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On Whom the Heal Tolls

December 6, 2012

Dear Reader,

I was excitedly reading Windsoar of Jaded Alt’s most recent post the other day.  Her feelings on tanking and healing are very similar to mine.  She also asks a very good question and follows up with some very thoughtful analysis, so I heartily suggest you take a moment to read it.  The post did bring some troubling thoughts to me, though, a condition whose symptoms have unknowingly plagued me for years without a name or even a vague acknowledgement, but upon seeing her so succinctly write about the topic, a bell rang signalling that she’d struck something here.  Put simply, the dps (and now the tank, but not in the past) play against the boss, but the healers (and in the past, tanks) play against their own team.

Windsoar writes this:

 Healing is a dynamic role that requires a good understanding not only of the flow of the fight, but of your fellow players, and their foibles…

What I hate, and when I know something is horribly, horribly wrong is when I have to be the savior. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it saves an attempt. But it shouldn’t happen… I just want to perform my function to ensure that my raid team meets success. Nothing is more satisfying than a clean, well-executed fight.

And it struck me.  The constant burnout of guilds that I face, the constant feeling of excitement replaced by frustration not with the fights but with my guildmates has come due to my chosen role in the game.  I’ve always tanked and healed raids.

When I say always, I don’t mean mostly.  Every raid boss I’ve ever downed prior to Mists has been as a tank or healer (Okay… I eventually boomkin’d Saurfang because our holy pally got so good he could solo heal it, but still…) I tanked Kara, Tempest Keep, and Naxx.  I healed Ulduar, Coliseum, and ICC.  I went back and tanked Throne, Blackwing, and Dragon Soul.  I just don’t dps.

I don’t dps honestly because I hate the competitive feeling.  I don’t like being on bottom, which, because I never dps, is where I often am.  Even when I’ve put in time to solidly level and learn a raid rotation (like on my fire mage), I never get out of heroics because I just seem lousy at it; I always default back to healing and tanking so that I can avoid the criticism that comes with being bottom dps (real or perceived).  I’ve always, thus, felt like I was helping myself by tanking or healing, but now, I wonder if the opposite wasn’t true; I was dooming the nature of my feelings towards my guild mates.

The doom comes very simply; the mechanics mean that while some damage is unavoidable, more and more mechanics put the dps in charge of their own survival.  As a result, the mechanics themselves put healers and their team on opposite sides of the success curve.  If every dps avoids every potential damage, healing a fight would be much, much easier.

It plays out like this; every time I see a health bar fall because someone fails to execute the correct maneuver – whether it’s boss specific like kiting oozes out of expanding gas clouds or running away to avoid blowing everyone up or general like missing a defensive cool down – I build a teeny tiny “resentment counter.”  Now sure, those go away, like every time I know that player did something awesome or simply as time passes and they are forgotten.  I don’t really believe they even consciously register, as it’s not something I could have really written about before right now, but now I can see the small increase and steady decrease.

The sad fact is, though, that people are going to make mistakes.  The bosses become more and more complicated as a result of the ubiquitous use of DBM-like add-ons, so it logically flows that it’s only a matter of time until nearly everyone is subconsciously marked as “incompetent” regardless of how I consciously feel about them.  As a result, I begin to question their commitment, their usefulness, begin to quantify the costs v. benefits of being around them, and, eventually, after something more overt occurs, I leave.

That’s not necessarily to say I’m wrong to leave, either.  As documentation shows, I’ve been provided many reasons to leave guilds.  Still, I’ve often been asked if perhaps I couldn’t have gone along to get along a little more, if perhaps I was being a little too black and white, a little too narrow-minded about things, and I wonder if that extra little intolerance, that extra weight on the scale of stay or go wasn’t being affected by the fact that it had been my job to protect (through tanking or healing) these people while they seemed to be hell-bent on destroying themselves.  Perhaps if I’d only dps’d, only been responsible for myself (if that), I’d have thought differently.

Who knows?  It’s a half-baked, cockamamie theory to begin with, but I am seriously wondering if the virtual roles we choose – fun, necessary, or both – don’t color the way in which we see our virtual worlds.  Our real roles certainly seems to color the way we see the real world – I don’t know many teachers who think the public schools should be dismantled – so I don’t see why it wouldn’t.  I just wonder if, then, the healers and (less now than before) tanks out there aren’t “doing the right thing” at the cost of their own long-term enjoyment of the game and virtual relationships with their guildies.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (resto druid 11/12 HM ICC, and god damn those people who couldn’t get out of Putricide’s slime puddles before the beakers even landed)

P.S.  I keep forgetting to mention this!  One of our commentators has started a new blog in which he’s going to plot the 10×85 challenge (now the 11×90, I’d assume) and document his experiences.  I’m very interested in seeing how it turns out.  The link is here and added to my blogroll.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2012 4:47 am

    I thnk I know how you feel about DPSing, but honestly my policy on that has always been (regardless if i healed on my priest or druid or dpsed on my rogue): If the boss is downed it does not matter if the dps slack with the damage the job was stilll completed; end of story.

    Now when it comes to healing I do have to say that as much as I loved what I could do with defensive cooldowns like Cloak of Shadows or more offensive ones like Killing Spree, they ruin healing for me. You see nowadays even when I was raidng HC Firelands my basic rule was if I blow a CD as a healer (if its not prescribed by the mechanincs) I failed. Most of the time healing was just a matter o reapplying 2 hots as a druid and Shield as Disc Priest. No mana issued what so ever and it was boring. So I resorted to blowing tree form when I wanted to do damage or just for the fun of it adding a few Dmg spells to my healiing rotation in the form ofsmite on my priest (i was notspecced into A/ A btw). Doing that at least lessened the boredom of healing for me. And those fights were never perfectly executed. So imagine how much more boring it would be if I did not have to save a dps from time to time?

    Anyway bottom line be happy for people screwing up a bit and you getting an adrenaline kick, there is a good side to that coin as well ;). That said ofc screwups should not happen too often and they should not be too severe.

    • December 6, 2012 10:52 am

      I agree that the goal is that bosses be downed, but I also think that thanks the variety of metrics out there (recount, etc), that’s often not enough for other players. Also, to be clear about my healing, a fair share was done in Hardmode raids, so I assure you there was adrenaline aplenty already, and more wasn’t what anyone needed.

      Consider that fact, though, about you being bored. That points (in Windsoar’s question) to healing being necessary, not necessarily fun, which is yet another “burden” healers have to bear. Should a bad group be necessary to appropriately “tune” healing? How can Blizz know where the split between “bad enough to be fun” and ” so bad they can’t succeed” is? Really, they can’t, so it’s a dangerous gamble to let bad players decide difficulty; really, they’re making healers resent their fellow players.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • December 6, 2012 12:01 pm

      Thinkiing about it;I thnk you are right. I mean if I thnk about it then yes I do grumble a lot in random groups when someone messes up, but I still see it as a nice adrenaline kick. When it came to raiding I only did that with a tight group of friends so all the performance issues you listed up were not that big a deal and I knew my Tanks and DPS “Qurks” so there was not that much resentment.
      When it comes to the performance monitoring tools in general I feel they are good for self-improvement and if thre are repeated wipes. In other cases they are just too much drama.

  2. December 6, 2012 4:48 am

    I think you’re absolutely on the money, especially when it comes to healing. In pretty much every fight, the healers have to cover for the DPS, and as the group gets better-geared the load on the healer only gets greater (because their raid starts expecting them to solo-heal stuff). That’s one reason why I loved Emalon in VoA so much – the core mechanic was something where the DPS absolutely had to get it right and there was no way the tanks and healers could be expected to compensate for them.

    I do think that being a long-term healer tends to instil a certain amount of distance from the DPS cadre, because you’re responsible in a way they’re not. In most fights, if a DPSer screws up, their DPS is a bit lower, but they’re unlikely to cause a wipe. Whereas if a healer screws up even momentarily, it’s likely to lead to a death and thus wipe the raid. There’s a reason healers generally burn out a lot faster, after all :)

    • December 6, 2012 10:59 am

      Yes, I think that constant pressure really adds up, and when more pressure is put on by other players making poor decisions, I think it really creates resentment between teammates. I’m not sure that’s the best design – to put teammates at odds – and I worry that the long-term effects might be part of what splits groups. Then again, this is all just off the top of my head, so who knows?

      Thanks for the comment!

    • December 6, 2012 5:35 pm

      I remember haaaaaaaating our DPS when we were doing Ulduar; I was the lead tank healer on the Hodir fight and if I screwed up even by a split second at any point in the ten-minute fight the whole raid would wipe, meanwhile 17 DPSers are goofing off and playing with snowballs. Grrr. :)

    • sher@gmail.com permalink
      December 9, 2012 12:04 pm

      “In pretty much every fight, the healers have to cover for the DPS”

      The word you are missing here is ‘bad’ or ‘not raid aware’ dps. Well, the truth is that the DPS have to cover for many ‘bad’ healers all the time… that’s why dps meters are important. If you could just stand there for an hour and have the boss die eventually the dps job would be relaxed. But in every fight the dps is fighting to make the healers job that much easier, and often this is because they know the healers aren’t that great at it anyway so if we don’t down the boss asap it’s gonna be a wipe. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that healers are the ones covering for their teammates…it’s a team. Everyone’s covering for everyone. If you find that you’re in a Bad Team then that’s what the problem is, not your role.

  3. December 6, 2012 5:51 am

    I don’t know, Stubborn. I can see your point, but from my own experience and from observing other people I haven’t found role to make that much of a difference to how I perceive my guildies. My biggest and most memorable moments of frustration in raids were always with other healers who weren’t doing their job well enough. And when a dps wipes the raid by standing in the wrong place, players of all roles can get equally ticked off about having their time wasted.

    • December 6, 2012 10:58 am

      How about when a dps stands in the wrong place and you have to have several moments of terror as you try to save them and thus the raid? Tanks and other dps don’t have to deal with that – feeling severe negative emotions as a result of their teammates. Tanks used to, when you saw the un-tauntable boss turn towards a dps, but nowadays it’s just healers. I feel like that moment builds up. Each time you’ve got to make a tough choice in the middle of a fight because two idiots are standing in goo and you’re not sure which to heal or ignore both and keep healing the tank (or your group or w/e), I think you get a little resentment counter that can go away but doesn’t always.

      Still, if you have a savvy enough raid group, they’ll know to blame the idiots and not the healer, but in a world of LFR and LFD, a world I’ve basically lived in since Cata, groups aren’t so savvy (well, not LFR; I haven’t done that yet). Additionally, it’s not only about the blame, but about the abject disappointment some healers feel at failing to keep a raid alive. A lot of that can be internalized, but it all isn’t, and that overflow can go anywhere.

      Regardless, thanks for the comment, and you should write on SW Zendom! Some of us need to hear your Jedi teachings (;

    • December 7, 2012 5:40 am

      LFR as a healer is fairly chilled, I find. As long as you don’t die and the tanks don’t die, people just assume it’s someone else’s fault.

    • December 7, 2012 7:37 am

      Tanks and other dps don’t have to deal with that – feeling severe negative emotions as a result of their teammates.

      Only if they aren’t paying any attention to what else is going on in the fight, and a good player will do that regardless of role. If you’re playing with “idiots” as you put it, then I dare say your problem is that you’re playing with idiots, not that you’re playing a healer. :P

      LFD is a special case I guess, but in your post you were talking about guild burnout and such.

      And I’ve been considering writing about SW zen, but then I think that talking about how, hey, MMO players are capable of treating each other as human beings, sounds like a massive amount of non-news. :P

  4. Imakulata permalink
    December 6, 2012 7:47 am

    Your remark about real life made me curious. I think that teacher is a very “good” job for a similar feelings to form; pupils who do not fit (may be unruly but due to another cause as well) make teacher’s job harder and I wouldn’t be surprised if feelings of resentment towards their job and pupils. (In fact, I am surprised how many excellent teachers I had when I was younger, I keep wondering how could they maintain a positive attitude after years and years of teaching.) I understand if you don’t want to talk about this but there is one more reason why I mention it.

    I’ve raided as a healer – not exclusively, I did off-spec on some encounters but my main spec since I started in 3.0 has always been a healer. I also can relate to the feelings you describe – but I can’t relate to them as a healer. Don’t get me wrong, my job is fun (at least for me) but I get often called to patch things up – similar to what healers do. The difference I can think of is that as a healer I’m mending our mistakes, rather than someone else’s. I never ask how difficult can X be because I know the answer precisely (it’s usually “a lot”); after all, I am trying to do X well too. I am not a teacher but I think teachers don’t feel like they are one of the pupils in certain ways.

    • December 6, 2012 4:19 pm

      I see what you mean regarding the self-perception of being part of the larger group or outside of the larger group. I think, perhaps, that this might illustrate the beginnings, middles, and ends of the problem, too. In the beginning, a healer feels like a part of the raid. 20 mediocre raids later, though, and perhaps he’s starting to feel like an outsider, like others’ bad playing is making his life harder. 20 raids after that, he feels fully like an outsider and doesn’t have any compunctions with leaving.

      Of course, I’m just making those numbers up, so 20 could be 5 or 50 or even never if the raid group is good quality. I haven’t had that good quality in a long time, though.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. December 6, 2012 10:11 am

    As I’ve said before, my only raiding (other than blowing up older stuff as a DK) was healing in Vanilla. Very different experience than today. I stopped raiding not because of burnout but because I didn’t want to schedule my hobby time that precisely. Healing is still something fun, there is a very visceral thrill to pulling someone back from the edge that doesn’t exist in the other roles..

    You do identify the DPS-issue for randoms and raids – you are in direct competition with every other DPS (and the tank in LFD). It is not unreasonable to assume that this is what drives the better players to stand in the fire. They aren’t, unlike the oblivious, unaware that they should move but have decided that a tick or two of damage is worth the extra DPS. Cleaning that up is the healer’s job, right? As a Shaman in LFD I tend to agree but let’s be honest, that isn’t very difficult healing.

    Some DPS are more competitive than others and some encounters are DPS checks. I’ve (inadvertently) caused some stress for DPS in Scenarios. Running as a Blood DK you have tremendous DPS on the AoE intensive fights. I think, to be a top performing DPS, you need that competitiveness. It may be internally directed but it needs to be there and for many people that is stressful.

    This is the start of an argument that the trinity should be Tank, DPS, Buff/Debuff. Everyone is responsible for their own health and every role has a defined concept that isn’t dependent on other people doing their job.

    • December 6, 2012 4:21 pm

      I don’t want to compete with other players; I want to succeed against the PvE encounters. If I wanted the competition, I’d PvP (and I have, when I wanted it). I fully realize part of this is the type of players you have on your team. Some never bring up the numbers as long as you succeed, but many I’ve been in do. I’m tired of those epeen shows. I don’t care if I’m being doubled, which in and of itself is part of my problem. If we win, we won; that’s good enough for me, which makes sense as a tank or healer, but not as a dps. I’m used to playing against the team, so any success is a relief – no one else screwed up so bad that we failed. With dps, it’s different.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • RimeCat permalink
      December 6, 2012 7:24 pm

      The competition is implicit. Whether it becomes explicit is purely based on the personalities involved. When I DPS, which I do occasionally on the Shaman and DK, I will check the numbers after the fight to see how I did. I’m not going to announce them, but I am still in competition with the other people hitting the mobs even if I’m the only one keeping score. It is very different than healing or tanking, yes, but that’s rather the point.

      Some of the people I habitually group with will not load a damage meter, even though they DPS, because they do not like the competitive aspect that introduces. I’m fine with that, we are a non-raiding guild that is about having fun, but I’m not wired that way. There is no fault in either direction, unless you are not competitive and want to raid, or worse, LFR. Then you need to be a savant or have a really thick skin.

  6. sher@gmail.com permalink
    December 9, 2012 11:59 am

    It can be even more frustrating being a dps and NOT being able to keep a guildie alive and watch the run fail because of that. As a healer, you have a certain measure of control over the whole raid, but as a DPS you often can’t do a thing beyond doing your own job well and that can frustrate.

    • December 12, 2012 1:51 pm

      Yes, I completely understand that, but I think that has more to do with internalized powerlessness than external “you’re making my job harder” resentment. Having been a healer for a whole xpac, I often struggled as a tank to work harder to keep people up, alternating heals with paladin cooldowns (blessing of sacrifice, freedom, or hand of protection). Since I often worked with my wife as a healer, that allowed some groups to be successful when they really should have failed but for our amazing teamwork.

      Thanks for the comment!

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