On Whom the Heal Tolls
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.
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.