When I started the research for my dissertation, one of the concepts in gaming identity I wanted to explore revolved around women selecting healing classes in digital RPG games. It was suspected that gender stereotypes mapped over into game spaces; that women wanted to be “caretakers” and that was the reason so many of them played healers.
The research interviews I did for the dissertation did not support this idea at all.
In fact, not a single participant who played a healer said they played because they wanted to take care of the group. They all said they healed because it took significantly more skill. The only woman who mentioned “taking care” of the group as a priority played a tank, a feral druid she ran in bear form. This idea stuck with me long after the dissertation was complete.
As a gamer, I have long been terrified of the “responsible” roles in MMORPGs. When I first started playing World of Warcraft back in late 2005, my first toon was a warrior. I had no clue what I was doing when I started that toon — I didn’t know what a tank or DPS (damage per second) was in terms of game play or group roles. It was the first class that popped up and the description seemed the most straight forward… so I accidentally rolled a tank.
I ran a small handful of instances as a tank at that time, until I became overwhelmed by the social responsibility. I tried my hand at healing around the same time and had the same reaction: I didn’t want to be responsible for the group. The backseat and DPS was the place for me.
As I mentioned in a recent post, one of the motivations for returning to WoW has been the joy of nostalgia. This weekend I turned that feeling on its head.
Part of the package for pre-ordering the new expansion is the ability to auto level a character to the max level of 90. You can apply this boost to any level character, and even though I was aware that there was a bonus if you leveled an over 60 character, I rolled a brand new Pandarian Monk and selected the Brewmaster build.
So now, I begin my journey as a tank.
The auto level process is rather disconcerting — it’s a little like skipping several chapters in the middle of a book. Suddenly, I found myself at the end of the Pandaria content when I had been slowly working through the story from the beginning with my main, Sunnybee. At Mark’s suggestion, I went back to the area where I had been leveling with Sunny so that I would be testing out my new monk, Pandamonaium (Mona, for short), in familiar and lower level territory.
There was a certain freedom in jumping in with a new character and one that plays completely differently from my familiar DPS. Playing the Monk class is a little like learning how to dance, throwing kegs and spitting fire, and holding aggro like you would hold your dance partner close.
I’m planning to continue writing about this new gaming experience, sharing my experiences with this new class and new gaming adventures.
Have you had any similar experiences stepping out of your comfort zone in an otherwise familiar game?
Regina is a gamer, writer, teacher, and podcaster living in the Pacific Northwest. She completed her Ph.D. in 2011 from Washington State University in Vancouver and continues to teach there part time. Regina’s research interests focus on women and technology, and her dissertation discusses female gamers and identity in digital role playing games. A lifelong geek and technology enthusiast, Regina recently started a Girls Who Code club in support of their mission to close the gender gap in technology.
To continue the conversations about gender and gaming that Regina started during her research, she started a podcast called Game on Girl. Called the “NPR of game podcasts” by Chris Brown of The Married Gamers, the podcast features women involved in the game industry, and tackles some of the complicated issues in the gaming community. Season 2 began in the spring of 2018 and will premiere new episodes monthly.