How can a player get better in party encounters? Well that's by actually participating in party encounters. How does someone get better at raiding? Usually by actually being in raids. Being well-read is nice, but sometimes that just doesn't click right. I know I've gone into battles knowing all of the information that I needed to know, but being there is different from reading about it or seeing a video of someone else doing it on YouTube.
Experience means actually doing things and actively participating in them. You can't get better at something if you don't do it, even if you may know everything there is to know about stats and things. It's one of the punishing double-edged swords of online play -- you can't get better gear or learn encounters if you're not there to experience them. And sometimes people don't want you in an encounter if you don't have the best stuff you can possibly have. It doesn't matter that you can do the job fine with the gear that you have, they want the extra buffer space to make it almost impossible to lose.
So how can you help?
Well, it's pretty simple really. Take the time to reach out and help a guildmate grab some gear once in a while. If someone's struggling in your raid, take some time out of your schedule and offer to mentor them, or take them on some other encounters to help hone their skills. If someone's missing an understanding of the core skills of the game, feel free to point them out to resources online, but also be sure to help them with questions they may have or point them out to someone you know can answer their questions and help.
For more punishing games like EVE or Darkfall, taking people out to get battle and flight experience is essential. They may be able to crunch the numbers, but a fight is something that's fast and dynamic in both games. Make a wrong move, and you might be looking at hours of loss. And sure, they may lose stuff now, but if they keep working at it and you're still willing to help, they might become someone who will ace the game.
The bottom line
All too often I hear whining from the more powerful players, "Why should I go out and help X? I'm not getting anything from that encounter." For being so smart and so on top of their game, you'd think they'd notice they were getting something out of the encounter.
Helping someone out with some gear, some lessons, some information, or some battle experience means you're gaining someone who can fight along side of you. You might not be getting virtual loot or more achievements to pin up on your wall, but you're getting something that's 10x more awesome.
You're grinding the experience to get yourself a brand new kickass party member.
Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who sucks in some things and not in others! When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.