14th March 2010 – 4.02 pm

I posted recently about motivations for raiding, which explains why I spent a while raiding. What the post doesn't cover is what made me start raiding in the first place, or why I stopped, and the motivations behind my choices.

In the early end-game of World of Warcraft I was happy to play my warlock, scampering through class raids of Stratholme and Scholomance back when those dungeons allowed ten-man raids, or going on scheduled guild runs through Dire Maul. But there wasn't much else to do. I could level an alt, and although I had a fighter I wanted to play I honestly had no idea what I was doing with her. In the end, I ran out of content to keep me entertained. There were only so many times I could see the same dungeons, or hope the dreadmist mask could drop from Darkmaster Gandling. It never did for my warlock. The options for me were to quit the game, or raid.

Trying to join a raid group was a nervous prospect for me. I can be horribly shy and am reticent when meeting new people. I only found a good guild because the friends of mine who introduced me to the game were also in the guild. And it was only months of being in the guild that let me eventually became comfortable enough to interract with others and become known. And as luck would have it, some other guild members that I knew were beginning to raid, having joined a group that was half-way through Molten Core, the first raid dungeon. I was introduced and invited along to a few raids, but the processes of the raid group, such as invitations and raid times, were opaque to me, being a newbie, and I wasn't enamoured with being treated as just another cog to be used. It was fortunate that a splinter raid group wanted to form from this larger one, not happy with the progress being made. The guild members who invited me in to the original group were also the players who were forming the new group, so I was lucky to get invited in to what became a new and democratic raiding group.

Having decisions made openly and with input from members helped me understand the processes, and I was able to make decisions about how to spend my available time. I was happy to start bashing my head against the brick wall of Molten Core, such as it appears to a group of players mostly new to forty-man raiding, particularly when we start with less than thirty. Getting experience with the trash mobs is an important step, though, and we started gaining that experience whilst recruiting.

It turned out that I was in an unexpectedly privileged position. I was the only warlock in the new raid group, pushing me to the front of every task required of the class. Healthstones, soulstones, and banishes were all my responsibility, as was ensuring my imp was close enough the main tank for the stamina buff to be in effect. In those days, it was an effect limited to the party, not the raid, so I was even placed in the prime party to be with main tanks and healers, and the raid leader. It was purely circumstantial, but gave me a sense of belonging.

Over time, we easily recruited more warlocks. We needed them, not just because of a democratic goal of equal numbers of each class, back when only eight classes were available, but because Garr had eight minions that needed at least four to be controlled by warlocks to give us a hope of defeating that boss. But I almost found myself in a quandry. I was the first warlock, I knew how the raid group worked, I had the most experience. I could quite easily have positioned myself to be the class leader by default, as each class was an autonomous part of the whole raid group, ensuring I get a spot in any raid when I am available and get to do the interesting tasks whilst delegating the more tedious ones to others. But I knew this was both against the spirit and the best interests of the group as a whole, and I also didn't want to be that person. I went the other way.

Rather than set myself up as some kind of leader, I took every step I could, using any authority the others perceived me to have, to instill a feeling of mutual equality. I actively encouraged new recruits to take positions of responsibility and, once they seemed comfortable, to lead the class through the night's raid. I would occasionally offer advice, privately so as not to undermine any authority, and within short time the warlocks were a happy and functional group of equals. It was unfortunate in a way, as I was nothing more than just another member of the group and had no influence above any others, despite being a founding member of the raid group. But if decisions were made democratically that I didn't agree with I knew I just had to accept that the group was never meant to be mine. At least I had an equal voice, and I was happy that I didn't abuse the power accidentally afforded me.

I only mention my progression in the warlock group because it is important to understand why I stopped raiding, or at least why I didn't start again. A new recruit to the warlocks joined us for a trial. Recruits had a probation period where they raid with us for a few times before a decision is made as to whether they are to be accepted in to the group as a member. The decision to accept a new member is made by the character's class group, part of the classes being autonomous sub-sections of the whole raid group. Other classes can offer opinions, but have no legitimate weight behind those opinions as to whether a recruit's application is accepted or denied. It was unfortunate for me that this new recruit was denied.

The recruit was a capable warlock, and certainly had the motivation. But he didn't understand the ethos behind the group. The warlocks had another new member at the time, and there was plenty of learning occurring, understanding boss fights and warlock roles. I found out that the recruit had sent a private message to the other new member and telling him that he would be happy to offer any advice, just send him a private message back for help. I found this unacceptable. The warlock group had always been open, and I always maintained that there was no such thing as a stupid question. Even apparently obvious questions were answered sensibly and without disdain, because it fostered a friendly atmosphere. By encouraging any question and treating them earnestly, common mistakes were avoided, and errors in judgement were corrected, all without resentment. I think everyone learnt and developed their skills much better as a result. For a recruit to start offering guidance to others privately was a serious problem. The advice may be against our common practice, or downright wrong. But the real problem was that it set the recruit to be in a privileged position, by manipulating others to consider him the expert, exactly against the principles of the group. By suggesting that any questions can be sent his way privately, the openness and sense of group spirit was actively decayed. I denied his application, stating this as my reason.

Otherwise, the warlocks were a great group. Our recruits were friendly and motivated, and I honestly believe we had no troubles because we were open about our methods and shared responsibilities. We fought our way through Molten Core, then Blackwing Lair and Ahn'Qiraj, and although we never managed to defeat C'Thun we progressed in to the original Naxxramas and were able to clear a couple of wings of bosses before The Burning Crusade was released. I even managed to nab a deckchair-styled cloak from Naxxramas that was the best cloak I found I could wear even once I made the ten level climb to 70th level. But it was the levelling that made me stop raiding.

Many players in the raid group wanted only to raid, and when The Burning Crusade was released they wanted to get to the new level cap and start fighting through Karazhan as soon as possible. Personally, I was keen to see the new zones created and explore them at my own pace. As much as I enjoyed raiding and the raiding group, I didn't want to miss the world outside. My choice was to drop out of the group at that time. After all, I had much more content to explore, it was no longer a matter of raid or quit. Of course, that time came again, albeit quite a few months after the expansion had been released. I could still visit the new level-capped dungeons, which I did, and advance my professions, which I also did, but there came a time when I had to find something new to do or quit. I applied to the old raiding group, hoping to return to friends and new faces and explore the content otherwise unavailable to me.

Unfortunately, the recruit whose application I denied so many months before was a real-life friend of some other members of the raid group. At the time, they objected quite fiercely to my reasons why I was voting not to accept the new recruit, to the point of being insulting and offensive. Other members had to step in to remind them that the decision was the warlocks', and regardless to please keep the discussion civil. I did my best to keep calm and respond respectfully, but it was difficult. Clearly there was a lot of animosity. These members were still in the raid group in The Burning Crusade and retained their sour memories of my decision, holding me personally responsible for, frankly, their friend being a dick. My application to the group was rejected, apparently only because these bitter players didn't want me back. That's fair enough, it's their decision. I found it frustrating, but there was nothing I could do. I knew it was raid or quit, so I quit. I wasn't about to find a new raiding group, because it was the players I liked most about raiding and I have trouble making new friends.

So I start raiding because it was a matter of finding something new to do or quit the game. I was lucky that guild friends could introduce me to a raiding group. If it weren't for the people I wouldn't have raided for so long. I stop raiding because the expansion gives me the new content that appeals to my playing style. And I don't start again because of a few bad apples. Without the people I didn't want to start again.

I only start playing World of Warcraft again when some friends from across the pond invite me to join them for occasional adventures. So once more it is the social aspect that draws me back to the game, and I am lucky to have friends who invite me to share the game with them. And through the new adventures, the small guild that is formed introduces me to a few new people, and our interactions help form new friendships. One of those new friends eventually comes back to form another new guild, as the Filesystem Checkwits explore old Azeroth.

As a final note, I have faced a similar dilemma with EVE Online. I tried to find a corporation but my shyness prevents me from participating fully and when they move to null-sec I come back to high-sec. I need to find something to do or quit, mission-running is no longer enough. I turn to industry, which keeps my interest at least long enough to be recruited in to DGSE, after which the game blossoms again in to being so much more than a single-player adventure. I am always grateful for the opportunities my friends offer me, and when strangers or acquaintances put their trust in me. Thank you, all of you.

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