There are a lot of interesting discussions going around regarding elitism in WoW, how things have supposedly become so much easier, how those that complain about it are meanie mcmean elitists, etc etc etc.
Much like politics, what always concerns me about these sort of discussions is the lack of any real middle ground.
If you think WoW is too easy these days, you must be an elitist. If you think it's great that it's getting easier and less grindy, then you are a, gasp, >CASUAL< (haha I love The Guild...).
What if it's neither of the above?
I leveled my two 80s back when you got your first mount at level 40. Back before the xp bonus was increased significantly, so it took a lot longer to level. Back before the BoA XP bonus items. And I'm rather proud of that.
Does that make me elitist? Does it make you elitist if you are proud of the challenges you faced? Does it make you elitist if you want to preserve the challenges?
There's ease, and then there's accessibility. I believe that what we are seeing from the developers these days is less about ease, and more about accessibility. If you wanted the best gear in Vanilla, you needed a 40 man raid - very difficult for most people to manage, organize, and maintain. Then, in BC it was reduced to 25. And now, in Wrath, we have the option for 10 OR 25. With each succession, we find that more and more people, from small guilds or large ones, are able to access the instances that provide the best gear.
Because people are able to access more difficult scenarios, they are becoming better at playing their class. I know people will disagree with me on this, and I certainly do not think it is true in every case, but overall, people are becoming much more aware of how to play their toons through more and better experience. Dual speccing allows them to more easily practice with other specs. Everyone is a raider these days - and the blogging community has flourished under this change, though we've definitely lost a few of our best.
But, much like capitalism, someone has to be poor in order to make someone else feel rich. There have to be people who HAVEN'T accomplished the things I have in order for me to be proud of it. Otherwise, who cares? It's just something that everyone else has done. That is where elitism comes in. Some call folks who feel this way elitist, and imagine them sulking and pouting in the corner of the room. I, however, have some sympathy for their situation.
We are generally most proud of those things that go above and beyond the norm. It's not just the difficulties faced in raids themselves... the advent of "less grindy" rep battles inevitably means that those of us who worked so hard to finish that grind will outwardly appear exactly the same as those who breezed through it once it was nerfed. To use an Economics analogy (because I see a lot of economics analogies in this debate), the supply is suddenly bloated, and therefore the demand is lower, and each achievement has a decreased value.
I remember doing my first heroic dungeon in Burning Crusade... and it was HARD. We spent 4 hours in there, and it was considered the easiest of all heroics. Back when crowd control meant something. Back when healers really *did* run out of mana. I have not used Shackle Undead once in a dungeon or raid in Wrath - and with all the undead running amuck, I fully expected to.
Do I think that Blizz is making WoW too easy? Not necessarily. I think they are increasing the granularity of game challenges. Perhaps the thought is that Heroics don't need to be so hard, because you can simply pop into an OS, Naxx, or VoA pug right after hitting 80, and you'll see more challenge. The development of 10 man options along 25 man options, and then even further into 10 man reg, 10 man heroic, 25 man reg, and 25 man heroic, along with hard mode options on top of all that - THAT is what I call granularity.
However, along with this granularity we have a very muddled progression path. In fact, one might say there is no progression path at all anymore. You can get everything, up to and including the top tier from running heroics, with no need to step into a raid, thus inspiring the new fad of "heroic grinding". Can you imagine "heroic grinding" in BC? I sure as hell can't. Shudder.
All that having been said, I did not enter the raiding scene until late in BC. To be honest, I didn't think I *could*. I was a n00b raider, and who wants one of those?
Maybe there is validity in the comment that raiding has just become far too easy - that you shouldn't have to hold your hands behind your back, jump up and down on one foot with a blindfold dosey doeing to Achy Brakey Heart in order to get a challenge (what? You didn't have to learn how to Dosey Doe to Billy Ray Cyrus in Elementary School? Must be a Texas thing...). Personally, I think granularity is a good thing. But I also rather agree with what MoarHPS said - that one of the big problems now is that you can buy tier items from badges, whereas you could not pre-Wrath. Tier tokens only dropped from certain bosses, so you knew you had to progress to those bosses in order to put together your set. I suspect that this is part of why the progression path is so non-existent these days, and I think it's one of the best points I've heard in some time.