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Answer by Julie Anne Exter, Blood Elf Holy Priest, avid gamer for 15 years:
I’ll approach this question from the three major roles one can play in a five-man group, regardless of race/class combinations: the tank, the healer, and the dps (which stands for damage per second, for those of you who have not reached level 100 in Being a Nerd). These three roles call for three distinctly different styles of gameplay, and I suspect that it’s three unique personality types who go in for each. Join me as we examine:
Tank classes in WoW (Paladins, Warriors, Druids, Pandaren, and Death Knights in their proper tanking specs) are highly coveted group members. Usually when a group is having a hard time getting off the ground, even despite the considerable assistance provided by the dungeon finder tool, it’s because there aren’t enough tanks around. I like to think that this is because tanking bears is a lot of responsibility (get it? Bears? Bear tanks? I crack myself up) that other roles don’t necessarily have. Except, of course, the healer, but more on that later. Anyway, the tank is the group’s first line of defense against hard-hitting bad guys in that they’re built to absorb a bunch of punishment and to keep “aggro” off other players (read: make the monsters attack the tank as opposed to the other party members, who are also generating threat with the spells and abilities they’re using). Here are the personality traits I associate with tanks:
- Reliability. Tanks show up. They know you need them. They have foregone the glamour and the excitement of playing a dps class because they know that without the tank, there cannot possibly be a group. They have come to save your squishy cloth-wearing arse from being one-shotted by cleaves.
- Narcissism. Remember how I said the group can’t happen without the tank? And remember how I said they know that? Some of the biggest divas in WoW that I’ve known have been tanks. I’ve seen some tanks who were shameless jerks in dungeon finder groups for the simple reason that they knew they wouldn’t get booted from the groups because tanks are so hard to replace.
- Predictability. A tank’s sole functions are to make the bad guys hit them and to survive those hits. There usually isn’t a whole lot of re-inventing the wheel that goes on when it comes to the abilities a tank uses or the order in which they get used.
- Resilience. When groups wipe, or when the poo hits the fan, people love to blame tanks. They love to blame healers, too, obviously, but I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s worth noting that tanks tend to have the ability to brush off heavy criticism and keep on trucking.
Dps classes (pretty much any class in the game in a damage dealing spec) are responsible for actually killing the bad guys in dungeons in an efficient manner. As there are three dps spots in a five-man group, this is the role that the majority of casual gamers will play. There’s never a shortage of dps. They’re a dime a dozen. As such, you get a ton of variety in terms of players’ abilities. You have the superstar damage dealers who are capable of putting up impressive numbers on damage meters, making groups much easier … and then you basically have the unwashed masses, who have no idea how to play their classes and who don’t contribute a whole lot to a group’s success. In other words, it’s a case of Azeroth reflecting life. Some traits I associate with damage dealers both good and bad:
- Competitiveness. Dps-ers, especially the ones who are good players, seem to be locked in a never-ending struggle to be the best damn dps in the world. Or, y’know, in the group. Everyone’s been in that group with That Guy Who Loves to Link Meters. Damage dealers can be a braggy, self-absorbed lot.
- Tunnel vision. As we’ve discussed, good damage dealers are focused on KILL, KILL, KILL, FAST, NOW, PEWPEWPEW. In their frenzied attempt to earn gold stars by mowing down everything in their path and winning the dps race, they have a remarkable tendency to ignore the mechanics of the boss fights. In other words, they like to stand in the fire. This can cause the group to take too much damage. This can cause the group to wipe. Thanks a lot, hubris.
- Underperformance and apathy. On the other end of the bell curve, you have the lazy damage dealers who never bother to learn how to put out damage effectively. These players are content to be dragged along in groups and let the more skilled players do the heavy lifting while they sip Mountain Dew or make a quick trip to 7-Eleven. They’re C-players at best.
- Extroverted. Damage dealers are chatty Cathys. They like to preen, posture, joke, and talk smack. I am of the opinion that they have the time to be so chatty because they are expendable.
Healers (appropriately specced priests, paladins, shamans, druids, and pandaren) are special people whose gaming vocation is to cure the diseased, dispel and decurse the magically afflicted, resurrect the dead, heal big boo-boos, and more or less fix everyone’s mistakes. I’m looking at you, dps who stood in the fire. The role of the healer, like that of the tank, is also a role that bears a lot of responsibility and is therefore less popular. Healers are, in my opinion:
- Patient. It’s our job to forgive you for your lack of good tank gear, your mediocre understanding of boss mechanics, and your learning curve as you figure out your rotation. We are blind to your faults because we’re only paying attention to your health bars. Our objective is to get the group past any given encounter by making sure enough people stay alive and healthy enough to beat the boss. Sometimes it gets downright ugly, and hard, and frustrating, but somebody’s gotta do it.
- Attentive multitaskers. Good healers have to pay attention to lots of stuff at once. We have to prioritize who needs heals most urgently and decide which healing spells are most efficient in a variety of situations. We need to be mindful of conserving our mana during longer encounters, because if we run out, everyone dies. We also need to be paying attention to boss mechanics, because if we stand in the fire and die, everyone dies.
- Nerves of steel. Lots of people avoid playing healers because it’s high stress and a lot depends on them. Born healers embrace this and excel under pressure. Plus, we always have to deal with griefers who blame healers for everything that goes wrong in a group. Everyone likes to assume that more healing was required in any given scenario, as opposed to, say, less standing in fire on the tank’s and dps’s parts.
- Quiet. We don’t have time to chat. Healing is serious business.
- Martyrs. When we do have time to chat, it’s usually after the group wipes. And it usually goes something like “I tried so hard to keep us all alive … if only there were less fire, and fewer people standing in it.”
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