people with such different in-game goals and not mire yourself in endless discussions is tricky, to say the least.

    So I am most interested in reading about your insights in this series of yours!

    Reply
  • 3. kyrilean  |  March 20, 2009 at 6:01 am

    I don’t know that this is possible, as I certainly never seemed to succeed, but convincing the casuals that gear upgrades should initially go to the core group to allow progression is in their best interests is pretty difficult. It’s true, but it’s difficult to get them to see that.

    It’s also difficult to convince them that the core raiders need to be in the raid, in part because of their gear, but also because of their ability to commit and general experience.

    On the other hand, it’s also difficult to convince some of the core raiders that the casuals are every bit as important as the core raiders. I like how you said “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.” I’ve never been able to express that thought quite as concisely as you have.

    I used to often sit out of raids to allow casuals or other core raiders to go to raids I desperately wanted to be a part of. Why? Because it was good for the morale of the guild. Getting some of your core raiders to sit out of raids for casuals like your oil-rig rogue is probably pretty important given his schedule. I’m sure he’s a valued member of your guild and trying to accomodate his schedule whenever possible is a good thing, given that he understands that it can’t always be done.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • 4. Fulguralis  |  March 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I love irreverant parenthetical asides. It’s sort of what I live for. That and burning small animals.

    For an over-beaten dead horse… I like where this is going 🙂

    Reply
  • 5. Oriniwen  |  March 20, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Parenthetical asides are where it’s at 🙂

    (I know, I make exceedingly liberal use of them all the dang time)

    That being said, we have *exactly* the same issue in our guild, and what we did is ended up making two ranks. One rank is “raider” and one rank is “dedicated”. The idea is that everyone in the guild is a raider, but there are a select few who reallygive everything they have and then some to the guild and our raids, and they’re the Dedicated folks.

    The Dedicated rank is hard to get, hard to maintain, comes with some pretty nice perks and is not automatically awarded to officers. I think (hope!) that in my gild this has created less of a feeling of “casual” versus “hardcore” but of everyone being pretty on the level, with a few people really putting in effort above and beyond.

    We also have a “Friends n Family” rank that ranks below alts an initiates. This rank is for people we love, and who are important to (as our website says) “the success and happiness of the guild and the members in it” but are not raiders. Or at least, not primarily raiders.

    All the best of luck and I lurrrrrrve the puppy picture 🙂

    Reply
  • 6. Veneretio  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:17 am

    It’s clear you’re among the core raiders and it’s great that you get that you’re dependent on them just as much as your core raiders, but that doesn’t mean they are respected the same.

    I know you want them to be okay with the casual title, but the reality is they aren’t and they’re right that it comes with negative overtones in the wow community as a whole. Oriniwen’s guilds really seems like they get it since they changed it to “Dedicated” and “Raider”.

    Perception can be just as damaging or disrespectful as truth. I hope that the phrase “until recently” means you change the name of the title to something else.

    Even in this article, there’s a struggle with how to truly show a Casual raider as being respected and while, your example shows admiration… it doesn’t quite show the kind of respect “casual” players are looking for usually.

    Casual players have always lived with this stigma that their contribution is “in other ways”. Humour… or being the joke of the raid… is one of those “other ways”, but at the end of the day, it’s still a dividing point not a building point. Casual players as much as they use the line of “I contribute in other ways!” really want to be wanted for how they contribute during a raid and as such want the opportunity to show that they can.

    A lot of casual players basically live by the mantra that, they’re casual in their attendance, but hardcore in their participation. Now of course the trouble is… a lot of them don’t actually live up to this even though they’d like to think they do.

    It sounds like what you want Core and Casual to mean is time commitment, but what you’re actually saying with those ranks is one is superior to the other. After all, the Core rank is higher in the guild than the Casual one… isn’t it? (Ask yourself, why does it have to be?)

    Were I in your position I’d change the ranks to be simply, “High Attendance” and “Moderate Attendance” and wouldn’t even have raider in the title at all. The rank is there to show time commitment, so no need to make it out to be more than that is.

    On the execution side, if you really depend on your casual raiders then you need to start sitting out your core raiders if you haven’t been already. Part of showing that you need them just as much as your core raiders isn’t by juggling them in a rotation between themselves, but also showing that somedays you’re willing to sit your consistent folk for your inconsistent ones. It’s a delicate process, but I’m certain you’ve got some core folk that are happy to sit out occasionally and it shows a lot of respect for your casual raiders. Try even inviting your casual raiders first to the raid.

    Yes, it’s all mind games, but it’s all about perception.

    Reply
    • 7. Elleiras  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm

      @Veneretio – We changed the ranks to Core Raider and, simply, Raider. Our new structure is very similar to the one Oriniwen described: our core raiders have stricter attendance and performance requirements, but also receive some definite perks — including a guaranteed raid spot. (We also have a Friends & Family rank, but it’s for non-raiders.)

      If a core raider volunteers to sit out so one of our lower-attendance raiders can sub in, that’s fine. Great! I’ll even award him (or her) a percentage of raid EP as an incentive. But I just can’t justify wait-listing someone who attends every raid and endures all the frustrations that come part-in-parcel with an ever-changing roster (undermanning instances when no casuals show up, retraining new raiders on bosses they’ve never seen before, continuously passing on gear because it’s a better upgrade for someone who may not raid again for weeks, etc.). I understand that rotating my casuals in is good for their morale, but it’s absolutely horrible for core morale — and warm and fuzzies aside, it’s the core raiders who get us through the majority of content.

      All other things being equal, someone who raids once a week makes exactly one-third the contribution of someone who raids three times a week … so while my casual hunter is just as important as my core hunter in every raid she participates in, she makes no contribution at all in the raids she isn’t able to attend. Her contribution to the guild comes in “other ways” (posting in the forums, participating in guild chat, running 10-mans and heroics, etc.). I don’t think it denigrates her at all to acknowledge that. It’s not a judgment; it’s a fact.

      Rereading your comments (and writing through the next post), I’ve come to realize that part of the disconnect in our opinions comes from the fact that you’re defining “casual raider” as someone who fulfills that “casual in attendance, hardcore in participation” mantra. That actually describes my core raiders more than my casuals. We’re all pretty casual in attendance, currently raiding only four or five hours a week (because that’s all it takes to clear the entire content). Even in full-on progression mode, we limit our raiding to two evenings (3 hours) and one weekend afternoon (4 hours), with a 66% attendance requirement for core raiders. My more casual raiders show up once a week, at most; some disappear for weeks at a time and their gear suffers accordingly.

      I’m also starting to recognize a third class of raider that isn’t named explicitly in my ranks … but I’ll expand on that in the next post. 🙂

      Reply
  • 8. Elleiras  |  March 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    What happened to my threaded comments? Why dost thou hate me, WordPress? Why?!

    *ahem*

    @Crucifer – We actually have a “Family” rank, too, but it’s for non-raiders … like the resto druid who is bound and determined to stack haste and thinks Rejuvenation is the only spell in his arsenal. /facepalm (I can’t ‘kick him. He’s my little brother! But after the three hundredth time he “lost” the link I sent him to Resto4Life, I gave up on ever taking him through Naxx…)

    You make a good point about gray areas, too. Raiding ranks do tend to be fluid, so it’s a bad idea to make generalizations about them … although I realize that’s exactly what I’m doing in exploring the contrasting perspectives. :S

    @Tessy – There’s herding cats, and then there’s JUGGLING cats. Look out! They scratch– owww.

    (Sorry, l’m on my 12th consecutive day in the office and going quite out of my mind. Nerf work.)

    @Kyriliean – You’re a good man. (Why aren’t you Horde, again?) I haven’t been able to bring myself to sit out graciously … mostly because I’m a control freak and am absolutely convinced that something will go disasterously wrong if I’m not there to prevent it. (I’m working on it.)

    Like I told Veneretio, I have a really hard time asking core raiders to sit out when they feel (and I agree) that they’ve earned their spots. I guess it’s the one downside of building a guild around players who enjoy raiding for its own sake, and not merely for the phat loots (as WI would say). Even those raiders who are fortunate enough to have BiS everything are reluctant to sit out simply because it’s more fun to raid than not raid.

    That said, the nice thing about having 10-man raids in addition to 25-man’s is that we can schedule them around our casuals, whereas the 25-man raids tend to be scheduled around the core (out of necessity). I have two raid-worthy characters, and can use them to raid in the more intimate environment that 10-mans provide with as many different players — including casuals — as possible.

    @Fulguralis – You are a warlock after my own heart! I bet you try to toast your orphans during orphan week, too. ❤

    Rain of Fire ftw.

    @Oriniwen – That’s the direction we want to go in, too. I’m not entirely happy with “Core Raider” and “Raider,” but the idea is the same. I’m glad it worked for you guys; it gives me hope!

    P.S. The entire blogpost was an excuse to look at cute puppy pictures at work. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

    Reply
  • 9. Tara  |  March 22, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Yeah, I was feeling a little like you would label me “casual” because I can’t make my guilds raids (I work a lot). But I lead an alternate Naxx10 raid every few weeks, know all the fights, am mostly in iLvll 213 gear and wouldn’t consider my attendance at any raid to be a liability (one time I was in a Naxx25 PUG on my shadow priest alt and they ended up giving me raid leader because I was explaining everything better than anyone else). I’m not in the “core raider” group because I can only play super late at night. So I don’t know how you’d classify someone like me, but I don’t consider myself casual. (I think having 2 epic’d out 80 is kinda the opposite of casual, lol).

    But your point about casual being a dirty word is definitely taken, look at me getting up-in-arms that someone might consider me casual!

    Reply
  • 10. Daniel  |  March 22, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I am a casual player and I think your logic makes perfect sense. The flip side to “flexibility for flexibility” is structure for structure. And that is fair. Those people who can commit to playing regularly get rewarded with a regular spot, those who don’t, don’t.

    It seems to be that the people who are complaining are people who want to be rewarded with a raid spot for effort that they put in outside of raids. I think that’s wrong. And it’s wrong on two fronts. The first and most important error is that raiding is seen as a reward. That’s the heart of the problem. What these people are really saying is that the really cool kids raid and then they can’t raid and so they feel like they are not really cool kids. I suspect it’s less the raiding that matters to them than the fact that they are accepted as an important member of the guild. (Truly, if they cared deeply about raiding they wouldn’t even be in your guild.) My suggestion to you is that you either do something to lessen the perceived importance of raiding in your guild (so people don’t feel so left out) or that you sponsor some other type of guild activity so that people who find that a raid spot is not available have alternative means to feel accepted and important.

    Reply

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