5 Life Lessons I Learnt From Playing DotA 2

5 Life Lessons I Learnt From Playing DotA 2

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If you have not heard of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), here’s a short introduction:

DotA is a free game or ‘digital sport’, consisting of 112 playable characters known as ‘heroes’. Each hero has a minimum of 4 skills, and up to 134 purchasable ‘items’. Then there is everything else you need to learn in order to play the game, i.e. last hitting, denying, etc. Like any other sport or game, a basic understanding of ALL these things is required before you can begin to properly begin to enjoy the game. Its ridiculous complexity is probably why it is still fascinating millions and millions of players across the globe since its creation in 2003. Fast forward to 2014, and a newer version – ‘DotA 2’ – has been released. It has about 10 million players, and an international tournament was hosted this year for various players from countries such as Ukraine, Europe, China, Russia and USA, with a total prize pool of almost 11 million USD, about half of it going to the winner.

About five years ago, when I was first coaxed by my cousin into playing DotA, I never would have believed a mere computer game could induce so many life changing realizations. I’ve been playing the game with a passion since then, and though it may not have taught me these valuable lessons first hand, it definitely pushed me into taking them to more closely to heart, the first being:

5. Dealing with less capable teammates

A point about DotA I did not mention previously is that it is a team-based game, with five players on both sides. Teamwork, communication, and cooperation are important if you want to win (most people do). Sadly, this can also be a problem, especially when it is your precious free time you are spending to enjoy the game. Unless you have your own five person team, you are going to be placed together in a team with four complete strangers, who may or may not (a) speak your language (b) share your standards and (c) share your desire to win.

So, instead of getting angry and cursing the high heavens over the disfigured, handicapped, human-animal hybrid team that you are given, you scrap together whatever skills and efforts your team has to offer, and try to make your 30-50 minutes of game time as enjoyable as possible, and hope the opposite team has worse teamwork than yours. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make assumptions of their personality or character based on their game playing skills, these things do not matter to the task at hand, but it would be nice if they would put in some effort, or at least show that they want to.

You learn to work with what you’re given, instead of complaining and straight up quitting, because you’re not going to have an A-team for every group project or activity you’re going to work on.

You might ask: why not just play with your friends? Wouldn’t that solve the problem? I too, was naïve enough to believe that notion. But having your close friend disappoint you is a far worse feeling than having it come from a total stranger. Which brings me to my next point.

You learn to work with what you’re given, instead of complaining and straight up quitting, because you’re not going to have an A-team for every group project or activity you’re going to work on.

4. Imposing standards on others (and having unrealistic expectations)

This might seem a little obvious, but it slaps you in the face when you’re actually trying to accomplish it. People play DotA for different reasons, and some people don’t mind being bad at the game and so they don’t spend too much time on it. And sometimes that person can be your friend of more than 10 years, with whom you’ve chaired committees and worked on many projects with, but that doesn’t mean he shares all of your standards. Moreover, you shouldn’t expect people to fulfill your expectations. If they happened to meet said expectations, consider it a blessing, but don’t blame others when they fail to do so.

3. Handling critics and comments

As with any online social platform, where users can communicate anonymously, there will be no shortage of people who have no reservations in insulting and belittling others. DotA 2 is certainly no exception. Dealing with negative comments and critics is an everyday ordeal for a DotA 2 player. Most would choose to ignore, some fire back, and too few would surprisingly ask for suggestions for improvement.

It’s tempting to retaliate verbally when insulted, especially in such an anonymous setting. I did give in initially, but only after a long time I realised that it was not benefiting anyone, especially myself, as I found myself spending my time just being rude to others. When you have a need to improve yourself in something, the opinion of others matters. However, the trick is to differentiate constructive criticism from toxic nonsense. A good way to receive more useful criticism is to ask why the person made that comment about you.

Self evaluation and introspection is a difficult thing, it forces you to admit that you are not as capable as you imagined, and to deal with issues you’re sometimes not ready to face. But with enough time with yourself, and some humility, you’ll eventually learn to ignore the rubbish, and gain ideas on improving yourself based on what others have said about you.

2. Accepting failure

I have spent about 2800 hours on DotA 2 over a period of five years, and I’ve had my share of mistakes and defeats. Failing is a good thing to make your weaknesses apparent, but not so when you’re in denial. It is particularly painful when you have put in effort, it makes it seem like you’ve wasted all the hard work, and eventually you resort to blaming others. I do admit that sometimes someone besides you is responsible for the defeat, in that case refer lesson 4.

If the problem lies within you, then know that you should keep trying to improve yourself. It’s a good thing to have ideals and examples that you look to for certain things, but reaching that level should come eventually and not immediately.

You’re not constantly being evaluated, life is not a competition, and there is always something to improve on. Occasional mistakes are fine, but regret is a maggot that eats your vitality. Accept that you were weak before, seek to improve and move on. When you’re striving to be good at something, failing eventually becomes a welcomed habit.

You’re not constantly being evaluated, life is not a competition, and there is always something to improve on.

Up to this point it seems that I was simply recycling old teachings and sayings with relevance to DotA. Perhaps that is why they were able to survive so many generations, because they are truth. I leave you (finally) with the most important lesson I’ve learned:

1. True learning is derived from passion and freedom

I’ve never complained about playing DotA 2. For a few months I ate DotA, I slept DotA, I breathed DotA, and I lived DotA. I have never had to race to meet assignment deadlines or had any quiz or exams on DotA (though I would gladly do so), and I never had to revise the things I’ve learnt. I was continuously captivated, and so eager to share and practice what I’ve learned.

Its allure is not simply because it is a game. If that were the case then many other games would have met the same kind of success. I believe it is simply the result of being equipped with the means to seek information, and being allowed to pursue one’s curiosity and passion without constraint. That is simply the best way to learn.

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Crow (BM113)

Scholar. Gentleman. Handsome. Also a bird.

 



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