It seems to me that in the debate over raiding one very important point gets obscured: that raiding is fun. It's a deep rich game that applies all the things you've explored and discovered on your character in a more testing and more rewarding environment.
Consider play. Wolf cubs play so that they might become more effective wolves later in life. Children play hide and seek and shoot each other with water pistols so that those who grow up to be soldiers will be able to survive battlefields. Play is a fundamental part of who we are, of how our species is made. Play tends to be progressive, competitive and educational. It satisfies us deeply.
Raiding is a natural development on from the general gameplay that precedes it. You'll have learned leveling up how to kill things. You'll have discovered in 5 man groups who to hold aggro if you're tanking or not rip aggro if you're not tanking. Things learned while soloing apply, especially if you were soloing and something went wrong and you had to be resourceful to cope.
Raiding rewards a deep knowledge and understanding of how to play. Tanks need to understand how to best hold aggro, dps need to understand their class well enough to be able to play different builds of it to maximum potential (as the best build changes over time), healers need to understand which of their spells is best used when. In addition there is a general requirement of situational awareness and specific requirements for each fight to understand what is going on and what your role in the fight will be.
Raiding rewards players by giving raiders better loot than anyone else has. In particular sometime you get different colour loot - which players are very excited by. Going from blue gear to purple gear is fun but going from purple to orange? Wow!
Raiding rewards players socially. Raid groups tend to form tight teams that know each other well. Some raiding guilds have lasted many years with most of the original core players intact. Raiders also attract interest from strangers with people asking where did you get your staff? and where did you get your mount?
Raiding is often the culmination of the lore. In Rift at the end of River of Souls you fight Alsbeth who's been a nemesis since the early game. In Wrath of the Lich King you got to fight the Lich King as the last boss of the last raid. You will experience a lot of story and complete your own personal hero's journey that began when you killed ten rats for a farmer at level 1 and now you're saving the world.
Raiding is very much about learning. Generally speaking each raid boss is different and playing a raid competently is a matter of learning and adapting your role in the fight. Let's take Duke Letareus, first boss in Greenscale's Blight as an example. His main mechanic is that 4 times per fight he will enrage and become untankable. While enraged he can only be dealt with by kiting and there is a mechanism for slowing him down to make this manageable. 4 frogs are in the corners of the room and release a purple cloud of gas when killed which slows Letareus. The trick is to line up the frogs, a little distance apart, and then kill them just as he reaches them so there are 3 or 4 gas clouds for him to run through. You will need to reduce him by about 10% of his health to take him out of enrage so the frog clouds are a kind of timer, a dps check. It's a fight of some finesse. Additionally there are three types of adds that spawn each of which has to be dealt with. He's a very satisfying boss to kill because killing him means a lot of people did a lot of tasks correctly and well.
And he's typical of a modern raid boss. Each raider has a considerable amount of personal responsibility it's much harder in the modern raid game to "carry" people.
So to sum up the rewards of raiding are as follows:
- great, testing, gameplay
- learning through play
- great loot
- social status and inclusion in a group of select players
- a series of interesting challenges
Later this week I'll look at ways in which the game designers and communities are failing to deliver this fun to the majority of players.