50 Shades of Casual, Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Time-Challenged
“Oh, these stupid casuals. They just ruin everyone’s fun in the World of Warcraft. Blizzard is killing the game catering to them. They don’t know what they’re doing, they’re never prepared, they want people to carry them, and why can’t I get an LFR group that isn’t full of them?” Sound familiar, casuals? Or maybe you’re one of those “real raiders” who says these things. Well, it’s high time to bust right through the “casual” stereotype and talk about casual players in their many different forms.
Among a self-proclaimed “elite” subset of the WoW player base, “casual” is a dirty word. If you’re a casual, you clearly paid for your toon on eBay, or (even worse) are a new player. Everyone know casuals are the only ones who die standing in the fire. If you’re a tank, you can’t hold aggro; if you’re DPS, the tank can do more damage; and if you’re a healer, you’re just fail. The worst nightmare to one of these über gamers is getting an LFR full of under-geared or new players. They won’t be able to blast through this optional content in 15 minutes, and even worse, they may actually have to help someone learn something. Oh, the humanity!
I can’t speak for every player who has been called a casual. A casual can, in fact, be any one of the stereotypes perpetuated by these “elite” players. But there are other shades of casual, too. What about folks experienced in other MMO’s but who are new to WoW? What about the person forced into “casual” status due to real life constraints, not incompetence. And this is probably an ever-growing number of gamers, considering the aging player base of the MMO genre.
The best way I can describe this is by using myself as an example. I am a casual. I’m not ashamed to say it. I work a ten hour day, my commute takes about 90 minutes each way, and for health purposes, I cook fresh food for dinner. I sit on two different boards outside of work, both of which have scheduled evening meetings as well as emergency and committee meetings. My schedule is unpredictable and insanely busy. And somewhere in there, household chores and time spent with my horses has to be carved out. Finding game time some weeks is like squeezing blood from a rock.
So, because I’m a casual who only has LFR gear, does that mean I don’t know what I’m doing when I raid? No! I wasn’t always this busy. I was a progression raider through BC and WotLK. I started raiding Cata before WoW burnout set in. I would squirrel out of work, grab some take out, and rush home to make raid four nights a week, three hours a night. I loved raiding, I loved getting gear, and I enjoyed the teamwork involved with a set raid group. I am also very responsible, and now that my life is more complicated, I don’t like to leave anyone hanging when my schedule has to take an abrupt turn. So, I’ve turned to LFR.
I may be a casual, but I don’t take raiding casually. Even LFR. My gear is gemmed, enchanted, and reforged. I’ve at least reviewed a video of the fight before I go in for the first time. I study my rotations, make sure I have the appropriate add-ones, and put in my best effort on every fight. Each new raid encounter is sort of a combination of old mechanics, with a few new twists. I consider myself an experienced raider, so just because I don’t have a lot of time to run content doesn’t mean I can’t pick up on instructions quickly. I try to get in on some flex raids for better gear, but most of the time, I’m home too late or have too little time to do anything but a wing of LFR. And honestly, some flex groups consider me under-geared in my upgraded LFR drops. You know… sort of like a casual.
But, let’s say, for the sake of argument, I was a new player to MMOs in general, WoW to be specific? The longevity of this game we love depends upon new players coming into the fold to replace those who leave for good . It certainly must be discouraging to these players to face people who will put them down, criticize their performance, or say “/uninstall, noob!” We, as veteran players, whether experienced “casuals” or “elite” hardcore raiders, should feel a duty to make these players feel welcome, not scare them off. Some casuals won’t want help, and won’t take it seriously. But for others, you might open their eyes to a whole new way to play their class, see more of the end game content, and provide utility to their LFR group. We don’t come into the world knowing how to play games at a high level. We had to learn. And I’ll bet we all had some kindly, patient, long-suffering soul who helped us figure out what to do to become the players we are now.
Go easy on casuals. Look past the LFR gear and lack of in-game raid achievements. These things don’t tell the whole story about a player’s potential. You may be surprised what experience these folks can bring to your group. Or you might just be the person who opens the eyes of a new player, to show them all that is achievable in this World of Warcraft.
Next Week: 50 Shades of Casual, Part 2: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boost?