This is a bone. I am picking it. Perhaps unwisely.

Can somebody please define “progression” for me? In the context of guilds and raiding, I mean.

Google shows me “a series with a definite pattern of advance.”

So is a “progression guild” a guild that regularly advances, or is it enough that regular advancement is simply one of your goals? Does actual advancement matter? If your primary concern is dropping bosses and moving onto the next in line, but you kind of suck and the bosses don’t drop, can you still call yourself a Progression Guild?

Who gets to decide what is and isn’t a Progression Guild? Who gets to make that call?

I see the two phrases (“progression” and “progression guild”) thrown around a lot, but I’ve never gotten a really solid sense of what they actually mean, short of progression seems to refer to moving through content, and I assume a progression guild is one for whom moving through content is their main goal.

Are there any other kinds of progression that could be considered valid?

We have a very casual guild, and a very casual 10-man raid group outside of the requirement that all members show up on the designated nights. We don’t even make them read strats (to be perfectly honest, it’s almost easier that way. Less argument over the best way to do X). I get snarly any time anyone brings up the word “progression” in relation to our raid group – not because I don’t think we can “progress”, but because I don’t fully understand the meaning and because the word does strange things to people’s brains.

Half our raid group started out as newbies – they joined the game itself just before Wrath dropped (or after). Half of them had never really even grouped or instanced. Ninety five percent of us had never raided before. We started with and eventually cleared Naxx. We’ve done the first half of ULD. We’ve killed all the dragons currently available. We’ve cleared TotC. We haven’t tried ICC as a group yet, but will soon enough once we’ve drained TotC of its goodies.

Is this progression? Does it count? Does speed matter? It took us a long time to do it, in large part because there’s only so much time we can commit to this shit in a week and Blizz only recently gave us the option to extend lockouts, but it’s still a series with a definite pattern of advance. We’ll get into ICC before Cataclysm drops, and if we never drop the Lich King, oh well. It’s still advancement, right? Do you have to be able to drop the Lich King for it to be considered “progression”?

Raiding has taught me a lot about tanking I simply couldn’t learn from questing and heroics. I’m a better player for it – quicker on my CDs, greater understanding of my class, easier time with positioning and movement. I’ve learned, I’ve improved. And I’m not the only one. Our DPS have clawed their way up from 1.5K way, way back in Naxx, to 3-5K now in TotC – and it’s not just gear. I can’t count how many times a given DPS has had a sudden jump, or even a slight incline, after they’ve gone out, done their research, and learned a better way to play their class. One of our DPS switched to healing and seems to have found their niche. They’re improving well, learning the rhythm and getting better every raid. As a group we’ve learned how to move, how to predict each other. We’ve learned strats, learned where we need to mod them to suit us, and how to execute them. We have an easier time learning new encounters, and people have improved in their understanding of raid mechanics.

Again…a series with a definite pattern of advancement. Does this count as progression? We’re learning, improving, growing as players and as a group. Even if a boss doesn’t drop and we spend a whole night wiping, we’ve still progressed, haven’t we? A few more “don’t”s to add to the strat. A few more people looking up their class to figure out where they’re going wrong. A few others finding alternate ways to do a common activity to make it work in a new context.

I’m okay with progression as I suspect it’s currently defined – the act of dropping bosses and advancing through content as quickly and efficiently as possible, irrespective of gear or skill advancement (though obviously these are a big part of being able to move through content). Under these circumstances, no we’re not a Progression Guild, nor would I want to be. The fact that we’re a casual group with limited time means our priorities lie elsewhere. If we advance we are ecstatic, but the primary goal is not that kind of progression. It’s assumed official progression will happen as a consequence of a gentler type of progression.

What I’m not okay with is when individuals inside or outside of our casual guild/raid group hold up the idea of “official progression” as the only valid indicator of win or fail. Their goal is official progression, irrespective of the guild/raid’s goal. The group’s goal is supposed to be a more informal type of progression – a gradual increasing of skill, ability, and gear, while simultaneously having a good time, free of the pressure of trying to be the first guild evar to drop the Lich King.

But these things mean little to those members for whom advancement through content trumps skill advancement and personal improvement. If we wipe a couple times, even if we improve each time, they are quick to get frustrated and start throwing around words like “never” and “fail” and “on my other server.” Even though they know – and have been told multiple times – the effect this has on the rest of us who are content to play our game at our own pace and whatever happens happens. And because they carry themselves as though they are somehow above the rest of us, a few of our members have an unfortunate respect for them and their words carry weight, regardless of their validity in the current context. If they say we’ll never be able to do it and we’re just not good enough, they’re believed. And it’s very hard to combat this.

We do advance. We do progress. We get through content. We drop bosses. We move on to other bosses. We one-shot some stuff (half of TotC, for Christ’s sake, including the faction champs and the Val’kyr). We ten-shot other stuff. But eventually it all goes down, we get our gear, and we move on.

It’s not fast enough for some people, and they hold this golden cow of “progression” up and compare us against it and find us wanting. As though we’re not progressing. As though we’re not moving forward.

To me, the word “progression” implies a line between two points, moving in a generally upward direction.

To them, the word “progression” simply refers to the highest point on the graph and to be considered successful and capable and worthy, you have to start at that point on the graph. The idea of starting at point A and working your way up to point B is anathema to these people.

If you’re a progression guild, it means you’re cool now. For whatever reason it doesn’t seem to occur to them that even the best raiding guild on the server had to work at clearing Naxx at one point or another. They had to grind heroics for gear. They had to wipe a million times at ULD.

They didn’t quit after two and a half wipes. They didn’t rob the group of joy in whatever they’ve managed to achieve to date. They didn’t belittle the efforts and improvements of their members.

“Progression” means a lot more than just advancing through content – progression through content requires progression in terms of skill, gear, and experience. It requires wiping. We’re going to have to suck before we can learn to rock.

Comparing a beginner against a professional, or a child against an adult, or a casual raid group against a hardcore progression guild, and naming them fail is a good way to halt progression entirely.

Just because it’s a gradual upwards line with a few peaks and valleys doesn’t make it any less progression than a steep upward slope with no ticks downward. It’s still a series with a definite pattern of advancement.

Nothing quite so defeating as watching your group improve and advance in their own time, in their own way, and knowing it’s never going to be good enough for some of them, and they will forever try to devalue it for the rest of us.