Sick Of Healing

If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to be near Kieron Gillen and me in the same location at the same time, the chances are at some point you’ll have heard Kieron make a jibe at me about my MMO healing abilities. It normally arrives at some point in the evening. Eventually, enough was enough, and it was time for my revenge. That’s what this is: a revenge piece written to an international audience. I’m proud of that. If you’ve ever played a healer in a game, you’ll understand. It originally appeared in the Escapist, but now is reproduced in full for your eye-based entertainment.

There's Kieron, needing some healing as usual .

I’m not going to play a healer again.

We, as a people, sue hospitals. The degree of stupidity necessary for such an action should be impossible to grasp, so mind-destroyingly moronic we begin whirring, buzzing and emitting smoke from our circuits. Instead, we’re used to it, even resigned to it. It is in our international character. Ask anyone who’s ever played a healer in an MMO.

My mistake was made entering Paragon City. This was a city of heroes – a place where everyone was a champion. I wanted to be a hero to those heroes. The decision to play nurse was an altruistic one. I could have chosen a healing power that helped just me, gave me that extra edge in the battle. But, instead, I bestowed my purple avatar, the elegant Nitefall, with an ability to drain energy from her enemies and transfer it into those around her.

On my own, this was a boon to my experience. Super-jumping my way through the boroughs, I might spot a low level player struggling against a crowd of vicious bad guys. Never fear, stranger! I’d land nearby, fire off the heal and then leap away before they could know what happened. Heroic. But, see, here’s the thing with this particular power: It was never very reliable. There was a risk. A number of factors could cause things to go wrong: The enemy I’m sapping might die before the process was complete; I might take damage, thus interrupting the action; or the person I’m healing might move too far away to be in my area of effect (AoE). Of course, should I just generously be drive-by-healing, such a failure would go unknown. Put me in the middle of a pack of feisty fighters, and it’s a quite different matter.

How dare I fail to heal someone in this orderly battle?!

Nitefall was never offered as a group’s healer. Warnings were always given – don’t trust my heal, don’t rely on it. Disclaimers shouted at the wind. Irrelevant. If you can heal, you should damn well heal, apparently, and any failure to do so was a disgusting slight against all involved. Nevermind they might have slain the very enemy that was due to save their life. Nevermind they may have flown too high for your AoE to reach. Nevermind you were being barraged by an electric bombardment of mystical lightning, peppered by chains of bullets, thrown through the air by the force of a dozen grenades… You. Failed. To. Heal: Condemnation.

A doctor trains for at least seven years, barely making minimum wage throughout, and saves hundreds and hundreds of lives. No one notices. This is the bare minimum, the very least expected of him. We order a pizza, we expect a pizza to be delivered – no pizza results in angry phone calls and demands of free foodstuffs. Fair enough. We go to the hospital, we expect to get healed – no healing results in angry phone calls and demands of massive amounts of free compensation. Compensation paid for by our own taxes. Our own money. We’ve gone mad.

When you’re the healer of the pack, every death of every companion is now your fault. In City of Heroes, death results in XP debt – a hefty cost. When the blame for the demise is inevitably laid at your feet, such a cost results in impotent resentment. It cannot be made up by another, XP cannot be transferred from the failing doctor to the dead-and-resurrected patient. So, instead, hostility is the out-of-court settlement.

Warwych, shortly before needing to be healed. Again.

The healer, the generous, caring individual who set out to try to help others, is hated. Cursed. Failure is now supposed, expected, and when it occurs, they have demonstrable proof such an attitude was perfectly reasonable. Nevermind the 37 times you healed them before they ran too far away, nevermind the innumerous top-offs you gave their health bar before it reached even halfway empty. They go unnoticed, unrecognized, forgotten, buried beneath the transferred anger of another debt-developing fatality.

I don’t need that. I don’t need the weight of a responsibility I never offered or earned. I’m there to have fun! It stings that my charitable decision to take on such a beneficial power should result in such an intimidating experience. As yet, we are unable to sue each other within an MMO – I doubt it can be far off. In the meantime, bitterness and public mockery are the payback.

It’s so much easier to blame the healer, than oneself. Sure, they may have been able to prevent your losing, but it was still you who lost. You allowed yourself to get so weak. You put yourself in deathly peril. And the chances are, if you’re one of those people who blames every death on the healer, you’re probably pretty terrible at the game.

I’m not going to play a healer again. Next time, I shall select a heal that boosts my chances. Let the others be damned, look after their own damn selves. There’s no reason for me to put up with the suffering. No cosy, tie-wearing super-consultant job awaits me, making this abuse worthwhile. It’s every superhero for himself! And many shall die as a result of this.

Jim's ever-splendid ANDOV, who never moans about healing.

It’s too late for me. But it’s not too late for future generations, our MMO children. And people, I appeal to you, for the sake of the children, it’s time to treat our healers with respect. People sue hospitals out of fear. Fear of their mortality. The failed procedure, the botched operation, the unsuccessful treatment – all reminders of the fragility of our lives, and how desperately we do not wish to lose them. MMOs are not life.

It’s ok to die in a game. Really. And sure, it’s annoying, and certainly, it comes with an imaginary cost. But the person healing, the person who failed to rescue you for whatever reason, is actually a person. You didn’t die, but they did get insulted. You suffered no real harm, but they did feel the barbs of your words. You’re wounding these people. Mentally destroying them. And you need them. So here’s the plan: the next time you are successfully healed, and each and every time, you thank that person. You tell them that you value their healing touch. And sure, get cross, tell them you’re annoyed – that one moan, that small whinge, will be lost amid a sea of gratitude and praise in their gaming life.


  1. MeesterCat says:

    I think I’ve developed into a healer over time in part due to my lack of twitch skills. From experience, good healing does require excellent timing, but in a more strategic sense – something my reactions are up to. I.e. when to spam quick heals, can you allow the tanks health to drop in the time it takes to do a 3 sec major heal, timing a big heal when you see a Boss about to unleash hell on a squishy, etc, etc…

    I find it far more challenging and fun than simply being a DPS’er. Simply the thanks you get from a non wiped group and the satisfaction of a job well done is reward enough.

    And bravo to Feet’s comment about healing being a privilege not a right!

  2. Sensei_Fuji says:

    peoples opinions on healers depend on the game mostly, i remember a TF2 match where i was the only medic in an attacking team for a control point match. sure, people complained about my “lack of healing”, even though i was juggling 6-7 people running against fire and turret bullets. the whining continued, until i remembered i had the medical saw as a weapon; chaos ensued shortly after. my impressive 32 bonesaw kills (nothing beats the exiliration of running up and killing 3 heavies with a saw) imediately shut the rest of the team up.

    if you hate being blamed for deaths, then try WoW. im a palladin (tankadin/DPS whore/healadin hybrid thing) who will usually just spam dps in instances, but whenever i take the time to heal the tank a little, many rounds of thank you’s will follow shortly after. like pike said earlier, healers are one of the most valued groups of people in the game and are valued greatly by many people. its always great to have the wipe blamed on the tank, instead of the healer for once

    but then again, people i have met on WoW have generally been less of a total douche bag compared to people on other games….-_-

  3. Zhal says:

    I’ve kinda always liked healers in MMOs. I’m always hoping that people screw up and I get to do something. It’s the dynamics of players that gives it the extra challenge (even in PvE stuff) and I like challenge.

    And it’s always fun to mock people who are trying to say how to play my class and then leave them to die.
    And since usually there aren’t that many healers in servers you are pretty much guaranteed a spot in instances and stuff.

    Evidently I also like to play a medic in TF2.

  4. szasha says:

    I always play healer, I may enjoy beating on people from time to time, but the satisfaction of helping others is timeless and a great way to make long lasting friends.

    However I do always take what others say too seriously, it’s part of my empathetic nature, so when someone screams abuse or leaves a group because of “bad healing”, I do feel punished and I had some fault even though I could write an essay on how said complainer brought themself to their death through their own actions and not mine.

    As a result I try to raise the quality of communication before I join a group, as this can be key to having a great, efficient and friendly group who might just become your friend! =-)