In the years since the inception of competitive gaming, team-based titles have come to increasingly center around three main class or role archetypes. Tanks are the vanguards of their team—making, holding, and dominating space so that the rest of their unit may function. Damage dealers perform their function either as artillery, infantry, flankers, or snipers, attempting to take out members of the enemy team through sheer firepower. Healers are combat surgeons, who run willfully into peril, risking themselves for the sole purpose of keeping their teammates alive. However, one notable difference exists between combat surgeons and healers.
People appreciate combat surgeons.
Healers, on the other hand, must slog their way through a quagmire of verbal abuse populated by thorny accusations of “low-skill” gameplay, with their services often taken for granted. Did the tank decide to take a page from Leeroy Jenkins’ book and barrel solo into the razor-toothed maw that is the entire enemy team, then die? Healer’s fault. Did that sniper stand out of line of sight and die while mashing her “I need healing” voiceline—at the same time standing six centimeters away from a health pack? It’s obvious that the healer committed some kind of moronic blunder, even though no game’s mechanics allow one to cure someone else of their own puerility.
There even exists a portion of the population who believe that the role of “healer” doesn’t belong in competitive gaming at all. These individuals bear the conviction that gaming was better before every title had a dedicated healer—somehow deluding themselves into a belief that experiencing bullet hell or any form of PvP combat with no dedicated support role is preferable. Healers, however, play a necessary role that enhances games rather than detracts from them—and by no remote stretch of the imagination is healing a “no-skill” or “low-skill” job.
Why Healer is a Necessary Role
In the most elementary terms, healers enable the rest of their team to perform their own specific role. Tanks depend upon healing to survive the damage they receive while drawing attention, and damage dealers require mending if they wish to accomplish their goal of mutilating an enemy team member. Without the presence of support characters, players would be compelled to rely on enormous health pools and either passive health regeneration, health pack pickups, or items which allow one to heal themselves or others—in essence creating a mini-healer anyway.
Healers help developers balance games. Time-to-kill (TTK) is one of the more crucial aspects of any competitive player versus player experience. If it takes too long to kill someone, players become frustrated. If it takes too little time for enemy teams to murder each other, players likewise become frustrated. Healers ease this quandary by increasing TTK proportionate to the skill of attacker, target, and medic alike. As the healer and their patient are a team of two, a damage dealer may require assistance to pick off their foe, creating a dynamic engagement. This enforces the idea of teamwork—for while healers can be viewed as the backbones of their squad, they can’t accomplish much on their own. It’s unfortunate that healing the enemy to death is never a true and viable option.
While tanks and damage dealers require support characters to enable them with the capability to accomplish their roles, healers are in the same way dependent on tank and dps players to watch their backs. By keeping them free of enemy flankers and assassins, a medic’s teammates can help them shine in a give-and-take, symbiotic relationship which benefits all involved. Healers are every bit as integral a part of competitive gaming as bullet sponges and pew-pewer’s, and the sooner gamers accept this fact, the better.
Healing Roles Enhance Games
It takes a certain breed of person to take up the mantle of healer or support character in a competitive environment. In many ways, these individuals are selfless—though there are, as always, exceptions to this rule. Rather than bask in the glory that comes with a well-executed, precise headshot or a screaming rampage led by a swinging battle-axe, support mains prefer to work behind the scenes, their actions enabling them to act through their teammates.
Those who prefer supporting or healing roles are also often drawn to certain games due to the available selection of characters in their desired role. While many games have a roster of healers whose size is miniscule in comparison to the amount of damage dealers available, the very presence of a character whose main role is providing medical support can be enough to make healing-centric gamers purchase a title they might otherwise forego. The logical conclusion one can draw from this fact is as follows: Games which feature a role with the main function of providing heals or other life-saving support mechanics have larger, more diverse populations.
Healers also enhance games in an aesthetic manner. While damage dealers and tanks tend to have flashy, shiny animations meant to draw attention or look dangerous, portentous, and impressive, healer animations and spell effects are soothing, almost calming—reflecting their palliative nature. Often rendered in shades of blue, green, and yellow, healing effects appear reminiscent of nature—of water, sunlight, and verdant growth. Animations such as these give their digital artists a chance to use their talents in the creation of something that represents the blessing of life itself, much to the ocular delight of gamers everywhere.
Not a “No-Skill” or “Low-Skill” Job
Nothing is sure to draw the ire of a support player faster and with more vehemence than to insinuate that playing a healer requires a paltry amount of skill, or worse—no skill at all. “No aim, no brain,” certain gaming communities are wont to say, as if the ability to spray bullets in someone’s general direction is the pinnacle of finesse and proficiency. What these individuals forget—or refuse to admit—is that while healing may not demand the same type of skill as playing a role such as sniper, it does require a skillset exclusive to the role.
The main skill all healer mains must perfect is the delicate art of triage. In the span of nanoseconds, a medic must evaluate the remaining health of their entire team and determine which individual they must assist at any given time. A common misconception among gamers is that this person is always the tank, when in fact a healer sticking only to their tank and ignoring injured damage dealers is a major red flag—the bloody, scarlet mark of an inept healer. There are a multitude of situations in which a medic must switch their attention from a tank (even if injured) to a damage dealer, who are fragile by nature and cannot survive as long as even a heavily injured tank in the heat of battle. Due to their low HP pools, damage dealers can be healed with swiftness, and then triage dictates the healer turn their gaze back to the team’s vanguard. The ability to execute rapid, accurate triage and make split-second decisions under pressure is not a trait every person has, and cannot be learned—only refined.
The secondary skill support mains require in abundance is, in truth, a combination of two things: situational awareness and positioning. Healers not only need to know the general location of each of their teammates, but also must be vigilant in monitoring enemy team movements. Using this information, a medic must then discern the best place to position themselves so as to be available for emergency aid, while at the same time avoiding unfortunate encounters with enemy flankers or well-placed bullets in their skulls. Often left to fend for themselves as overzealous damage dealers are physically unable to look behind them, support mains must discover the consummate balance between passivity and aggression in order to survive.
Respect Your Healers, or Die
While developing the skills listed above, healers must also build their mental fortitude, their skin evolving into an armor thicker than dragon’s scale. Any and every death is their fault, and their teammates have no issues with berating them for it. This can range from profanities spewed through voice or text chat to passive-aggressive tomfoolery such as spamming “I need healing” voicelines with such frequency that in-game spam filters must step in and squelch them. Of special note are those individuals who, while lying in a pool of their own failure, continuously bombard the healer’s ears with “Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!”
Nobody is perfect. Everybody dies. Even pro eSports healers make mistakes, and either fail to keep a teammate alive, or must, by necessity of triage, allow someone to perish so that another squadmate might live. Berating healers for perceived failure is a self-defeating action, in which toxicity results in tilt and unconscious bias on the medic’s part. Before opening one’s mouth and unleashing a tirade of anger, gamers should ask themselves one vital question: Would you want to heal someone who treated you like dirt and insulted your gameplay despite your best efforts to keep an entire team alive? Not likely.
Healers perform a vital, necessary role in competitive gaming. Their presence enhances the games they appear in, drawing in different types of players to aid and assist their teammates in performing their own roles. Without healers, competitive gaming would be a chaotic mess of unbalanced gameplay in which even accidental grazing by a single bullet could mean a trip back to the spawn point. Support characters encourage teamwork and communication, allow developers more freedom to create powerful damage abilities via balancing them with healing in mind, and give tanks and damage dealers the opportunity to take all the glory for themselves by healing their ungrateful behinds.
Respect healers and the integral role they play, lest they grow tired of enduring the toxicity of frustrated and suicidal teammates. Each time a medic is subject to abuse, there is a chance they may decide they are through with the role in its entirety, narrowing the pool of overall healers available—creating a bottleneck of damage dealers. This is unhealthy for any game attempting to maintain balance or brief matchmaking queues. Worse, such toxicity is unhealthy for the players themselves, causing stress, anger, and unhappiness—emotions which ruin the overall experience of a game for everyone.