Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tens and Twenty Fives: The Social Perspective

There was an interesting discussion on today, about the slow death of 25-man raiding. It really made me consider what I thought was ‘epic’ versus ‘faceroll’.

My origins were in ten-man raiding. In BC, the guild I was in was a perfect example of a small, somewhat casual raiding group getting bottle-necked by the size difference between entry level raiding, and all the other raids excepting Zul’Aman- which was very difficult to get to in only Kara gear. So week after week after week, we ran Karazhan, until the raid group fell apart.

Now, perhaps we could have recruited more raiders and moved forward- but, in my long-standing tradition, I was more of a role player than a raider. As such, I was in a role play guild- we were not going to recruit raiders into the guild, and our pool of people interested in raiding at all was very limited. 25 mans simply were not going to happen for us.

So you can imagine that my newbie-raider heart was tickled pink when Wrath announced the advent of 10-man raiding as a viable path, alongside 25s; it was this announcement that got me further than toe-dipping into the raid scene. If this hadn’t happened, I doubt I ever would have gotten into it. I was not a PVE all-star, I would not have been pulled into other guilds’ raids, and my motivations weren’t that raid driven- not until after I caught the raiding bug, did I realize I liked it and wanted to be the best I could be.

Still, with my origins being in BC where all the Really Awesome Raiders did 25s, it seemed inevitable and natural to me that 25s were the hard-core raids, that 25s were the epic raids. I guess that’s an assumption I’ve held ever since- cemented further by the gear differentiations, and my own dabbling into 25-man raid coalitions.

See, back in Naxx days, my guild was still a scrappy little RP guild that struggled with Naxx 10. Every Saturday morning, I’d wake up bright and early to log on and be our only Steady Healer, while we struggled our way through dread halls of Naxxramas; our team was a revolving door of people raiding for the first time, realizing they liked to raid… and invariably moving on and moving up from our not so stellar raid team. Because we were almost always training new people in the Ways of Raiding, I had to be very good to compensate for my teammates; and because I came to be a Very Good Healer, I came to be noticed. And what had never happened in BC, happened for me in Wrath- I was invited to join a 25-man raid coalition.
Now, let’s compare my very not-so-good raid guild that struggled, hard, in Naxx 10- with this raid coalition of Much Better raiders whose DPS was never a big question mark, who knew how to spec and gem and enchant their gear… add that with gaining better gear in those raids…

Years later, now, even though the vast majority of my raiding has been ten man, and even though this expansion attempted to put tens and twenty fives on the same level- I still think of 25s as more ‘HC’ than 10s, regardless of whether or not this is true.

I am quite sure it was this assumption that motivated me to apply to a 25-man guild, as opposed to a 10-man; I thought it was more epic, more advanced, more boast-worthy and the highest skill-level possible. Looking back on my stay with Apotheosis, I can honestly say I feel that they were absolutely some of the best players I’ve played with, and hands-down the most well-planned and well-run raids I have ever been part of. But…

For all that they were skilled and disciplined, I never really felt like I was fitting in, like I was a valuable part of the team. I assumed this was because of my own insecurities, but I found I actually wasn’t even having fun, so much as just feeling stressed out and isolated.

This is hardly the first time I’ve felt that way in a social situation, and especially around a new group of people. I know myself well enough to know I need to grit my teeth, smile, and bear it out; and I tried. Really, I tried. At first, I rolled alts, made a whole plan- and spent an immense amount of time on my New Server. But the longer I spent time with them, and the less I made friends, the more awkward and unhappy I felt to be there.

Now please, let me clarify- Apotheosis is a fantastic guild. It’s not that people were being rude or in any way unfriendly to me; it’s just that I, as a person, feel very awkward, very frequently.

Here I am, in the raid guild of My Dreams, and I do things like- mess up sometimes. Fail to be in the top three on the healing charts most of the time. I feel like my performance is at the bottom of the pack, and I’m embarrassed- in another guild, I’d likely whisper an apology to my cohealer(s) for any slack they had to pick up. But in a 25-man, there are five other healers- there’s no One or Two people to talk to, it’s all or nothing, or just pick someone at random. I didn’t feel important or vital to the team; I felt like a liability, a handicap.
And worse, I had no way to apologize or take responsibility for it, without more humiliation than I was willing to stomach- especially if it was just me feeling weird and out of sorts and I was overreacting to every little mistake and then I’d look like I was crazy! (I am, a little.)

Again, no one made me feel unwelcome. But it was so big, and I felt adrift and isolated…

Ultimately, I think my choice to leave Apotheosis was because it was 25-man; I didn’t feel like a valuable part of the team, I didn’t feel like I fit in. I don’t think I could have done as poorly as I felt I was doing, because I did end up making Member about a month before we stopped raiding.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I think 10-mans are better for me. It’s just too easy for me to feel lost and out of place in a 25-man environment. I’m going back to my roots, to my scrappy little RP server and my scrappy little RP guild, where I know people and people know me. And you know what? Maybe it doesn’t make me a worse raider, for preferring it that way.

Maybe it really is just a matter of choice and not of prestige or lack of prestige.

There are lots of things I’ll really miss about Apotheosis, and it’s hard to say whether or not the content is ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ on ten or twenty five. My experiences have been so wildly different between the raid-sizes- I can say quite honestly that my new ‘Dream Guild’ would involve the crazy-great organization of Apotheosis, the professionalism of it while still having a great time with one another, but it would be a ten man team with at least a few people I already know. That, for me, would be perfect.

Just my thoughts.

This isn't to say that I would never be part of a 25-man raid group again- just that, before I chose to do so, I'd need to look long and hard as to whether or not I'd really find a way to feel like part of the team. 10-mans have an intimacy and an appeal that I won't be so quick to shun again!

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