Healers Are Always in Demand: The Corporate Parallels of Class Specialization and Instance Roles

During my time in Azeroth, I’ve become captivated by dungeons.  I’m sure we’ve all run at least one by now, so we know that the game prompts you to select one of three roles before you can be queued: Tank, Healer, or DPS (damage per second).  Depending on your class and specialization, you may only be allowed to select one role.  For example, as a Mistweaver Monk, the healing specialization for the monk class, I was only allowed to choose Healer for dungeons and battlegrounds.  Now, as a Brewmaster Monk, the tank specialization, I can only choose Tank.  My argument in this post centers around specializations as similar to higher education, giving you skills for a specific job, a specific role, within the larger framework of society.  For the purposes of the game, “society” should be taken to mean guilds and instance groups for dungeons and battlegrounds, the primary modes of cooperative play in WoW.

We’ve all had to climb beyond Level 10 with at least one character, so we know that Level 10 is when the game prompts us to choose a specialization for our character.  Every class has three specializations, each with different abilities granted at Level 10 and setting the path for abilities gained at later levels.  For some classes, like Monk, the specializations correlate to each of the three instance roles.  Other classes have two roles available, like Warrior, which can be built for either Tank or DPS.  Finally, there are the classes that are meant to primarily serve one instance role, such as DPS in the case of Hunters and Rogues.  Specialization isn’t the only factor in the instance role a player can fill in practice, but the game assumes a role for a player based on their specialization, and the role a player selects determines how the other players expect them to act.  For example, a Druid who enters an instance as DPS may have a spell that can resurrect her fellow heroes, but unless she shares that information at the start, nobody will expect her to resurrect; that is assumed to be the healer’s job.  Similarly, nobody expects a hiring agent in Human Resources to do IT for the company.

Specialization makes me think of college.  Choosing a specialization is much like choosing a major.  By taking courses in a particular major in college, you learn skills that prepare you for a job, a career, applying those skills.  Many argue that there is tremendous pressure involved in selecting the path of the rest of one’s life at the age of 18 or 20 when a healthy person can reasonably expect to live until 70.  When you obtain your major, you cannot go back and change it, but you can pay for further classes in a Master’s or doctorate program.  Like your major, your WoW specialization tells other members of society your qualifications.  As of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, the maximum level for player characters is 100.  You choose a specialization when you are one-tenth of the way to the level cap, which, going by a fraction metric, is much earlier than you are asked to choose a major in college in reality.  Like a major, once you have chosen a specialization, you are locked into it unless you pay a class trainer to unlearn it, and only then can you choose a different specialization.  It becomes more expensive each time you ask to unlearn your specialization, just like further higher education becomes progressively more expensive.

Your specialization is your qualification.  Both the game (the corporation) and other players (fellow employees) have certain expectations based on your specialization.  You need to know what’s expected of you to be considered a valuable player in a cooperative instance setting, just as you need to know what is expected of you in a company in meatspace.

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5 Responses to Healers Are Always in Demand: The Corporate Parallels of Class Specialization and Instance Roles

  1. specifictortoise says:

    I had a similar experience with the roles in dungeons and battlegrounds. Early on, I’d decided that shields were going to be my “thing” in this game, so I chose the protection specialization. I was then really surprised that in the in-class battlegrounds I was the only tank on my team. I actually thought tank would be a much more popular role, and I guess in that respect I was fortunate that my talents happened to be in demand. In my case I didn’t do the research so it was more like entering a changing job market and getting lucky (then again, I wasn’t really thinking of it as a job market at the time). Choosing healer might be the equivalent of putting all your chips on job security.


  2. I see what you mean. I when I joined the game I chose hunter so my only option is DPS. I mostly chose that class because it seemed like the easiest to play and I didn’t want to have to focus on both playing a difficult class and playing WoW critically at the same time. But in hindsight that seems like a less good idea. Our class has few tanks and healers and lots of DPS. After reading your post I guess this could be seen sort of like picking an easy major, then realizing that everyone did the same thing, making your competition that much stiffer.


  3. yuc46 says:

    I like your ideas about comparing the roles in the Wow with the roles in the real society, and I also agree with your ideas that everyone should focus on their own job no matter in the game or in the real society. I also take a philosophy class this semester. Your ideas is really similar with Socrates’ ideas. Socrates also thinks each person should only specialize in one field in a country. Only in this case, the country can become a strong country. BTW, everyone can learn his second specialization in their class trainer. It only costs each person 10 golds :D. For example, mage can be both frost and flame….


  4. bagelbite13 says:

    This is a nice correlation between real life and the videogame world. In previous videogames I have played, you didn’t necessarily pick a class from the beginning. For example, with Runescape, another MMORPG, you can advance multiple skills rather than just one. You can be a warrior one day, a mage the next, and an archer after that. I guess that game can be related to freshman year of college in which mostly everyone loads up their schedule with general education requirements which allow us to get a taste of many different disciplines. You may have selected a major, but the switching from it early on is not in vain as you are not penalized. Going further, playing WOW is like sophomore year and beyond in which time wasted is money spent. Switching major(class) suddenly has major complications.


  5. dfw1alskare says:

    I thought the same exact thing when I passed level 10 as well. This aspect of Warcraft certainly parallels our reality and it is interesting that it exists at all — it made me wonder how necessary the need for this structure is to have a well-developed society and community. I think the very fact that it resembles the real world makes Warcraft a more appealing game to play. It is “realistic” but it offers an escape into an alternate reality where some sense of structure exists, but other freedoms exist too. Thanks for your post!


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