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For the introductory piece in my new series of articles covering PC games that I enjoy, I would like to start with the one that has dominated my life for the past five years. It’s called Dota 2. It was developed by Valve Software and released only on the PC platform. You play on one of two teams consisting of five players each who are competing to destroy the opposing team’s “ancient,” which is a large structure in the back of each team’s base. The premise seems simple, but playing from start to finish is anything but. Dota can be likened to a game of chess. To start a game of chess, you have to take all the pieces out of the box and set them up all over again every time you want to play. Same goes for Dota, where every new match is a fresh start. Players always take turns selecting from a roster of over 110 “heroes” at the start of every game; powerful beings endowed with unique abilities.

Imagine if chess had over 100 different pieces to choose from, all with different movement patterns, which you can choose from when setting up your side of the board. Each hero can combine their powers with that of other heroes to create powerful synergies. However, every hero is also checked by others whose skills can act as counters. An example of characters that complement each other might be Huskar, who can deal devastating damage to his enemies as long as his health is low, and Dazzle, who has a skill that can delay the death of his allies for a short time. Because of how complex these combinations can be, the items you purchase and the order in which you select your abilities is also crucial to victory.  This, in turn, creates a balanced playing field, adding layers of strategy to the heroes you choose. From the second the teams spawn to the second one of the ancients fall, Dota envelopes you with a vast wealth of content that you must memorize and master quickly to survive. If that sounds confusing, then don't worry; you’re not alone. It takes players hundreds of thousands of hours to master the mechancis, and very few are able to fully succeed on a professional level.

dota2article

I began my journey into the ever-evolving world of Dota on April 16th of 2012 (this was also, coincidentally, the day that my social life met its abrupt demise). I heard about this strange and niche title from one of my favorite YouTube content creators: Northernlion. He made a few videos covering the game, and mentioned that it was in closed beta, but anyone could apply for a beta key. I had never heard of any game like this, and certainly knew nothing about its rich history. Being an impressionable 17-year-old teenager who did just about anything my favorite “YouTubers” did, I pulled up the beta key survey.

I came up to the first question: “Rate on a scale from 1-10 your skill level in Dota.” “Shit,” I thought. “What would be a reasonable skill level that would warrant getting a beta key?” I went with 7, because I’m modest that way. Question two: “Please estimate your average level at the end of a Dota game.” That one almost stumped me. I don’t even remember exactly what number I entered, but it was probably complete nonsense. It only went downhill from there, being asked in-depth questions about a game I had never even heard of 48 hours prior. I made my way through the survey and submitted it, fully expecting to never hear back from Valve, leaving my hopes dashed. But lo and behold, the following day, I received a message in my email congratulating me on being invited to play the Dota 2 beta. I had no idea the impact that beta key would have on my life in the coming years.

Now fast forward to my first game of Dota. Being a veteran gamer, I waltzed in thinking I owned the place. “I can figure this thing out pretty quickly,” I remember thinking, not realizing how monumentally wrong I was. For anybody who is curious, my post game stats can be seen below highlighted in blue. Please don't laugh.

dota2stats article

It was a miracle I even figured out how to move. I had never felt so completely and utterly lost playing a video game in my entire life. Dota 2 was a beast unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was cruel, unforgiving, and refused to hold your hand. It seemed like everyone else playing was in on some sort of secret to success, and I was left to wallow in my inexperience. But this gets to the heart of what makes Dota such a gripping and addictive game; it has an innate ability to knock you down over and over with its seemingly insurmountable challenge, but you as a player keep getting back up and trying to figure out what went wrong to avoid that mistake again. You want to succeed, and you want to win, and that's a very rare thing for a game to accomplish.


Seeing as Dota is able to push its players in ways no other game of its kind has ever done, it is thus able to offer the sweetest sense of victory. When you finally win after all your hard work, the nearly ineffable feeling of satisfaction is unmatched by any other experience I have ever personally accomplished in gaming. That is why I play Dota, and that is why millions of people play Dota to this day. We all work towards the same, herculean goal: Victory.
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