In pretty much every team style game I’ve played, I always tend to lean towards the support class. Roleplaying Games, MOBAs, MMOs—unless there’s something unique that stands out, that is always my fallback, often what I learn the game on, and probably the role I tend to enjoy most. It is also the bane of my existence because in any game there are few roles more underestimated and under-appreciated than supports. If you play the numbers game, supports aren’t racking up a kill count, they don’t appear particularly intimidating, and depending on the type of support you play, you’re not going to stand out from the rest of the team. Oddly enough, this is the support’s job. You’re not supposed to be highly noticed. Supports, especially healers, if they do their job right, shouldn’t be noticed at all. If you aren’t making mistakes, than you are an enigma on the field. Your team is alive largely thanks to your efforts, but it is a passive occurrence. At the end of the day, few people are going to remember in the end to thank the support.
“Well playing support is easy” you say. Is it now? That lends a lot of faith to your fellow man; I’m quite impressed, though I don’t think that’s the intention. Support is one of the few classes that universally relies on the intelligence and abilities of their teammates to listen and follow-up. To know precisely when to initiate, when to defend, when to react, and of course, to accept the fact that even with perfect performance it is a role that receives much of the blame but rarely the credit. This is especially true for passive supports like healers and buffers, and occasionally even tank supports don’t get the credit they deserve.
I see this a lot in MOBAs. I started MOBAs in the Support class, and played that almost exclusively for a while until eventually I did start experimenting with others roles and lanes. I still play Support occasionally, because at the end of the day it is still the most fun position for me to play, and the one I am best at. But they’re still a limited class in terms of how the community regards them, to the point most people refuse to play them at all. You would think, if supporting were such an easy task, people would accept it without question. Instead what you see when a player is relegated to supporting is often they turn to building damage anyway and ignoring their support duties. This is the hardest part of supporting – unless you’re used to it, you often fall into a rut where you feel like you’re not doing anything, because of this idea that if you’re not doing damage, you aren’t contributing.
I’ve been playing the same tabletop character for about a year now in the game Runequest, and it’s a lot of fun. But what initially started as a straight healing character, not only not really capable of doing damage but technically not allowed to hurt things, has since turned on its head so completely it almost defies explanation. But that’s the progression of a lot of people who play support class—you start off doing your best to be the background that the team relies on until eventually you just want the same level of glory and praise the rest of your team gets on the front lines. Next thing you know, you’re making water guns that turn people into babies and psychologically tormenting enemies and telling your teammates you’ll heal them next turn, you just gotta bring down this one last guy.
And that’s all fun, but it isn’t really beneficial to the team and I’ve seen this attitude remove any chance a team has of winning more often than I care to count. I can’t blame the supports in this situation though. It’s understandable. And when you’re not playing support, it is easy to fall into the same trap of forgetting your support exists, and is likely doing a lot to set up everything just so, allowing your team to swoop in for the kills. Everyone wants the perfect support, but the way you get good supports is making the role seem desirable in the first place.
For instance, I played a game recently in League of Legends as Thresh, arguably one of the best supports in the game (and one of my personal favorites). In League, the support travels to the bottom lane with the damage-heavy but almost always very fragile marksman and helps them secure kills. Good bottom lanes are ones where the support can either snag an enemy allowing the marksman to take them down, or keep the marksman alive during attacks long enough to take one of them out. In this particular game, we slaughtered. The marksman ended up getting nearly half the teams total kills, and at the end, the team was shouting his praised. “ADC carry! GG!” And even after playing support for years, I was still a little jaded. Because I was in that lane too, and in my mind I knew I had lined up most of those kills. I had done the prep for them, I had pushed them back to let the carry farm, I had kept the lane safe from invasions. And yet, nothing. The marksman was the one that had the score to show for it. I was just the support.
Good supports are born out of feeling like they’ve contributed something to the team and getting credit where its due. Remember to support your supports. (P.S. As a general rule, don’t ever make your support angry at you.)