From the earliest days of arcade machines players have banded together to fight their way through games cooperatively. When games transitioned into the home with video game consoles we saw an increase in player versus player models of multiplayer; where players would sit side by side and compete. Recently there has been a resurgence of cooperative games where players join teams to fight an enemy team. While this format was popularized by first person shooters those teams were essentially identical units with the singular goal of attacking the enemy.
MOBAs or multiplayer online battle arena games such as League of Legends, Dota II, Overwatch, and Heroes of the Storm, have made the experience of being on a team a rewarding process by allocating roles for team members to fill. Players can choose from classes such as: tank to soak up damage, support to protect teammates from damage, and damage to target high value enemy teammates.
These roles speak to a player’s sensibilities and allow for a variety of playstyles; tanks can be aggressors and disrupt the enemy team, supports can play tactically and help to secure objectives and escape routes, damage players can hunt down targets and be exacting in their attacks. However, the true beauty of these roles is that when combined they form a complimentary team.
Many gaming communities view these roles as representations of the players’ personalities and as such the roles themselves are part of gaming lore. Supports are often the least played role because they are unsung heroes, tanks are critical to a team’s success but the role is difficult to play when new to a game, and the damage class is often flooded with people seeking glory, leading to the generalization that they are greedy.
While the roles help provide a player with a sense of purpose and unique contribution, the gaming community has also struggled with the fact that dividing players into self prescribed classes also subsequently divides them into schools of thought. Tanks want control, supports want recognition, and damage wants to fight. This has caused an immense of amounts of infighting and often lead to aggressive and toxic behavior among teammates. Tying players together into teams means that someone else can make or break a player’s gaming experience either due to lack of skill or willfully being uncooperative.
The experience is a difficult one to remedy within the gaming community because making efficient and productive teams is a real world problem. However this problem is one that teaches us a lot about human behavior and coordination; it can be tough to want to solve it when playing a game for fun, but the skills of mediation and coordination are powerful if practiced. Learning how to contribute respectfully to a team and with optimism are lessons with lifelong applications that these team games have the opportunity to teach us if we are willing to work together.