Editorial: Elitism Sucks, and Why Tanks Aren’t Such Special Snowflakes

Howdy there, Lusi-sprites.

Lately I have been really good about not babbling about MMOs or the Sims (which is an excellent game thanksverymuch). Well our happy days are over, it’s time to blather on about … World of Warcraft. I was going to say Sims, and show you guys video of my new house, but I had a rare and likely fleeting moment of generosity. You’re welcome.

Behold, the upcoming Tier 11 Resto set!
Most MMORPGs operate under the same basic principles when it comes to party and class balance. I remember Lane writing an excellent piece regarding this and how that needs to change. Well, apparently the right people do not read our site because nothing has changed. For large-scale group content (the stuff that puts the massively-multiplayer in the RPG) you still need volunteers to be a meat shield and keep the enemies away from the weaker party members, someone to heal the team’s boo-boos, and someone to seriously attack the enemies or else you’ll be there all damn day. Due to real or perceived difficulties in leveling a character as certain classes, most MMORPG populations do not have appropriate role balance. Basically, most games tend to have a huge shortage of tanks, and many have a shortage of healers. As I stated, there is a perception that these roles are difficult to level up, because they cannot kill enemies quickly. I have a friend who rolled a tank in Aion and he said that there is one area where he simply cannot go. By the time he starts to cut a path through the enemies there, they freakin’ respawn. Tanks and healers also tend to shoulder the blame when things go wrong, and some players just want to avoid the drama so roll a damage class.

So, the shiort version is, tanks are usually rare, and healers kinda-rare, and damage dealers tend to be a dime a dozen. This has lead to some interesting social hierarchy in MMOs that I have observed. Essentially, one of the cardinal laws of most MMOs is thou shalt not piss off thy tank. This also sometimes applies to healers. As long as the tank or healer is not a complete failure, they will be forgiven if they are slow, undergeared, cause a few wipes, or do what my tank did last evening – go afk really quick to eat a sandwich, then come back 30 minutes later. Now that I think about it, I remember a healer friend doing the same thing, except he had an epic hour-long sandwich. If the damage dealers pulled any of the aforementioned crap, there is a good chance they would be booted from the group and/or mocked mercilessly. Why? They are easily replacable, of course, and the tank and healer are not. These same imbalanced demographics also lead people to just be nicer to the tanks and healers, because by God, noone wants to try to find a replacement. Since rolling a healer in WoW and Aion let me tell you, my ego has inflated substantially. I rage quit out of a heroic yesterday because the tank presumed to say “Hey Priest, shield me.” I am a mother-fucking discipline Priest casting Power Word: Shield is all I freaking do most of the time. I did not need to take that kind of ‘attitude’ from my tank, so by golly I left him. Yes, I am part of the problem and not the solution with his social hierarchy. Thanks.

Tanks really are a modest sort
All of this, really, is very unfair. We all play an important role in the completion of whatever content the group is there for, and having dabbled in all three of the basic RPG roles, none are really harder than the others. There is a perception that tanking is hard, but a good amount of the time, the tank just has to go through their button rotation like the damage does, and they get the added perk that the encounter revolves around them. If the tank moves, everyone else moves. If the tank does not want to move out of the fire, the healers will heal them, etc. People think that healing is also difficult, however it is not, it is just different. It is a glorified whack-a-mole game and like with tanks, often they are given an easier ride. On encounters where you need to keep your distance from other players, for example, the healers are usually assigned their spots and it is up to everyone else to stay away from them. No role is significantly harder to perform, so really, no role should be held above another.

Now I will be the first to admit that not all roles are meant for all players. I, for example, make a poor tank, because I have the wrong mindset for tanking. I am careful and cautious in MMOs, which means I am a slow tank, carefully judging each pull, constantly checking up on my team to make sure they have enough MP or whatever resource they use. This sounds great in theory, but in practice it makes me slow, and irritates people who are too afraid of pisisng me off to tell me to hurry up. On the other hand, I love healing, because it is so reactive and unpredictable, but that is exactly why other people hate it. I am not better than the next guy just because I have a different idea of fun, yet I have found that since rolling a healer in Aion and WoW recently, people are so much nicer.

What is the point of all of this? Well, unfortunately I am not Lane, so I do not have a viable suggestion for how to fix the issue MMORPGs have with roles. If you take anything from this, I guess it would be that you should not be afraid to try a new role, it is not as hard as you might think, or as hard as elitist snobs might tell you.


  1. You find people are slow to tell you to hurry up? Any time some warlock tells me that, I point out, “the healer is low on mana. Keep it up and I won’t taunt off you again.”

    I try to be as accomodating as possible; if someone is new-ish or doesn’t know how to play, I help them out. But I ended up in Oculus the other night tanking on my DK and the warlock, hunter and retardin were all from the same guild on a different server (Frostmourne, or Moronmourne, as I call it). Not a single one of them broke 1000 DPS, but the Warlock would always do his fiery AoE… on the next pack of mobs as I was pulling. I told him after the first boss, “if this behavior continues, I will stop saving you.”

    He said, “LOL LEARN TO THREAT.” I told the healer, from my guild, not to heal or res him. Sure enough, the next pull, he pulled aggro, and I didn’t taunt. I managed to kill all the mobs as his buddies tried to help him. They all died, and we didn’t res them. We continued pulling trash until we got to the next boss, by which they’d run back in and joined us. This pattern continued until we’d finished the instance up to Eregos, at which point, the idiots pulled him. My healer and I flew to safety and watched as they died horribly. They all left in a huff, and three others joined and we finished.

    I have played every role in the game, and they all take skill to do well, and I appreciate all of them. I think that classes with large solo viability (pet classes, plate classes with self-heals, DKs) are over-represented because it is easier to level without having to rely on others for help in tight spots. Leveling my DK, I could solo even group quests with an unholy spec because of the gargoyle and ghoul pets. Incompetent DPS piss me off as much as incompetent tanks or healers, and I am not shy about telling someone that is just plain bad that it’s not working and vote-kicking them, or, in the case of my raids, that they don’t get a spot on the progression team.

    I’ve recently started playing Warhammer Online to try and cure some of my WoW burnout (I can’t even get motivated to finish up the achievements for my Frostbrood Vanquisher), and that game makes no apologies for non-soloable content, since most of the leveling/gearing is done through world-PVP or instanced PVP. Now, the problem is largely that the people you play with (hardcore PVPers) come in two flavors, the extremely-competent and 13-year-olds who yell “LULZ I AM DANCING NAKED ON UR FLAG!”. But it is odd to see classes with better solo viability under-represented.

    Ultimately, and I think Cataclysm is addressing this, the only way to break the holy trinity feel (and thus remove the privileged status of healers and tanks) is to lessen the importance of those roles. And the healer model for Cataclysm (triage + off-dps) sounds really neat. Now, if we just make is so that a constant threat-ceiling is not necessary for tanks, and give them some more utility skills like slows, roots, and situational buffs, we’ll have a more “tabletop” like experience going on, which can only be for the best.

  2. Final Fantasy XI seems to avert the problem, for the most part, as there are tanks all over the place. I can never seem to find physical DPS (but mages are all over the goddamn place). As a RDM/WHM, I’m in the fortunate position of being able to heal when necessary but not being expected to be a dedicated healer.

  3. And back in my City of Heroes days, if I died, I wouldn’t get pissed at the team. I knew full well it was almost always my own damn fault for pulling a mob, etc. I’ll never forget the Hamidon raid (the game’s only real raid, usually with 30-50 people), where there was a mass suicide. Everyone was organized in to teams based on their role. The raid leader sent the tanks in, but the ranged DPS party, suicidal as they were, ran in before anyone else. An “oh shit!” moment broke out as the tanks ran in, were too late to pull aggro, the healers ran in, too late to heal, and the melée DPS (my team) watched and laughed as around 30 people proceeded to get creamed.

    The moral of the story? Don’t blame the healer or tank for your being a dumbass.

  4. I prefer to be a DPS. If I make a tiny mistake, it is unlikely to fuck up the entire raid, and if anyone dies, it will probably only be me.

    Not that I often make a mistake, but I prefer to only injure myself if I do.

  5. I myself adore tanking. When I play City of Heroes, it’s the AT I play the most. I don’t think of myself as a god when I do, I just think of myself as the aggro sponge. Maybe that’s just the mindset between two games, City of * was designed so that no one AT is necessary, So I’ve played on entire Task Forces (Multiple Hour story-arcs) without tanks and healers. As a matter of fact, I’ve played one of the hardest Task Forces in the game with all Glass Cannons. Did we die? Enough to push the deat- DEFEAT counter into triple digits. But it was still a great time and we finished it at a reasonable hour.
    Also, Tanking itself doesn’t seem challenging, it’s just when you get idiots that expect you to be the aggro god. At that point, it’s all PEBCAK from there.

  6. while I can’t contribute in any real way I gotta say like this article and discussion.

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