Something has been mulling around in my mind since late March - and that’s how little love healers tend to get compared the ire they draw if a group wipes. Players should be more eager to “toss a proverbial coin” to their healers, to steal a still popular meme, than they currently are. This was most keenly felt almost a year ago when I was celebrated by the game for healing, yet my team was confused as to why I was being celebrated.
Usually when my crew and I play Overwatch, I find myself being cast as the healer. This isn’t a complaint - I’ve enjoyed playing Mercy since the game’s launch in 2016. However, something that has bothered me for a long time now - even before playing Overwatch - is how little love a healer truly gets in a group.
This is felt most keenly in Overwatch, as the Play of the Game algorithm just doesn’t seem to be tuned to see healing as something worthy of being celebrated with a highlight reel at the end of a match. Yet, more often than not the play that is being showcased to each team is often facilitated only thanks to stellar healing. The healer, in most scenarios, never really gets the credit.
This isn’t something that feels unique to Overwatch, either. Playing MMOs for basically my whole adult life, healers are desperately sought out in any LFG call - in fact, playing a healer in games like Final Fantasy XIV can see queues go from over twenty minutes if you’re DPS to under a minute as a healer. Everyone agrees that they are necessary. And while in FFXIV you have the commendation system to show appreciation, in other games it just doesn’t feel like the valuable resource that is a healer truly is fully appreciated.
Much like finding the optimal tank in a situation, a healer can make or break a group. Getting someone who is in tune with the ebb and flow of a fight, can manage their resource pool and skill cooldowns to ensure a team is properly kept in the fight during a long raid can ensure a smooth experience. However, when a raid breaks down, more often than not the healer is the first to be blamed, even if it was a DPS making a bad pull, or a tank unable to keep aggro.
Healers keep groups going - literally. I can’t tell you how many times a raid has fizzled because our healer dropped or they could not keep up the DPS of the boss we were trying to burn down. Indeed, so many of my early raid experiences in The Lord of the Rings Online were marred by PUG healers dropping when the going went tough.
Yet when the raid was ultimately successful, the healer was never the first person who was thanked for keeping the team alive. This always seemed weird to me, as I knew as a squishy-DPS player that the only reason I stuck around the whole raid and wasn’t calling for a rez was because the healer did their job pretty well.
This doesn’t mean either that healers can simply be stuck up about their role, either. We know the group literally can’t survive without a healer - but that doesn’t mean the Priest or Minstrel In the group should adopt a “healer mentality” - the holier than thou attitude some display when joining at PUG in an MMO. And healers, especially poor ones, should still be called out when a group wipes due to bad healing - but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t go the other way and praised more often when a group survives without much of a scratch.
So going back to Overwatch, it feels like that mentality that the support classes are simply in the background and deserve no recognition that I noticed and experienced in some games seeped into other genres as well. In total, since playing Overwatch since it launched, I have a single Play of the Game. One. In four years.
I was stoked. The Overwatch algorithm never let me believe that would ever happen. Yet it did - in this match where my ability to keep my team literally is what won us the game - and Overwatch acknowledged this. After four long years my contributions were acknowledged and appreciated.
“I totally missed it - what did he do?” Followed up by a “That’s it?” My good friend Brian quipped when seeing my amazing healing being recognized.
It was a deflating - yet hilarious moment. It perfectly encapsulates why healers typically aren’t given the spotlight - unless a bug does so as is the case in Overwatch right now. The same thing is true in MMOs - there is nothing flashy or sexy about constantly spamming a heal or buff on your compatriots while they focus fire on a Balrog or end-game boss in Final Fantasy. Yet without your pocket healer, those amazing moments of DPS and Tank-y goodness wouldn’t be possible.
Some games, like Final Fantasy XIV have systems in place to thank your groupmates - like the commendation system. Additionally, games like Overwatch have started to entice players to take on the harder roles of Tank or Support by giving you gold or loot boxes as a reward for queuing in these roles. More games could implement these types of systems to make it sexier or more rewarding to play Support roles, especially when most people forget you’re there until the whole group wipes.
So whenever you can, toss a coin to your healer, oh gamers aplenty. They definitely deserve your praise - or ire depending on the situation - before dropping out of the group and moving to the next dungeon.