Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Support of Supports

My latest PopMatters article is now live: In Support of Supports

I thought about spending the entire length of this article talking about support classes in League of Legends, of which there are quite few immensely entertaining champions. Lulu can turn enemies into a cupcake... a cupcake! I also thought about exclusively discussing TERA's Mystic class, but I have a review in the works for that game. Instead, I talked about each briefly and instead focused on support classes in general.

For now, I want to examine why some players actually enjoy support classes above so many others. I freely admit my adoration of supportive roles in multiplayer games. I played a restoration druid in World of Warcraft for many years and did my best to excel at a healing role. Most multiplayer games, if there is a support role to fill, I will gladly heal, buff, and otherwise back up my allies anyway I can. There are several reason I believe I am drawn to support roles.

First, I have very little faith in my ability to play anything else. Simply put, I lack confidence. I play too carefully too often and it diminishes my killing potential. Maybe I should rush that hill, lob grenades into a crowd of infantry, and thin mow the opposing team down with a hail of bullets. Instead, I crouch in some bushes for twenty-minutes and then peak my head out just in time to take a sniper bullet to the head. Why throw myself into the fray, where every little mistake matters, when I can hang back and seize my opportunities strategically, backing up my friends whenever possible. After all, someone has to lay down cover-fire.

Second, I am actually pretty good at them. Playing a support demands you pay attention to the game system as a whole, monitoring all team activity while also playing an entirely different meta-game than your allies. It might now always be the hardest role to play in a game, but certainly is unique. After so many years filling the all too often unwanted role in a team, I have come to know what is expected of me. I feel comfortable stepping into a support role in any game, knowing that the knowledge I carry regarding my approach to gameplay is somewhat transferable.

Third, I love feeling like a part of a team. As a carry, the heroic damage dealing character who is the first to jump into the fray, a game can feel like a solitary experience. You have your enemies to dispatch as quickly as possible, you can leave the rest behind. As a support, I am nothing without my team. Unfortunately this means I bad team will drag you down. I have lost many League of Legends games because, no matter how much advice and amazingly timed heals or knock-backs I delivered, I could only do so much. But when a team comes together, playing a support class can feel like captaining a ship. When the team celebrates and even shows gratitude for amazing support, I feel an immense amount of appreciation for role-based gameplay and the creators of well designed supports.

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