Defense of the Ancients

An alternative get away
MARCH 2018
Murat
U.
Civil and Environmental Engineering

After losing an 82 minute Dota2 match, maybe it is time for me to step back and write a brief, informative post about competitive video gaming and how it helps to relax.

Wait, what is Dota2 – other than being the sequel or re-creation of the Defense of the Ancients (DotA)?

For non-gamers: Dota2 consists of two teams of five players set on a vast and unique forest, furiously throwing fireballs to slaughter each other and to invade each other’s territory.

For gamers: well, you already know. It is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. Initially, it was developed as a fan-made map using the platform provided by the Blizzard’s bestseller - Warcraft III - which is a Real-Time-Strategy (RTS) game. In MOBA games, unlike the RTS games, you do not control a vast army or the production of units. Instead, you are only responsible for your own character, which is called a ‘hero.’ Sounds easier, right? Let’s think about it again. In Dota2, there are more than 100 unique heroes with at least 4 unique skills. Every single hero can be controlled/played with different styles thanks to those unique skills, and there are around 150 different items that can make your hero stronger in different aspects of the game. Combine those with 10 gamers, playing 5 vs. 5, with their unique strategic thinking abilities. It starts to sound much more complex than a game should be, right? Well, that is exactly what makes DotA and the other MOBA games enjoyable. An almost infinite number of possibilities and intense moments that change the direction of the game entirely. See the following (short) video link to have some flavor of what I am trying to communicate. This one is called “The Play” and I don’t think you need to know a single thing about DotA to enjoy it; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ldq1afiKQb8

For me, playing DotA is one of the best ways to spend free time and have fun.  Not just playing, but also watching competitions. It has a pretty impressive competitive scene with lots of tournaments and teams from around the world.  

Omitting the details, let me mention some interesting facts about the current state of the competitive online gaming by throwing you some numbers. I will mostly give examples from “The International” (TI) organized by Valve (one of the most well-known digital game distribution company and the current developer of Dota2). This is the World Cup of DotA. Hopefully this gives you an idea as to what the excitement is all about.    

o    International DotA 2 tournament prize pools by years: 

  • 2011 $1.6 million, 2012 $1.6 million, 2013 $2.8 million, 2014 $10.9 million, 2015 $18 million, 2016 $20 million, 2017 $24 million
    • The winning team of the 2017 grand final got $10 million.

    • The 2017 Grand Finals were watched by 845.000 people.

o    A professional Dota2 player, Syed Sumail Hassan, has earned $2.6 million (age: 18)

  • All-time peak number of players who were concurrently playing: 1,291,328.

The International 2017

The amount of money that goes into the sector is increasing with every passing year. These tournaments are also heavily funded by tech companies as they provide a great (if not the perfect) setting for advertising all sorts of tech and gaming related products. For example, in 2017 TI, OpenAI’s (yes, Elon Musk’s company) bot beat the best players at 1v1 matches. It was quite fun seeing the professionals chickening out.

I should note that I enjoy watching pro-gamers playing Dota2 more than playing it myself with friends, just like watching Premier League can be more fun than kicking a soccer ball around with friends. It is really amazing to see the players’ instant reactions, high-risk/high-reward decisions, talent, and knowledge about the game. The learning curve is pretty steep. I think this increased amount of complexity increases the amount of joy you can gain from it too. There are just too many impossible moves, game plays, strategies, etc., that pro-players execute flawlessly. As in every other aspect of life, they do train a lot, 8-10 hours a day. But I mean, c’mon, I would happily do that too! To thoroughly enjoy watching it, though, you should at least know enough of the game mechanics to be able to play it semi-competitively with friends. Actually, Dota2 has been heavily criticized for not being beginner-friendly, but the developer, Valve, has taken steps to remedy this in recent years.

Some other suggestions: be careful! This could kill your social and academic life. It is too easy to detach yourself from real world problems (e.g., deadlines, proposals, diet, etc.) by playing it. It is addictive, you can just keep playing it. My personal record is 17 hours straight.

Wait, do advisors read this?