For the World of Warcraft nerds in my audience -- yes, I finally started raiding a few months back. I resisted it for a long time -- playing with 40 guys seemed a lot more impersonal than playing with 2 or 5. But then we found a like-minded guild of nerds, and discovered we kind of kicked ass at it.
One of the aspects of playing the game is that when you slay the dragon, you get some nice loot to make you smarter, faster, sexier to all the virtual girls (or guys, or antelopes, or what have you). It's random, so you keep going back week after week, hoping the +5 Boots of Kicking Ass will drop this week, and that you will beat out all the other grubby-handed gearhounds who you compete with... I mean, are part of a big happy family with.
I've had, to understate it slightly, extremely good luck. In the past few months, I've upgraded was already a very nice end-game set into a crazy, all-singing, all-dancing set of healing garb. I play an infrequently played class -- a healing class that, to the uninitiated, appears to be a weaker class because it combines aspects of multiple roles. Since it's infrequent, I tend to get the "phat lewtz" (as the kids say) in a more steady stream than the eight hunters that keep showing up to our 40-man extravaganzas. But it's a satisfying class because of that very hybrid nature, and when properly outfitted, my abilities to heroically keep our band of battle-hardened noobs up and about can be terrifying to behold. Well, I got my Tier 2 Antlers of Omniscience a few weeks ago, and last night.... last night I finally got my Epic Oven Mitts Body Wrap of OMGWTFPWNAGE. So yeah. I'm pretty happy. And far too tired.
It's been interesting to see the difference as I upgrade all of this gear. For the more damage oriented roles, the only way to measure progress is to watch your raw damage output climb up the charts as you compare your virtual phagitude to all the other wielders of arcane mysteries out there. It's all pretty relative, because in the end, you're a wheel in the cog of raw damage output to bring down the fiery lord who resides under the earth. Healing's different though -- with healing, if you expend your own reserves too fast, other people start dying. So healing output, mana pool, and resource regeneration all play factors. As you start hitting the crazy end game stuff, fights go from 1-2 minute affairs, to -- I kid you not -- 8 to 20 minute long epic blastfasts. Suddenly regeneration becomes much more interesting than it had been in what, in retrospect, seems like an incredibly short fight. Last night, I realized that I'd gone from "good effort, but easily exhausted" to "what? are we done already?" As we fought our last, desperate, doomed fight, I heard the other healers cry out around me "I'm out of mana," while I kept on trucking.
Yeah, it's all virtual. Yeah, it's a self-contained world. But... we fought a dragon. And now I have Epic Oven Mitt Bodywraps of OMFGWTFPWNAGE. It's a nice way to end the week and start the weekend.