A theory on raiding motivations

I used to know someone who raided because they wanted loot. I’m sure they had other reasons, but loot was the number one reason and the number one thing they planned for when laying out their raiding strategy. They would play a class that none of the other current raid team played and one that had very little overlap with other classes in terms of armor and stat needs. Then despite gearing up relatively swiftly, they would still bemoan their off spec gear set not being quite up to par or bitch about having to compete for trinkets, jewelry, cloaks and weapons.

This person (and others I have known like them) wasn’t particularly good at raiding in and of itself. They didn’t know how to gem or enchant. They didn’t read strats and considered giving a TankSpot video a cursory once-over all the preparation for a new encounter they would need. Their raid awareness was all but non-existent. And despite frequently being one of the best geared players in the guild due to a lack of competition, they were usually bottoming out on the charts. Any charts. DPS? They barely beat the tanks and sometimes not that. Interrupts or cleanses needed for a specific mechanic? They might get one. Per raid week.

This person wouldn’t be able to explain how to do a fight they had been present for a dozen times but they sure as hell knew the loot tables from every boss in the dungeon.

When Cataclysm drew near, this person realized they would have to start all over in getting the best possible gear they could. To them, that was devastating. Why had they wasted all their time in raiding if they were just going to have to turn around in two years and find that quest greens outshone their epics?

I was both baffled and amused by this mindset. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through a few expansions, and the first jump from Vanilla gear to BC greens had prepared me (though I never got a chance to raid in Vanilla since I started so late) for the fact that people had worked their asses off for gear only to have some demon pig drop something that made their best stuff look like crap. And if it happened once, it certainly could happen again.

And it did. I shed my epics so quickly in Cataclysm that I barely had time to notice it.

The devastation of this person I knew got me thinking: Is there any worse reason to raid than loot?

No one I respect raids for loot

I put an informal poll out to Twitter, asking which of all the factors someone could think of to raid did anyone feel was their number one reason. I got back a smattering of answers, most of them from people I know well enough through blogging and Twitter to know I respect their general mindsets and efforts towards raiding – and not a single one of them cited loot.

Some were in it for the experience of seeing the content. Many were in it for the sense of accomplishment they get from achieving something as a team. Without fail, those also said that the people they raided with were a big part of what kept them going back. Snack said he likes big guts on the outsides of internet dragons as opposed to the inside of internet dragons. Many people just really like killing internet dragons. One jerk mentioned he just enjoyed annoying the RL and/or GM.

And when I asked my follow up question of whether people felt they were actually seeing the things that motivated them to raid actually happening for them, most of the feedback there was overwhelmingly positive. There were some people who raided to spend time with their guild mates who were between guilds, maybe, or in a slump due to some other factor, but when their guild or real life situations had allowed for it, they did feel they were meeting their goals or having their desires met.

But I have never known anyone who raided primarily for loot to actually be happy and fulfilled in their raiding goals.

Thus, I more than suspect that anyone raiding for loot will never find real satisfaction in raiding for any length of time and they may want to give their priorities a good, hard look. After all, gear is only a tool we all need in order to meet those DPS or HPS checks Blizzard likes to put in about mid-way through a tier of content. And a tank without his HP or dodge ratings won’t survive with anyone other than the most exceptional healers backing him up.

Loot is great, but only because it helps each raid team make the next step in progression.

If you’re in raiding for the loot, I think you’re in it for the worst reason ever.


A theory on raiding motivations — 41 Comments

      • You’re welcome!

        …as a far, drawn out goal, I would LOVE to get the Dragonslayer title. But c’mon.


        • “Dragonslayer” still makes me giggle to myself. It’s a boring personal story about how my brother went to a private school and that was their… whatever that is called (can anyone tell I was home schooled?). I keep wondering if he also wants to attain that title in WoW or if it brings back memories of a super lame high school experience.

  1. Fun game with this post. Every time Alas says: “that personn”, replace that with the name of someone you think fits the description.

    • So I could say “Alas “ instead of pretending it was someone else? Oh wait…

  2. Who’s that Jerk that is raiding only to annoy his RL/GM?

    People like that annoy me so much…

  3. I have one raider that I think is motivated by loot – but she tops our meters, does her job, doesn’t miss interrupts, etc, and is utterly reliable. I assume she must like raiding for the sake of it since she’s trying to pick up a third raid on a third alt. But she is more loot motivated than the rest of us. Our informal loot system works well to contain any greed though; as loot master I can always step in and say “so and so has gotten two drops tonight so he’s not eligible for this drop”, and then the rolls mean whoever wins a drop, it’s fair.

    Everyone has different motivations and as long as they are doing their jobs, I don’t really care what those motivations are. Ok if I found out someone was in the raid to stalk someone else, that would bother me, but otherwise, if it’s shiny purples that motivate you, that’s fine. I don’t understand that. The fight, and getting to push to do my personal best, is all the motivation I need.

    • That’s cool. I certainly don’t think someone with visions of epics dancing in their eyes cannot be a good raider. I do think people who are killing bosses for the sake of progression may be better motivated to perform well than most loot-crazed folks though.

      I do feel somewhat bad for the people I have known to prioritize loot. They really can’t ever say they’re done. I suppose a similar argument could be made for raiders looking to down end game content, since we will also get new bosses to kill in the next xpac. But raiding for the sake of raiding still makes more sense to me than does raiding for gear that will be replaced in the first day of questing.

  4. I agree most wholeheartedly. Having also run across loot-focused raiders, I am always forced to ask myself: does this person really want to be playing an MMO? Wouldn’t they be much happier playing a single-player game? Cause if you’re only in it for the purplez, it must be incredibly frustrating to have to deal with all those other wretched people who get in the way.

    And seriously, when it comes to gear… for crying out loud. Who cares? I mean, it’s not like it singles you out as a special snowflake. A rogue wearing all BiS items looks EXACTLY like any other rogue wearing BiS items. Rather than increasing one’s uniqueness, loot-mongering actually erases it. If loot is the game that you’re using to keep up with the Joneses, you’re always going to be losing it. Even if you soar like an eagle to the top of the GS charts every time a new patch drops… your gear is still worse than the gear of people testing out the new stuff in the PTR. You’re never going to win.

    I like shinies as much as the next hunter. But it’s a horrible reason to raid.

    • Yes. Those wretched other people who think they deserve loot too. The nerve of them, I say! I mean, just because they were there for the boss kill doesn’t mean they contributed at all.

      Okay, sarcasm over. But yes, I enjoy BiS as much as the next person, but I don’t have to look very far to see several other people who look almost the same as I do, so it’s hardly a badge of honor. Particularly since anyone willing to put in the time to run some heroics can get the same gear without ever raiding. I don’t think that is a bad system but it does detract from the days of having a full set of tier really mean something (as I understand it from friends who raided long before I did)

  5. The loot-obsessed can be good raiders, and some can find enjoyment in raiding. Inevitably, however, loot obsession leads to drama. Our loot system is pretty fair. If someone is overly obsessed with loot, they could find unfairness in it. Feeling like you are being treated unfairly often leads to drama.

    • So true. So sadly true.

      Even if the loot obsessed can be good raiders (and I am sure they can), I know from listening to a loot obsessed person or two that they’re still fucking annoying though.

  6. I think the problem with your informal poll is that in the wow community theres a negative implied attitude towards loot focused people. If someone only raids for loot that is seen as selfish and it’s long been a staple of guild applications for people to highlight how their motivations are different so they aren’t labelled a “loot whore”. I don’t think it’s surprising that most of the people you asked cited other reasons as there’s a certain amount of stigma associated.

    Personally I’ve played with a fair amount of people for whom loot was a driving factor. Occasionally they were douches but the large majority saw loot as a reward for being a reliable player and evidence of the worth placed in them by the guild as a whole. This is where my experiences diverges from yours – these guys would be gemmed perfectly and be really going above and beyond to enhance their gear.

    That said, I’ll bet that Loot is still a factor in why a lot of people raid they just aren’t honest about how big a factor it is. Once you hit 85 what other ways are there to “level” the character? There’s only gear or nerd points. I look at loot as the next step in a characters progression and yes when I raided a lot – loot was one of the reasons I raided.

    Loyalty that was also a motivating factor. I’ve always been loyal to guilds and kept attendance high but at the end of the day if you’re only playing for other people you’ll burn out. As with many things I think it’s a balance of factors. If you’re only raiding for one of them you probably won’t enjoy it.

    Oh, and I hit BiS twice in Wrath – I treated it like an achievement :D

    • I think there is a world of difference in someone who admits loot is a motivating factor for them to raid and the person who raids almost only because they want the loot. Like the person I referenced in my example in this post. They begrudged having to put in time, got really bent out of shape at having to apply themselves to learn a new boss and when we would hit a wall and have wipefests, they were always the first person to suggest progression wasn’t worth it and we should go beat up this other boss that still had an upgrade for them.

      Maybe I just have had exposure to some really bad extreme cases.

      I certainly don’t mean to imply no one should ever want to be well geared. I would love to have all of my gear be BiS. But I also raid with two other mages and sometimes a warlock (we have interesting raid composition at best these days), and I’ve seen a lot of gear I would like to have go into other people’s hands. But since they’re part of the team, that’s okay, because what I want more is to get through this tier of content, work at some hard modes maybe and be able to jump into new content when it is released, knowing that we did this tier before it becomes yesterday’s news.

      Balance is important, as you noted. But I still believe that someone with a higher emphasis on progression or their guild will be happier overall than someone with an excessive attention to loot.

  7. One of the main reasons I love my raid team is because loot is never, ever an issue. We don’t have any sort of loot system, we just use common sense and give drops to whoever it can benefit the most. Alts pass up tier tokens for mains, people pass on slight sidegrades for people who can use it more, etc. And I think a raid’s attitude towards loot says a lot about their teamwork, too. Since we win shinies not for individuals but for the team, it’s a great atmosphere and encourages teamwork and unity. If everyone is just out for their own gain, and views their fellow raiders not as teammates but as competition for that awesome new trinket, I can’t help but feel that it detracts from a raid’s cohesiveness.

    • That is awesome, Rades, and I am honestly slightly jealous. The majority of my raiders would, I think, work well with an informal system but there are a few who would have some difficulties in grasping the big picture first and their own wants second. It absolutely detracts from our cohesiveness, but I have hopes that some honest discussions will resolve things on that end.

      PS: You let alts raid? Am I the only tyrant who insists on mains only?

      • I think most teams that consider themselves “progression focused” to any degree doesn’t allow alts.

        One characteristic of the loot oriented raider that you left out of your description is the likelihood that as soon as they get all of the gear they “need” they will either immediately lose all interest in raiding or they will start trying to convince everyone why their or is suddenly necessary for the good of the raid and why they should switch so that they can start collecting more gear as soon as possible!!!

        I’m with Rades though, the only “system” we use is to make handing out loot take less time (we have people /roll 200 for offspec gear so I don’t have to ask for a second roll if no one needs it for main spec. Does that count as a “system?”)

        • I guess I never had any of my loot whores stop raiding once they had gotten everything they wanted. This may have been because the former guild was typically half a year behind the curve so there was pretty much always new loot on the distant horizons. I could see where that would be a problem though. I did have a lot of main switchers though and that was a big reason I decreed THERE SHALL BE NO MAIN SWAPPING OR ALT RAIDING in the new guild. I mean, obviously, it could still happen but I would have to hear better justification than what I think a loot whore would give.

          If we ever went to straight rolls (which we will not because my dice are cursed), I think we would adopt that strategy. Honestly, for as excited as people get about loot, it can sometimes take forever to dole out. Drives me bonkers!

  8. Wait a sec. What’s wrong with raiding for the sake of annoying your GM/RL? If that wasn’t a valid reason in my guild, I would have /gquit months ago. Or at the very least, I would have skipped half the farming runs. Trolling the GM/RL keeps bland, boring farming nights fun and exciting. “What jokes can I unleash upon the raid tonight? How close can I come to getting /gkicked without using any cuss words? Do I have enough gold to pay for the raid’s repair bills if I cause a wipe due to humor of epic proportions?”


    Internet dragons must die!

    • Hey, if you want to annoy your RL/GM, that’s okay by me. It’s when that filthy Kotakh makes me cry that I have issues with it!

      I kid, of course. If anyone in my guild didn’t take potshots at me, I would more than likely have a bigger head than the one I already sport. (But the GM/RL in me notes that this is only okay on farm crap, not progression when everyone must be very srs and very focused.)

      Death to the dragons of the interwebs!

      • What can i say, i need my daily STFU.

        Once i get it, i can go back to the healer channel to make fun of you and other dps slacker :)

  9. I see you had the same problem I did and couldn’t really come up with a clever post topic. I think you faked it better than me, but not by much. Maybe soon we’ll both get back in the swing of things. Until then, save some of the bottom of the barrel for me would ya?


  10. I never raid for loot. I like killing internet dragons and having fun while doing it.

    However, I will say it gets disheartening when you never win a roll which is my luck. All of wrath I only won one roll, for DBW, and that was it. I got my gear after something dropped and no one needed it so it went to me by default because I was the only one that could use it.

    As a raid leader now I find that anyone that raids just for gear is a bad raider (regardless of ability) and I will thin my ranks of them quickly. No gear drama from my people, if they bark over gear they are welcome to go bark in another guild. It is not like we will never slay that dragon again. You can always get it next week or the week after, like I did.

    • One of the reasons I love our loot system so much is because I always had notoriously crappy rolls. My dice weren’t aware they could roll anything above a 15 and I, too, obtained most of my gear through perseverance and after I had gotten something it was more than likely going to be sharded every time it dropped thereafter.

      I am curious as to how you go about thinning your raids of loot whores. Do you just boot them for it or is there some process you follow to get rid of them?

      • If someone is a loot whore they are usually easy to get rid of without actually doing anything to get rid of them.

        We keep it easy, if there is more then one person that can use it they all roll, winner gets it. If someone whines about it I point out that they can get it next week when we down it.

        If they continue to whine I politely tell them that complaining about a fair roll will only make sure I give them a week off because we need to be killing bad guys, not complaining because someone beat you fair and square for a roll.

        Usually, they either get in line or they leave on their own.

        In one case where a rogue lost a role he pulled the boss and dropped group and we gave him a swift guild kick. He went to trade saying how horrible we where, he went on the realm forums saying he was robbed.

        To no ones surprise, except maybe his, trade backed us, the people on the forums backed us, he kept crying about things and people started to flame him about it.

        Loot whores will leave if they do not get loot or they will pull a jerk move if they do not get loot.

        I have no problem saying, a fair roll is a fair roll, if you don’t like it, leave.

        Another thing is, loot whores usually will not stick it out for even 3 or 4 wipes, at least from my experience. A good test for a new raider is to take them on something progression. If they are still not complaining after the 5th or 6th wipe, they are usually good to go.

  11. I devised a small and quick test. While fighting a raid boss, stop yourself for a moment, and check: are you waiting for him to finally keel over and the fight to end, or are you enjoying every minute of it? If it’s regularly the former, consider a reevaluation of your hobby.

    Also, another opportunity for me to link that old post of mine.

  12. I raid for loot, but for an entirely different reason than just the sheer joy of receiving it. I raid for loot, so that my performance can improve with each piece that I earn or win and that means I can handle more difficult content as my guild becomes ready for it.

    I think any raider who is serious about progessing has to take this into consideration. You can acknowledge that you’re not in it just to say you won the loot, but you also can understand that your performance can hit a wall if you are not geared enough for a certain encounter. Some fights are DPS checks or healing checks and you need to be able to scale with your guild, as the need arises. If you can’t keep up with others, because you’re constantly passing loot for others and being too modest, that doesn’t help you and if you can’t do the job your raid takes you for you may not have a consistent raid spot anymore.

    It’s a necessary evil, really. But I do see where you’re coming from and where others that commented are, as well.


    • I would say that the distinction it sounds like you are talking about is the person who is motivated about getting loot for themselves and the person who just gets excited when whatever drops doesn’t end up getting sharded.

      I think I can honestly say that I could care less when I end up getting upgrades personally as long as whatever drops ends up being used in one of our raids rather than getting sharded. (that isn’t meant to imply you meant anything different of course)

    • I find it interesting that you say you raid for loot but then also say you are wanting the loot for performance. Perhaps I didn’t spend enough time on the fact that loot is awesome because it is a tool we all need in order to progress into new and more difficult encounters, but we seem to agree on that point.

      Still, though, your comment reads that you ultimately raid for progression which is very different than someone who just raids to wear whatever purple shinies they can get their grubby hands on, which is more the sort of loot whoring I was talking about.