I've always considered myself a casual player; although at times I may live and breathe WoW, it's not all there is to life, and if something better comes up in RL I'm happy to pause PvP or say no to raiding. While epics are nice, I tend not to measure my worth in purples, nor do I min/max my spec to flatter damage meters.
However, all this talk of Naxx recently led me to feel I was missing out. I'd been in the endgame a while, and although I knew some instances all too well, there were other parts of the level 60 experience that I had never seen. I'd never set foot into Blackwing Lair, never seen Onyxia up close, and certainly never had a point of DKP to my name.
So, when I was invited by a friend to apply for a spot in her raiding group, I did.
My first impressions were none too encouraging. Thrown into a 40-man raid as one of only two druids, my trial saw me frantically trying to take in everything that was being said on ventrilo -- having never used it in WoW before -- while being vastly outhealed, outgeared and outclassed by the other druid, an Ahn'Qiraj veteran.
This trend would continue over the next few raids. My first visits to BWL, Onyxia's Lair and Naxxramas were mostly spent feeling very confused, with WoWWiki open on a second monitor to help allay the noobishness. My class leader was helpful, but not always present, and I felt I couldn't speak up in /ra to say "I'm new here, what gives?" or else face eternal mockage and doubts about my suitability for raiding. After more raids, I became more familiar with the various fights, but it will be a long while before I sail through them with the bored ease of a veteran.
Attendance is a lynchpin of the 'hardcore' concept, and with a 50% attendance requirement three nights a week, the raid group I joined is none too strict by most terms. Within my first week, however, I was scolded on two separate occasions, which left me feeling none too friendly towards the leader of the group. I may have failed to read one piece of small print in one of many forum topics, but I'd expect pointing things out kindly to new recruits would be more effective than telling them off immediately. A month later, I'm still not at every raid, thanks to other commitments, but I do wonder how long I can get away without 100% attendance for.
One thing that keeps me playing WoW is the fantastic atmosphere that arises when a group of people get together to joke around and kill stuff, whether it be Horde, murlocs or raid bosses. I've found this atmosphere sadly lacking amongst this 'serious' raid group; no backchat may mean we focus better, but it also makes me yawn and check the clock 'til end of raid. In fact, the impersonal nature of it all makes me feel very detached from the group's achievements. Sure, I was there when we first downed Huhuran, but I don't feel like it was anything much to do with me. I just stood at the back and pressed '4' a lot. I'll feel more involved after more raids, but I've felt at home in other groups from day one -- a month in, and I still feel like an outsider here, despite eavesdropping on more drama in the last four weeks than in my entire previous playtime.
Of course, no talk about raiding would be complete without bragging about epics. Jumping from a world where epics are rare but cool into a world where purples drop like candy was strange, and while I haven't had many come my way yet, I've certainly seen some lovely items go past. I've even earned, and spent, my first DKP. While there are some nice epics on my wishlist, the months of raiding needed to get them don't really appeal to me -- I've little tolerance for boredom and repetition, for standing in one spot and pressing the same key for five hours, for strictly-defined roles and damage meter measurements.
Which leads me to think, 'why on earth should I continue'? The epics? The experience? To see (even) more of the endgame, and learn the encounters so I can do them with a more fun group? The experiment shall continue, for now, so watch this space -- I hope this has proved useful to anyone thinking of joining a serious endgame guild, but I hear they're not all like this.