Healing Tolls: Now with Research!
There’s been a nicely lively discussion of this topic here and elsewhere in our little community, but the more comments I got and the more I saw the topic replicated, the more I wished I’d taken more time to think carefully and write carefully about what I meant. Shintar summed up my error best:
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.
This comment is nicely reminiscent of a comment I got from Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade fame when I cajoled my friend into asking, “How do you deal with players who try to break your game?” His response was simple and elegant: “Play with adults.” It even spawned one of their comics, which my wife witnessed during their “Watch us draw a Comic” panel the following day. Yes, some things I do are awesome, at least from the viewpoint of a tiny corner of the Internet.
I love that story, and I love Mike’s and Shintar’s responses because they cut to the true heart of the problem. However, they’re equally problematic, too. I was stuck with the D&D group I had; they were all friends, they(we) all did things together outside of playing the game, and for the most part, there weren’t problems outside of certain in-game behaviors. They were a unit; I could start from scratch, cutting out a majority of my NYC social group at the same time, or I could learn to deal with them, which, in the end, I did. It involved a lot of thought and theorycrafting, but in the end I waited and found a crime for which I had the perfect D&D punishment. It turned a possible game-ending confrontation between play styles into a great role-playing opportunity. More on that another time.
The same’s not really possible with WoW, though. I can’t craft the game to suit the problem. I am far less “stuck,” too, than I was with D&D, but I think more now than I did before that my theory is sound, that healing makes it more likely that people begin to dislike their guildmates, and I dug up some research that I can cite, too.
John Gottman runs the Love Lab, a questionably named research institute that actually turns out some very compelling – perhaps even terrifying – data. I linked there his research FAQ because it gets to the main points I’m going to make, but since he’s written or co-authored 40 books on relationships, I think he’s got a pretty solid record. He’s not a fluffy feel-gooder, either; he does hard data research on body movements, tone of voice, and other quantifiable data to turn out a formula that can predict the likelihood that a couple will divorce in the next six years – with a 90% +/- 5% accuracy rate.
That’s a stunning number. That’s the terrifying part, that it can so clearly and accurately be measured whether couples will split in a short amount of time, less time, in fact, than WoW has existed. That’s part of the reason I like to use this research with WoW; it’s not about the super-long term survival of a guild; it’s created specifically for shorter relationships. Secondly, I like the marriage metaphor quite a lot. A guild is a social unit voluntarily working together for no financial gain, but only to further their own unit’s desires. In a marriage, that could be stability, family, children, or sex. In a guild, it could be RPing, raiding, or PvPing (or, in both, it could be a gigantically unlistable variety of other things).
So what’s the point, then, in even drawing the comparison? Because I want to use a single piece of data to back myself up. Gottman finds that for relationships to survive that the relationship needs to have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions, particularly during a stressful situation, five to one good to bad in order to survive.
Now let’s look at our roles and the most basic reasons people might have a negative moment towards another raider, even if it’s only subconsciously registered (which is what Gottman finds, too, that a lot of the “scorekeeping” is at an unconscious level).
Towards other tanks
There could be an issue if another tank didn’t correctly do a threat swap on a fight that requires it, like Gluth back in Naxx (I’m very fuzzy this morning, and that’s the most recent one I can remember – ugh). It could happen that the swap happened too early or not at all. That might happen a few times per raid run, mostly on a single boss. Let’s make a guess and say 5 times for a back-and-forth tank swap, and it’s unlikely that it would happen more than once or twice if you’re in a situation where the other tank is even remotely capable of doing his job.
There could be an issue if another tank failed to pick up adds, like on Madness of Deathwing, forcing the main tank to grab them and potentially endanger his own life. Again, that’s very boss specific, as in maybe 2 or 3 bosses in a raid tier. Again, it’s unlikely it would happen over and over if you’re in a group that’s even possibly capable of downing the boss.
There could have been an issue in the past, though hardly any more, that a dps stole threat off a tank. It still could happen if the Dps pulled too early, but that’s just incredibly unlikely. If this happened, it would only likely happen a handful of times, and it’s likely the Dps would be swiftly killed for their error by the boss, giving some feeling of justice, even if it’s mixed with disappointment that it might cause a raid wipe.
There could be an issue that the dps might not be targeting the correct mobs. In this situation, a mob might grow too powerful and kill a tank (like on spine of Deathwing) or there might be too many and overwhelm the tank. As usual, it’s likely this would only happen a handful of times, though this is perhaps more likely than any other scenario we’ve covered so far.
A tank might be irritated at a healer if the healer wasn’t healing him at the appropriate time in the appropriate quantities. This could happen, of course, and probably is in the top 2 for likelihood of these options, but in the end it would really only matter if the tank actually died, which can only happen once per attempt (or twice with a b-rez). This is probably where the largest “tank animosity” would occur, unless the tank was paired with a really incompetent off tank (which would drive the tank mad, as I can attest).
About the only scenario I can think of in a quasi-professional raid situation would be if the tank somehow lost threat. This could be due to a slow pick-up or low threat gen (like back on Fel Reaver), but nowadays the threat gen situation seems basically impossible. So not picking up a target, which could happen during add fights, seems to be the only thing I can think of. Again, that requires a specific boss mechanic and a very specific failure on the tank’s part, which makes it largely unlikely.
Towards other dps
This could happen easily once per fight, at the end, when the numbers are looked at. If one dps is seriously not pulling their weight, it could irritate the other dps that they had to do more as a result. Once per fight means maybe 12 times per raid per tier (on average for numbers of total bosses per tier), or once per attempt. So this is certainly possible on any boss, making it more likely, but really only once per attempt.
Again, about the only thing here would be if a healer “allowed” a dps to die in a situation where the dps was not at fault (for standing in fire) and there wasn’t a death mechanic (like on Chimaeron). This happens plenty (more often in the Dps’s mind than in reality, of course), but by its very nature can only happen once per attempt (because they’re dead afterwards).
I could mention threat again, but at this point it seems superfluous. It’s likely the main source of animosity now would be tanks not properly using their cooldowns. This can happen multiple times per attempt on any boss.
Each time a dps stands in fire or puts higher dps numbers above keeping themselves alive, healers could feel a little animosity towards dps. Again, this can happen multiple times per attempt on any boss.
Towards other healers
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about this particular situation, which I didn’t mention at all in my original post. As with the dps getting irritated at other dps, the lack of a solid team can be very frustrating for a healer once per attempt on any boss.
So you see, dear reader, that healers have the opportunity to build “resentment counters” towards every other person in the raid on any boss, often multiple times per attempt. No other role is so susceptible to these negative emotions.
It’s entirely possible that the healer in question is very kind and forgiving and nothing comes of it. It’s possible that the team is such good friends that the resentment is forgotten due to other social actions that vastly outweigh the irritation of raiding. It’s possible that the team is so good that the mistakes are quite rare and are vastly outdone by the team’s successes.
In the guilds in which I’ve raided, in the border between casual and hardcore, where I’ve been a stranger to most of the people outside of Azeroth, I haven’t had these opportunities, and I find it likely that people in situations like mine in guilds like mine find the same truth:
As a healer, it’s been far harder to maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions than as a tank or a dps. The very design of the game, that our job becomes harder multiple times per encounter due to the teams’ mistakes instead of the game’s mechanics makes that so. How we handle it and the final result of those emotions is up to the individual player, but healers bear a greater burden of dealing with those emotions than other roles.
So, hopefully that better explains how I think about the situation and why I feel the way I feel.
On a completely separate (and probably more important) note, Balkoth of his eponymous Word is doing an informal study of where exactly being “required” to have a piece of gear becomes “you’d have to be nuts” to have that piece of gear. He explains it much better than I do in his intial post, and his survey can be found here. Read it and take it; it only takes a few minutes and I’m very interested in the results!
Stubborn (and data driven mad)
P.S. Tarnation this was supposed to be for tomorrow but I forgot to set up the “publish on” part. I told you I was fuzzy this morning. Ah well, enjoy early and I’ll see you next Tuesday!