“Entire categories of game characters (such as ‘healers’) have little or no advantage in individual play, but they are indispensable members of every team.” (Thomas, Douglas and Brown, John Seely; A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, 2011)
For any non-gamers out there, I figured I could briefly highlight the three critical roles in collaborative games that explain why the individual player often struggles to progress further without any assistance.
Tank – Tanks are the players whose job it is to take on the much of damage that the enemies are throwing at the team. Tanks have plenty of health and can do some damage, but often lack the power alone to defeat more difficult enemies. Tanks rely heavily on their support to keep them alive.
DPS – DPS, or “damage per second,” characters are those who are strong enough to defeat enemies because of their sheer damage output. DPS often rely on their tanks to shield them or take damage while they can use their powerful skills to defeat the enemy.
Support – This role typically consists of healers, but can also be filled by characters with moves that aid in boosting the skills of tanks, DPS, or other supports. Supports often lack the power to defeat enemies by themselves, but without supports, both tanks and DPS characters could easily fall at the hands of the enemy due to the lack of protection.
As you can see, the three roles balance each other out in a way that makes it necessary to have characters to fill each slot in order to progress in the game. In games with preset roles, characters can often fall under multiple categories. In other games where you can choose which skills you want to level up, you aren’t limited to a particular role, but it is often best to stick to leveling up skills under only a couple of different roles in order to boost your power level as there are often game buffs that go along with leveling skills of the same type.
I hope this quick explanation helped anyone confused by some of these terms!