“The Holy Trinity” of MMORPGs has always been an interesting thing to me. I am not fully certain where the trinity began, but if I had to wager a guess it was probably Everquest or Ultima Online (at least, video game wise). It probably was not until World of Warcraft that the concept of the Trinity became a more common knowledge, mainstream point. On the surface it makes sense. You obviously want a “tank” to keep aggression (remember when it was called aggression before the more colloquial term “aggro”?), a healer to keep everyone healthy and big hitters to actually kill the thing. It’s one of those things that just makes sense, so much so that it is hard to conceptualize anything different.
I think this is where it breaks down though. We are stuck in this rut of believing in the Trinity (I promise you, this is only about gaming) so much that I think it stagnates the creativity of party class composition. Standard MMORPG group size is 5, and in that 5 you are expected to have 1 tank, 1 healer, 3 DPS. Without fail. All players know it, all developers know it, babies in this generation are born knowing it. The issue? Generally no one wants to play healer or tank. EVER.
Can you really blame this on player population though? Tanks and healers are some of the most thankless jobs in existence. This post, I want to talk about Tanks, but healers will becoming soon.
The tank’s role is pretty self explanatory. Be a meat shield, keep your enemies angry at you, make them think you are the biggest threat to be eliminated and keep your “squishies” safe. You are the momma-bear and daddy-bear of the party. In general, you are going to want to have a good relationship with your Healer, because they are going to save your life. Repeatedly. That is the basic concept of a tank from the outside looking in. Most tanks, however, will tell you there are a few more things that you have de facto responsibility for that no one really tells you when you start.
You are a Cartographer
You probably didn’t realize this was in your job duties when you signed up to be a tank, but get ready because you are going to have to be able to do this. For every instance you tank you are organically expected to know the entire layout of your instance. The entire map, all enemy placements, all treasure placements, trap placements, pulling patterns, patrolling patterns, shortcuts, etc. If you aren’t on your game on any of these points, get ready to feel the heat because your DPS are going to go ballistic: there’s always one that wants to speed through everything. You would think that this should be the responsibility of everyone in the party. Logically, you are correct, but realistically, no. Somehow, even if your DPS pull aggression on enemies accidentally, if your party wipes, this is somehow your fault (along with your buddy the Healer, but again, another post).
You are a Zoologist
Well, maybe not a zoologist exactly, but you are expected to know the ins and outs of every monster and boss that your party is going to encounter during that instance. Every mechanic, every situation, you better know what’s going to happen, or your Christmas is going to be ruined. And much like being a cartographer, if someone else in your party makes a mistake, somehow this is still your fault.
You are Everyone Else’s Entitlement
This is probably the worse of them all. The general feeling seems to be that for most players, the Tank in the party is just a means to an end. After a rough instance, the conversation starts to go towards who had the better DPS, who was more instrumental to the killing of some boss. Mean while the Tank is off on the corner, crying and nursing his wounds wondering why no one stops to think that your tanking skills were why they could even do such high DPS to begin with. Her Healer buddy may join her for a moment, but not for long. Healers seem to be credited for keeping everyone alive over the Tank, simply because of the nature of them being a Healer.
The result of these unspoken job requirements is this: if you are not perfect and on your A-game as a Tank, you are going to witness the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory firsthand. For most people, this is enough to stop wanting you to tank all together. For others, you may not play the game again. Then of course, there are those few who stick through it and continue to do our Tanking, and they are truly saints with the patience of some kind of Buddhist master.
Now granted, most of this is generalization, but I wager that this is more the norm than most people realize. This contibutes to the overall problem with the Trinity, which I will get into in another post.