I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately. Whether this is a product of too much free time, a lack of real direction in my life, or both, this inevitably leads me to draw weird conclusions about life from the strangest sources. Between my sessions of silly musings about life and job searching, I’ve become completely and hopelessly addicted (thanks, internet friends) to an online game known as Defense of the Ancients, or DotA.
Let me first preface this by saying that I am hopelessly competitive. You know that commercial where that guy does a slam dunk while playing basketball with his 12-year-old son? Yeah. That’s me. I’m not proud of it. Suffice it to say, I can also never let myself play anything competitively with people I’m romantically interested in, because I will throw everything I have into dominating the guy. Sorry, guys. I promise your manhood isn’t (completely) entwined with losing to me in air hockey.
The mixture of my competitive nature with a game that is inherently really competitive is a volatile combination. It leads to hours of laughing and screaming at my computer. To my family, who often hears this screaming, I promise I’m having fun. The swearing, carrying on, and yelling means I’m enjoying myself. I think. Anyway, I’m off subject again.
For those unfamiliar with the game, DotA is a multiplayer online battle arena game, or MOBA. Long story short, players are divided into five man teams, given over 100 different ‘heroes’ to choose from, and sent off into battle against the opposing team. The map is divided into three lanes, where AI-controlled units continually march forward towards the enemy’s base. The ultimate goal is to destroy the enemy’s Ancient, which is heavily guarded by towers, enemy heroes, and dark forests.
The interesting thing about DotA is that it is heavily a team game. The environment is more sport-like than anything, and learning the game with friends who already know how to play it creates hours of frustration and yelling. Frankly, a newbie can completely lose the game for their team, and it is in this sometimes caustic environment that you have to learn to play.
I’m three months into learning the game, and although I’m still a complete novice, I’m starting to understand the basics of this ridiculously complicated game. But in the meantime, I’ve compiled this silly list of things that DotA 2 has taught me about my twenties, and life as a young adult. Because that is totally relevant. On a side note, maybe if I paid more attention to playing the game instead of what I can write about it in my blog, I would die less. Anyway. Enjoy!
1) Time is money— literally.
When I first started playing DotA, I spent all day doing little tasks, not understanding how much money it would cost me in the end. You leave the lane, you lose experience and gold. You spend too long buying things in the fountain, and you miss out on important last hits that would enable you to buy more things. This (among many other reasons) is one reason I’m a terrible carry player. I’m finding that life is like this too. Every extra day I spend sitting on my butt waiting for a job to pop up is lost money. Mom and Dad weren’t lying, folks. Time really is money.
2) There will always be someone better than you.
And they’ll generally be calling you a noob, which leads me to:
3) There will always be someone better than you who is also happy to let you know so.
It turns out that people on the internet are even less shy about informing you of your inadequacies and how your mother and origin of birth are entwined with your ability to play a video game. This is no different in real life, unfortunately.
4) There will always be someone who thinks they’re better than you, who is actually completely awful.
You know the type. Because they actually struggle with whatever you’re currently participating in, they feel the need to deflect all blame onto their teammates. For these people, nothing is their fault. These people are also incapable of learning. Stay away from mentoring these types.
5) Everything you learn in life has an awkward stage. Or five.
Remember that awkward stage in middle school? Nothing fits, everything is uncomfortable, and you have the strangest need to hide for a few years until you emerge as a beautiful butterfly. Yeah. Bad news. You never outgrow awkward stages. Ever. In fact, as long as you continue to learn new things, the awkwardness continues. And just when you finally think you’ve escaped, another stage hits you in the face. Take it with a smile on the face, because it means you’re learning.
6) There will always be rage-inducing events in life— traffic, stupid people holding up the line in Wal-Mart, team projects that go astray, etc.
Sometimes your teammates will completely lose a game for you. Sometimes you’ll have a new player that feeds the enemy team and makes the game completely unsalvageable. And sometimes you’ll be the one ruining things for other people. Accept it with grace, and give people plenty of chances. After all, we’ve all been in both situations.
7) Sometimes friends can become enemies.
Missed calls, stupid mistakes, bad nights. Sometimes your friends can become your worst enemies— in DotA, and in life. That being said, a few fights can be healthy for friendships. If you can weather wanting to throw your friend into a dumpster, and they can weather wanting to force-staff you into the enemy fountain, your friendship can withstand just about anything. The important thing is to always pick each other back up and laugh it out when it’s all over.
8) And sometimes enemies can become friends.
Our first impressions of people are seldom right. One funny comment in all-chat can completely change my opinion of someone I’m playing against. My favorite games are the ones where we’ve been goofing off with the enemy team half the match. Always give people a chance. You never know where you might find a friend.
9) You have to really suck at something before you can even think about getting better.
My first few attempts at DotA were a complete baptism by fire. When I think back to anything I’ve done in my life, I realize that almost everything I’ve learned is the same way. Failure tells you what not to do. Making mistakes is learning. Whenever pride is left out of the equation, and you give yourself room to mess up, you make the best progress. Give yourself room to fail.
10) Life is all about choosing your battles.
DotA is a complex game with small, nuanced things that one has to take notice of and act upon in order to be good. Because of this, the difference between ‘feeding’ (giving the enemy free kills) and completely dominating your lane is small, and it is all about balance. One thing I struggle with particularly as a new player is learning the right time to throw myself into a fight, and the right time to pull back. Often times this results in swearing and exasperation from my team as I throw myself at the other team for a free kill, not realizing my mistake until I’m knee-deep in a five-man push. I feel like being young is about learning to choose your battles, and being a bit stupid along the way. Sometimes we won’t know the right timing, and that’s okay, as long as we learn from it. One day I won’t feed in DotA matches. One day I might not throw myself into stupid situations in real life. Maybe.
11) Being scared can hold you back.
For those familiar with DotA, I mostly play support. That means I am fodder for the other team, and I am naggingly aware of this fact. I play scared. For the first month and a half, I ran away from everything I saw on the map, leaving my team in the dust in favor of safety. Inevitably, I couldn’t contribute much towards my team, because I was too afraid of everything to do so. Life is like this as well. If you’re afraid of everything you’ll never soar.
12) Being overconfident can hold you back, too.
Don’t rush into a five-man push thinking you can take on the world. We’re not invincible. You don’t respawn in real life. And Pride goes before a fall.
13) You don’t know everything.
In my desperate attempt to learn this complicated game, I feel like I’m learning to be a better listener to everyone— not just the people who really know what’s going on. Sift through what people tell you and find the useful things. Not everyone is an expert, but you can learn something from almost anyone. You just have to open your ears to do so.
14) Trust your gut.
Experience aside, there comes a time when you just have to trust your gut. As young people, I feel like we’ve spent most of our life forming our actions around what adults, mentors, and parents have to say. Eventually you’ll come to a point where you need to step out and trust your own instincts. Sometimes you feel like you can’t take a fight in DotA, and a lot of times your gut is right. Don’t throw yourself into something you think is silly or wrong just because a more experienced player told you to. Do listen to people wiser than you, but also listen to yourself.
15) It’s important to build people up.
In DotA, there are heroes whose sole purpose is to support and aid their team. They die the most, their powers drop off the most dramatically as the game drags on, and they consistently sacrifice money, fancy items, and their own well-being for the good of the team. It is a thankless job, but nothing feels better than watching the people you’ve supported smash their way to victory. Life is about building people up.
16) It’s also important to be built up.
Every support has to have a carry. Know when you need to lean on your friends and family to build you up.
17) Fall seven times, stand up eight.
Life is all about taking huge, demoralizing hits, and ‘respawning’ to take it all over again. You learn from dying in DotA. You learn from mistakes in life. Don’t worry about the falling down, so much as the getting up.
18) Life is unpredictable.
One thing that has made me completely fall in love with DotA is its unpredictability. While there are some matches that I know the outcome to five minutes in, most matches are such a complicated, back and forth ordeal, that I never know quite what’s going to happen (this might just be the noob in me talking, though). But just in the same way that you can’t see a smoke gank coming, or a nighttime kill from within the forest, or the way you swear you were checking your mini-map and now you’re dead anyway, life will throw surprises at you. Be ready for hard knocks, and be ready to seize good opportunities when they appear.
19) Sometimes you’re in the wrong place.
This goes back to listening to your gut. If you don’t have good vision and the entire enemy team is missing, or if you’re somewhere physically or metaphorically in life that just feels wrong, get out. Pronto. Life is too short to be in the wrong place.
20) Sometimes you just think you’re in the wrong place.
Sometimes discomfort can feel like you’re in the wrong place. Sometimes you’re jumping to conclusions and you’re really just afraid of opportunity. Sometimes I even think we’re in the right places, but we’re just early. Wait for your team. Wait for that ganking opportunity to arise. Wait just a bit where you are in life, and learn to be patient. I’m convinced that this is what my twenties (and learning DotA 2) are all about.