For many of us, I think raiding serves an essential function on a social level.
Maybe we didn't always get picked first for sports in school. Maybe the thought of participating in a group project elicits shudders and groans. Maybe one's place of work doesn't offer much of an opportunity to feel like more than an isolated worker, an anonymous drone among dozens, doing one's job with little feeling of 'teamwork' with coworkers or in general.
Personally, I never had that feeling much while growing up, nor do I tend to feel it in a professional work situation. There have been moments when I really felt like part of the team, but they tend to be short-lived and end with whimper, not with triumph of any kind. Call me arrogant- I am, a little- but I have a hard time finding a team that feels like it pulls as hard as I do; trust in my colleagues is limited, at best. What I have in common with most of them is that we all like getting a paycheck. It's no secret I've never worked a 'dream' job, though.
In school, I was never good at sports, being uncoordinated and deeply unpopular. So I don't know that I can adequately describe to you what it felt like to raid Karazhan for the first time, alongside friends, and being able to surpass the challenge of it- as a proper team.
I couldn't have done it alone. It literally would have been impossible for me to do it alone, in fact; and these were all people I knew and liked. Not only that, but I respected their performance as players too, and really felt like everyone was inputting effort into it! Something that school or work projects have consistently missed in trying to teach 'team play'- either the team gangs together and does something admirable, with me feeling awkward in the background and contributing little, or I step up and do it mostly on my own while trying to figure out what to delegate and not really trusting anyone else to do things 'right'. Neither option teaches teamwork.
But clearing Karazhan for that very first time, it finally clicked- so this is what people mean by how good it feels to rely on others!
And yes, it's just a video game. But for a middle school dork who had headgear and little social grace, to a fifteen year old kid in college, to a tech support phonemonkey in a call center, I finally had the chance to really experience teamwork like I never had before.
This wasn't something where I could overly compensate for others making mistakes; I had to focus on my own game, and, quite frankly, I was terrible back then anyway, so my ability to 'compensate' was highly limited. While I was very much focused on my own thing, there were nine other people there alongside me, also focused. One person made a mistake, we'd all suffer for it. It's the sort of thing that, according to previous experience, should have made me groan and squirm miserably; instead, I loved it.
It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't play, just why I would dedicate nine hours of my week to slaying internet dragons. After all, this is just a game, right?? Why would I bother to take it so seriously?
But the closest way I can think of to even begin to explain what raiding does for me, is to equate it to a sport. A hobby sport, and one that I do while sitting down, but a sport, nonetheless; when I do something challenging, with nine or twenty four other people, and work hard and play to my best ability in order to be a productive part of the team- it feels good.
To raid or not to raid
When I was faced with the choice of quitting raiding and having more free time, or finding a new raid guild- and all the anxiety that would bring alongside it, trying to integrate into a new social fabric, proving my competence, all the things I probably shouldn't worry about overmuch but do anyway- at first I thought I'd just drop it and be done. After all, this is just a game, right? It's silly to spend hours a week on a game in so rigidly scheduled a fashion, I was told. What, is raiding a second job to you?
Silly or not, though, I did miss it. I missed it intensely. PuGing just didn't have the effect, for the same reason that the LFR doesn't satisfy the raid goblin on my back that wants to do all the things- playing alongside strangers isn't satisfying, and neither is lack of challenge. And I don't think of raiding as a job- it takes casual sports teams rigidly scheduled times for everyone to make it, right? Because otherwise, how would you play with your teammates?
I want to have to work at something, and I want to do it with people I like and respect. One of the things I really love about Apotheosis is that it is a serious raid guild, that there are expectations and bad behavior won't just be consistently overlooked. It's really incredible for me to play with others who have similar goals to me, whose dedication to excellence is as high or higher than my own.
Raiding fulfills a human need that, before I'd experienced it, I didn't know I was lacking. And no, that need is not pixelated dragon violence, but rather, working together with other people.