Tamarind over at Righteous Orbs got me thinking about caring. She focuses more on gender issues, which I don't mean to discount, but I'll try to focus on the overall relationships of tanking, healing, and DPS. Her overall theme is one of caring, we all feel safer with a tank who cares, especially if we're the vulnerable healer.
My main is a prot paladin. She's female, I'm male. I feel different tanking on her than on my male warrior or male druid. She's more arrogant and sometimes bossy. Is that just more stereotyping, that a female cannot be protective and leading a group, that she must be aggressive and offensive?
My paladin has a mildly annoyed face at all times. It was intentional. After playing a FHP for a few levels I was disturbed by the way her face did not change whether she was standing around chatting or smashing kobold face. In reaction to this, my belf has a perfect face: it looks appropriate for combat without being too ugly for standing around. But it also doesn't make her look very friendly, a little bit hostile, in fact. I hope that my paladin's offensive personality is due to her appearance, not to stereotyping about her sex-role combination.
I remember being DPS for a female druid once. I felt very safe, as if I was the cub of a momma bear and everyone knows, you do not f- with the momma bear's cubs. At times I've wanted to make a protective female feral, but I have a very strict rule about female tauren: they are only allowed to be played by female humans. I get very annoyed when people break that rule. Yes, it's silly, but too bad.
Why don't we care about DPS?
I don't mean we don't care about how well they play. We do. If we didn't we'd not see "lf DPS naxx 10, 4k+ will be gear checking." What I instead mean is that, at least to me, we care less about the intrinsic value of DPS players. They're just DPS. They're not like tanks or healers. We value them. Why?
I think it's about the sharing of HP. Tanks give their health to the healer, saying to them "I will shield you with my very life." In return the healers say "I will keep you alive, but you must protect me in turn." It is a reciprocal exchange of trust and life. They each owe their existence to the other.
DPS are left out of this. They do not save the lives of the healers. They do not save the lives of the tanks. Oh you might see a sheep on a loose mob, but how often do you see a mage throw himself on top of a healer?
In kind healers are often reluctant to save DPS. After all, DPS frequently create their own problems; they DPS too soon and get aggro, they stand in the wrong place, they don't use bandages or healthstones or potions. The relationship is more one-sided, a bit leeching, with the DPS expecting heals but offering no protection in return.
Can we fix this?
Could DPS be brought into the fold? They could gain some protective capabilities for others. Imagine if a mage could cast mana shield on someone else. Or if a warlock could put soul link on a fellow caster. Make it use the SP of the recipient as a scaling factor with DRs like armor so it would approach 20%. This would make it effective to put it on healers or at least other DPS without making it a huge EH gain for tanks. Even if it only was put on other DPS, it would make DPS more protective and that would make them a little bit more like the tanks and healers.