The Appeal of Healing

Hame Healing

It has come to my attention that, while the majority of MMO players seem to have to be coerced into playing the healer class simply because their guild needs more, healing is probably my favorite role. I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 for about a year, so returning to Star Wars: The Old Republic has really been a fresh air simply because I can play a healer again.

My favorite thing about healing is that, while DPS is just about facerolling a rotation, and tanking is just about holding the attention of one or two enemies, healing is very technical; it takes thinking and planning. It’s all about prioritization, quick decision making, and resource management. Active healers like SWTOR’s Scoundrel/Operative have to do a lot of planning ahead and micromanaging HoTs. Reactive healers are all about knowing which player’s health to top off when. Sometimes you have to decide who to sacrifice when things get bad (protip: heal the tank; DPSes are expendable. There’s a reason why Star Trek Online made the DPS class wear the red uniform by default). I love this kind of play. Keep your big numbers, I’ll be back here keeping five people alive so you can focus on beating things with swords. Of course, with a quick respec, most healers can crank out respectable DPS as well (my Minstrel in LotRO in Warspeech mode used to hit like a truck back in the day). Maybe not more than a pure DPS class, but enough to make leveling easier or give you a way to be useful while you try to catch the gear treadmill.

It’s also nice to feel needed. I’ve never been immediately kicked out of a pickup group as a healer. As a tank or, more often, a DPS, the group leader will often size you up based on your gear, and, if you don’t meet his or her exacting standards, you’ll suddenly and unceremoniously find yourself dumped back in the group finder queue. There are plenty of fish in the sea, they’ll find someone else better than you soon enough. Healers, however, are something of a rare commodity. They’re usually willing to at least give you a shot before kicking you out (one wipe and you’re probably out the door, but that’s different).

Finally, healers get the best seat to watch the action. When I’m killing things, I’m just focused on my target. Tanks have to glance around from time to time to make sure there’s nothing squashing their healer or to take some heat off of the DPS, but healers really get to see all of the action. While most guilds seem to prefer that the tank lead the raid, I think a good case can be made that the healer is a better choice, since they get to stand back and take in the whole battlefield more objectively.

Granted, I’m painting a pretty rosy picture of healing here. The truth is, like anything in a group setting, it’s not always great, depending on how laid back your group is. There’s a lot of pressure on the healer, especially in small group dungeons; if your internet hiccups at the wrong time, you could wipe the group. Also there’s the blame game. If you’ve done many pickup groups you probably know what I mean here. The group wipes. The tank says it’s because the healer didn’t heal fast enough. The healer says it’s because the DPS/off tank never pulled anything off of them. They claim that’s because the healer was generating too much threat and doesn’t know how to play his class. And it all falls apart from there. More often than not, it ends in everyone ganging up on the healer for not keeping them alive. After all, they all died, and your job is to stop them from dying, so it must be your fault, right? Nevermind that they were happily standing in fire at the time.

What are your thoughts? Am I crazy for enjoying the healing snoozefest, or are there other healing fanatics out there who just aren’t as vocal about it?