There is always much debate around the use of the word 'casual' when in WoW circles. In the past it was often used as an insult to denote guilds/raids/players that lacked a certain level of skill. In more recent times it has often become a less offensive term used to denote those that perhaps have less time available, wish to progress at a slower pace or wish to spend less time organising events...or even all of the above.
There does seem to be one thing that all people appear to agree on. Using the term 'casual' implies that the person is in some way doing less than one that does not use that term.
Now, I'm not here today to try to convince you that casual (or sometimes even 'social') raiding is better than 'hardcore' or progression raiding. That is pointless. The two styles are vastly different and appeal to people for varying reasons. I have raided in both types of guild and both have their merits and flaws. The reason for this post is to try to show that casual raiding is not the easier option that many think it to be and that there is no reason for the contempt that I often see expressed on forums and in chat channels.
As an officer or raid leader in a serious progression raiding guild, there seem to be certain things you take for granted. You keep a roster of players who all expect to be raiding most nights. You expect them to know the tactics and to keep a certain level of attendance. You expect to be notified by your raiders if something has happened that will prevent them from raiding as soon as possible so that you can make other arrangements.
Organising events in a social raid guild brings a whole new set of complications. Here you have to keep a larger roster of raiders to cover absences and that in itself brings problems. You can be certain that you will have nights when you have double the amount of healers needed and no tanks, or no melee DPS at all. Some nights you will get huge amounts of people being benched, when the night before you had to pug to fill spots.
If we discard the organisational hassles and just regard this from the position of a random raider, there are still many things to consider. In the serious progression guild, your main worries as a raider are just being prepared and performing to the best of your ability. In a socially prioritised raid, you also need to worry about the preparation levels and performance abilities of the other raiders. The playskill levels here often vary drastically and you can even see vastly different performances from the same player. Often people don't choose to be in a casually orientated raid because they can't perform well enough to be in a more hardcore raid. They choose to be there because of time restraints, to be with specific friends, because they wish for a more relaxed or jovial atmosphere, or sometimes even because they wish to see the content of the game at a slower pace to avoid burnout.
It may sound strange, but I found being in a progression orientated guild a lot less work to being in a more casual and socially orientated one, yet most people I met in game would believe I was a better player when they saw the guild tag of the more hardcore guild above my head than the more social guildtag. I never had to be prepared to compensate for an awkwardly balanced raid or for differing skill/gear levels in a progression orientated guild, it was always assumed that everyone was more or less equal and all that was needed was to make sure the correctly balanced raid was chosen from the pool of available players. There weren't occasions where you would raid for 3 weeks with no hunters and then find that on week 4 you had 5 of them and no mages. I like the added challenge of trying to make a non-optimal raid work...it certainly keeps me on my toes!