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.