Where does the pressure lie in healing?

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|12.09.12

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Where does the pressure lie in healing?
Where does the pressure lie in healing
I used to be a healer, once upon a time. It was in the days of vanilla, when being a healer consisted largely of staring at 40 bars, pressing Flash Heal, and occasionally mixing it up with a bubble or Heal Rank 4 while swigging potions like they were going out of style. It was a very different time, and healing was by and large much less complex than it is today. My guild didn't use Vent, so I did all the healing rotation calls via macros on my keyboard -- that's how easy healing was. I had time to press macro buttons and pay attention to calling things.

But at some point that guild fell apart, as guilds are wont to do on occasion. And since server transfers weren't even a possibility at that point in time, I simply rolled another character on another server, vowing to take a break from any and all raiding. It lasted until paid server transfers were added as a feature, at which point my priest was promptly moved to my new server and I began healing again -- this time, in battlegrounds. I helped a lot of friends by healing them while they tried their hardest to get High Warlord in the original honor grind.

So what happened? Well ... healing happened.

Where does the pressure lie in healing
Or rather, healing didn't happen. When I began playing this game back in 2004, I rolled a druid. Part of it was a keen desire to turn into a kitty, but most of it was because my friends insisted that they needed healers and I should play one. When I got the druid to 60 and decided to play on the Horde, I was told to level a priest. Why? Because raid guilds needed healers. Once again, I found myself healing.

It wasn't bad, necessarily. And the months I spent doing battlegrounds with friends was actually incredibly fun -- although I soon discovered that Benediction really ought to have been called the Here's-The-Healer-Kill-It-First Stick. But when Burning Crusade launched and my old friends wandered off for one reason or another, I was a healer left with nobody to heal. Which is when I decided to make a drastic change and play the class I wanted to play all along -- a rogue.

Stubborn over at Sheep the Diamond wrote a really interesting post on healing and the pressure involved with being a healer. In the post, he points out the distinct difference between being a healer, and being DPS. When you're playing a DPS class, your enemy is the boss. More and more, especially in later years, when you're a healer your enemy is not that boss. Your enemy is your fellow players ... you know, those guys you're supposed to be healing.

Starting with Cataclysm and moving firmly ahead in Mists is the concept of player responsibility and damage mitigation. Back when I healed in vanilla that was quite literally all I did. The DPS classes did nothing but DPS, because I was standing there off to the side healing them and keeping them alive. More often than not, I'd see DPS standing in fire or otherwise ignoring their surroundings in favor of their favorite activity -- stabbing large elementals and dragons square in the behind.

Where does the pressure lie in healing
It was frustrating. It was kind of maddening. But at the time, there were no limits to how many potions you could drink in a fight. So I would keep swigging my potions and healing them as best as I could, all the while grumbling somewhere in the back of my mind that it would be much easier if they simply understood the concept of avoiding damage in the first place. Stubborn talks about that concept, and points out that these days, players have a variety of ways to avoid damage. But they still don't actually do it.

And what that does is create a subtle, quiet animosity in the back of the mind of the healer. I remember spending hours griping and commiserating with my fellow healers in our special channel. Invariably, we had healers that would burn out and leave. Stubborn points out that he was one of those players -- and the reason he left wasn't because the game was too difficult. It was because he had some sort of inward counter of resentment towards his fellow players, people who could not seem to grasp the concept that fire is bad and will kill you.

And Stubborn wonders -- if he actually played a DPS role, would he perhaps be more understanding of the woes of being a DPS? As someone who made the switch ... I'd have to say no. It's odd -- switching from a healer to a DPS class didn't make me think about DPS any other way. It just made me a DPS player who is incredibly conscious of damage mitigation and cooldowns, because I know what it's like to have to heal a DPS player, and I want to make that experience as easy as possible on the healers.

Where does the pressure lie in healing
Maybe I'm not the best DPS in the world, but I do know how to avoid damage. And it makes me wonder ... is this what makes healers ultimately burn out? Is it the difficulty of the encounters they face, or is it the difficulty of dealing with 9 or 24 players that simply will not get out of that giant green cloud of poison that is quite obviously causing them to die? Is that really difficult boss Deathwing, or the Sha of Fear, or Elegon ... or is it, as Stubborn wisely noted, the raid and the players that healer has to play with?

I haven't healed in years. I'm perfectly fine with that. But I'm interested in what healers of today have to say, especially in the face of an expansion that places so much importance on damage avoidance and personal survivability. Healers, what do you think?

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