Hi. My name is Benny Ling, and by the time you read this, it will have been a week since the last time I played badly in DotA 2.
It might not be the end of semester (at least not for me, thanks to some fortuitous mechanism), but once again I find myself playing games when I should be doing something else. I’ve dipped my toes into the world of Los Santos in GTA V, I’ve wandered through the tall grass in Pokémon X, and I’ve fed the opposition in highly-strung matches of DotA 2.
I remember it almost as if it were yesterday, even though it was actually 29 days ago. I was playing Faceless Void, and for those who aren’t familiar with DotA, Faceless Void is what they call a “hard carry” — that is, he can carry the game, but only if he gains a significant advantage in terms of gold (and therefore items). Faceless Void has this really cool ultimate ability called Chronosphere which temporarily stops time within a sphere, where only he can move around — once you get the right items, you can do some real damage to the opposition who were unlucky enough to be caught in your Chronosphere.
But hard carries, by their very nature, are incredibly easy to kill right up until the point when they get their items. Think of them like a Magikarp before the awe-inspiring Gyrados — the Magikarp has essentially no defences, and no real attacks. Almost any Pokémon can KO a Magikarp, but it takes a much stronger Pokémon to take down a Gyrados, the evolution of Magikarp.
It was in that fateful game that I experienced, first-hand, how tough the DotA crowd can be. We lost that game, of course, but it was honestly the second time I had played Faceless Void in a public game. I did OK the first time I played (well, we won that match, anyway, and I was 9/9/6 in terms of kills, deaths, and assists), but what I’ll always remember is the abuse I copped because I played badly. Some of it was my fault — like the time I managed to trap an allied hero in a Chronosphere and get him killed — sure, but the team as a whole was doing pretty badly. Only two heroes out of five had any kills at all, and by the time our ancient fell, the numbers weren’t exactly pretty.
As much as I deserved some of the comments — “Faceless doesn’t even have boots” — I was made to feel as if I was the sole reason our team was losing, when it was really our shared fault. Two other heroes had died more times than I had, so I could hardly be blamed for our eventual loss, right?
I realise that I’m still pretty average at DotA. There are some heroes that I lack experience with, for sure, even though I’ve played the vast majority of heroes in public games. I can’t quite get the hang of Huskar without losing more health than I dish out, which results in lots of mutual kills (they might kill me first, but my damage over time kills them). And I’ll probably never be good at a micro-management character like Chen or Meepo, never mind master the umpteen different powers of Invoker. But I’m pretty sure I’m improving, which is why it’s so disheartening to hear disparaging comments in game when I’m not at the top of mine, as if people are always expected to be as good as they can be.
But as I’ve improved, I’ve also noticed these traits becoming apparent in my own communication with teammates. Much to my own dismay, I’ve started to chastise and berate players on my own team that I feel aren’t pulling their own weight, or who I feel are performing poorly. Just today I was calling out a Sven that didn’t want to deny a tower for who-knows-what-reason, who had more deaths than kills, and who could have aimed his stuns at better enemy heroes to get that nice area-of-effect stun. It ended up being OK because we won that match, but I wonder how much further I would have gone in order to make him improve his game?
I remember times when I’ve called someone out for being AFK or for not noticing myself engaging an enemy hero only for them to sit back and watch (or worse, watch me get killed), only for them to get some good kills in the early-game and carry the game later on. I feel a little guilty when that happens, because they probably could have done without my snide comments about getting some map awareness from the DotA shop (or whatever petty insult takes my fancy at the time).
The only reason I do it is to psyche up my team so that you’ll improve as a player and so we’ll win the game. If I’m telling you how to play a certain hero and what combo you should be using, then it’s because, so far, you have demonstrated little capability of playing that particular hero by yourself. If I’m telling you to focus a particular enemy hero, it’s because he’s the one currently destroying us. If I’m pinging your hero on the map, it’s because you’re sitting in another lane casually pushing a tower while enemy wipes the floor with the rest of us — gotta win the battles to win the war, you know?
Maybe it all comes down to the fact that people like winning. I’ve won and lost my fair share of games in DotA 2, and as of right now, Dotabuff says I’m one win away from scraping back a 50% win rate, the holy grail of DotA results due to the way matchmaking works. And in a game like DotA, where games can be won or lost depending on what one player is doing (or not doing, as the case may be), all I’m doing when I’m gently berating you in our team chat is make sure the opposing team doesn’t get the upper hand and, hence, win the game.
And, as you should very well know, ain’t nobody got time for that.