From the outside, being a healer in Final Fantasy 14—or any MMO—might seem like a boring, thankless job. After all, your mission is to keep your party alive while they get to look all sexy and cool caving a monster’s head in with an axe—and if the party dies, you’re usually the one to blame. But appearances are deceiving. Any player worth their salt knows how integral a good healer can be to any successful party, and more than anything, I love being that healer.
If you’ve never played, the concept might seem a bit foreign. But Final Fantasy 14, like practically every MMO, follows a very simple template for the composition of adventure groups. One player plays the tank, whose sole purpose is to be a human shield for their weaker party members and keep monsters’ attention focused on them. A few other players are the ‘DPS’ or damage-dealers and their job is to beat the living tar out of those monsters. And, finally, there’s the healer, who keeps everyone alive.
Compared to those other roles, it’s no wonder most players prefer to play DPS. In Final Fantasy 14 that means being one of a dozen badass classes like a meteor-dropping Black Mage or a spear-wielding Dragoon that leaps around the battlefield impaling baddies. Your entire mission is to spam carefully thought out button combos and melt health bars. Comparatively, healers spend most of their time running around topping off other players’ health bars or removing nasty debuffs so they can perform more optimally.
But being the healer is so much fun because it’s not a role that demands the spotlight. My job is to help other players do their job. It’s emotionally fulfilling in an unexpected way, and I’m completely hooked on it.
Bringing the fun
Back when MMOs first became a pop culture phenomenon with World of Warcraft, the simple fact that I was adventuring with strangers was novel and exciting. Whether I was running a dungeon with other players or just exploring the world, I was always painfully aware that everyone around me were other humans. Over the past few decades, though, that feeling has faded considerably—largely because MMOs began to cater to convenience with features like automatic matchmaking that slowly squeezed the social aspects out of playing. Now when I run a dungeon, I don’t really need to talk to my team because they’re all strangers from other servers and once we defeat the boss I’ll never see them again. Because of that, many players objectify their teammates, seeing them only as a means to an end. They might as well not be real players at all.
Being the healer, though, makes me keenly aware that I’m playing with other people, because most of the time I’m having to fix their mistakes. If a DPS messes up, there’s little the tank can do to rectify it. I think that’s why so many players get mad at each other in MMOs. They lash out not only in frustration but also in helplessness.
As a healer, I have the power to fix all of that and ensure everyone has a positive experience. I am the king of fixing mistakes. If the DPS takes a hit they should have avoided, I can heal that. If the tank screws up a complex manoeuvre that results in the party taking heavy damage, I can heal that too. More than any other class, I have the power to turn what could be a negative experience into a positive one. It just depends on whether I can do my job well.
This might sound like an oxymoron, but I feel a weirdly humble sense of pride in being a good healer. If I can manage my mana and spell cooldowns properly, I’m doing more than merely keeping my team alive. I’m helping them have fun. In a way, I’m given the heavy responsibility of setting the tone for a group of strangers taking on enormous challenges together. There’s already so much toxicity online, and it’s nice to know a Cure spell can be the difference between a good party or a bad one.