Recently I read a couple articles about Gaming and Self-esteem (part 1, part 2) at Gamers Decrypted (go read it! It is a pretty good blog!). It made me think about my weird relationship with tank classes in MMOs. It is so weird that it really makes me think if I have some kind of masochist tendency.
But to explain it perhaps I should break into what I love about tanking and the things I hate about it. It might still not make any sense but it will probably be less rambly than if I just try to write into one big piece. Also, keep in mind this all related to group content. Solo and raid content is a completely different matter. In fact I don't even like raiding so I couldn't even make any commentary about that.
The things I love about tanking
The thing I like the most about playing tank and the reason I tend to drift to that role is because it is the only group role where there is interesting decisions to make. For instance, which mob do I pull first? Where do I pull it to? What kind of abilities it has that I need to look for? Will any adds come to help? And so on. It is the kind of decision that is different for every dungeon with some variation between encounters. There is no other role I've found that gives me the same pleasure. Healers come pretty close but for some reason they just don't give the same fix. Might be because at the heart I am a melee guy and standing on the back of the fight is just not my thing. As for DPS, I feel it isn't so much a question of interesting decisions as mastering the best order of abilities. So, interesting in a way but not as much as tanking for me.
Then there is the matter of learning the dungeon layout. The only way I can learn it is if I am the one tanking and leading the way. Otherwise I will go into some sort of auto-mode and follow whoever is the tank. In that case I may do the dungeon a dozen of times and I will still not have any clue about which way to go for what. That makes dungeons less interesting for me.
Lastly, it allows me to set the pace. I tend to play in a more laid back way. Some tanks prefer to clear things as fast as possible and while I don't mind that in a dungeon where we've been done a dozen times if it is a dungeon new for at least one person in the group I'd rather it be done in a more slow way so they can enjoy the place and learn the fights. This way they will have fun and if they ever come back later with other people they will know what needs to be done.
The things I hate about tanking
Anyone who tried to tank knows that it is a hard role to play. And if you fail at it then most likely it will result in a wipe. Worse, unlike healers or DPS it is not a role where you can share the responsibility by bringing another person with the same role. You can't have two or more tanks sharing the damage or aggro from a single mob (well, maybe there is in specific games but not in the ones I played). That is a lot of responsibility for just one person. Although I don't usually mind it there are times where I am just feeling brain-dead and would rather play a more relaxed role like... DPS! Except that despite my multitude of alts I have yet to level one to higher levels. So my choices are either tank despite not feeling it or taking the group slot as sub-par DPS. Granted, this is my fault for not leveling another option for grouping and not so much an inerent problem of the holy trinity. Still I wish I could just choose what role I want to play at the time instead of investing hours and hours in one character just to fill a certain specific role.
Then there is the bitter taste of failure. Yes, I know it sucks equally to everyone if the party wipes, there isn't anything special for tanks in this case. Still, no matter the reason the group wipes I feel responsible for it. If I am doing badly then I feel bad because I should have been a better tank for the party. If there isn't enough DPS then I feel bad because I should be doing more DPS. If the healer can't keep up with the damage then I feel bad because I should be able to soak more damage so the healer could have an easier time. The only time I won't feel bad is for example, if the healer disconnected in the middle of the fght. In that case the fault is in the healer's ISP. :p
And to be honest I'd probably feel just as bad if I was playing any other role. So again this is mostly a problem of my own mind.
But what about Guild Wars 2?
One of the things I loved the most about Guild Wars 2 is because it gave me the fix that I get from playing a tank class but without all the lone responsibility that comes with it. The responsibility of beating a fight felt a lot more shared equally. Granted, it didn't give the same feeling of being part of a well-oiled machine that could make short work of any menace as holy-trinity based games have. But still it was nice that my only worry if someone wanted to do a dungeon was if I felt like doing it or not instead of what class I could bring.
Unfortunately I left Guild Wars 2 for a lot of reasons. Part of those reasons were that my friends didn't enjoy it and without friends to play with I just have a hard time keeping interested in MMOs, no matter how good they are. The irony about it is that I am mainly a soloist in MMOs, that is how I do my leveling up. Yet without like-minded people to talk about anything and nothing at all and to do the ocasional group content I just feel like I would be making better use of my time by playing any single-player game as they are far more satisfying. The only thing MMOs beat single-player games for me is getting friends together without any obligations, at their own convenience. For me this is something precious that no other hobby provides.
So, point is, I do want to play Guild Wars 2 but I am still pondering how I am going to approach it. That is my dillema with the game.
Why not just play another role and forget tanks altogether?
That is the promise I always make myself every time I start on a new MMO. I will play a DPS class. I won't roll a tank. Then I roll a tank, just as an alt to have some variety. Then before I know it I am spending more time on the tank character than any of my others. And this is the point I am starting wondering if I am a masochist. The reason for that kind of promise is that I am at a kind of middle-life crisis with the tank classes. The kind where you look back at your life and start second-guessing your decisions, wondering if the grass isn't actually greener in other pastures and even possibly doing some extreme changes to get to that hypothetical greener pastures.
Hm. That sounds more whiny then I intended to. I guess what I wanted to say is, I love tanking but I really wish I spent more time playing other classes too. .... Which is still whiny I guess. *sighs*. Anyway, these are my feelings about tank classes. Do you have a class that you find yourself always playing either because you love it or because of other reasons? If so, what are your feelings about it?