"Pulling in three ... two ... one. Named epic mob incoming!"
I can't tell you how many times these words have crossed my lips, accompanied by my teammates' shouts as we take down a mighty creature of lore. As the main tank, I have one job: take the damage so that nobody else does. If I go down, the whole group falls with me. It's not the healers' fault if I kick the bucket; it's my fault I don't have better armor. And if someone else dies, it's not the fault of the nuker who chain casted for 30k - my taunts just weren't good enough.
Looking back into my MMOG past, a pattern emerges: I've always been a tank. EverQuest? Paladin. City of Heroes? Ice Tanker. Final Fantasy XI? Paladin/Warrior. And now in EverQuest 2, Guardian. I played other classes too, but they were always just a diversion by comparison.
I can't remember the last time being the main tank could be considered fun. All of the time spent camping for armor, just to turn around and spend hours more helping others do the same because I'm the only one that can take a hit. So why do I do it? Because I'm a nice person or I'm a sucker - either way, I can't say "no." And maybe, because deep down somewhere, it's nice to be needed.
According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, there are five levels of need. The first is physiological, the need for food and shelter. The second is security and protection. The third is social, which encompasses the sense of belonging and love. The fourth level is esteem needs: self-esteem, recognition and status.
Playing an MMOG may not put food in your belly or keep you safe from harm, but it certainly fulfills those third and fourth levels of needs. Joining a guild provides a sense of common purpose and belonging that offline games simply can't. And for those looking for recognition and status, no class puts you in the spotlight like the tank.
Maybe being a tank in an MMOG helps me get my fill of something I'm missing in real life. I can't really complain: I'm healthy, well liked, and enjoy coming to work every day. I can afford food and shelter and even have some extra money for going out and socializing. It seems as though I have Dr. Maslow's fourth level pretty well satisfied. What could it be, then? Perhaps it's more innate, built into the genes of my family members from thousands of years of breeding: instinct.
I can still recollect the bedtime stories my mother used to tell me about superheroes who needed my help. Likewise, when my father used to go on business trips he would tell me to "be good and take care of your mother." (I was 5 at the time - I could barely tie my own shoes.) But I think the crown jewel came when I was 8.
I was in a drugstore inside the Penn Can Mall with my mom buying band aids. While we were checking out, I heard yelling coming from just outside the store entrance. I looked to see what was happening and saw a man yelling at a woman whom I thought to be his girlfriend or wife - either way, it was obvious they knew each other. The woman was beautiful: young, long blonde hair, wearing a business skirt and a blouse as if she had just come from work. The guy, on the other hand, looked like a scumbag; greasy hair, crappy jeans and crummy black leather coat. I watched silently as the guy verbally tore her down in front of the growing crowd.