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The Dark Side of Dota

Dota 2 is an incredible game. From the complexity and experience you need to learn and implement, to the taste of a crushing victory or defeat; there is simply no matching the sheer amount of accomplishment you can feel after a great game of Dota. It goes both ways, the utter embarrassing games all players face can be downright infuriating and demoralizing, however this is one constant that stays true and that is the “hey, there is always next game.” The idea of simply “one more game” is the reason I stopped playing Dota 2, it was starting to consume my life in a most damaging way.

I am an avid game player, that must be obvious considering where this is being posted. Playing games for long stretches is no stranger to me, sometimes sitting down to a game for two or three hours is exactly what I need after a long day at work or college. Hell, when Skyrim was just released, it was common for me to sink up to six hours into Bethsteda’s immersive world. I like to get lost in these places, it’s a sense of peace for me, an escape from the rough, stressful world we all live in. Some people pick books or comics, for me it’s video games. Dota 2 was different. Dota 2 brought out this desire and passion for games to the nth degree, to a point where I couldn’t stop.

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The first time I received my beta key roughly three years ago I  messaged the gifter a quick thanks then proceeded to never install it. I had heard all the disgusting behavior that took place in these types of games. Enough so that I never even considered pressing that download button, why would I want to put up with that shit? It sounded the exact opposite of what I play games for, rather than escaping the stress I would have to endure the bile and pure hatred of people across the world just because I was learning the ropes of a new game.

Things change though, after getting some inspiration from a source I truly admire, I finally clicked on Dota 2 in my steam list and started to download the game. As expected, the first few times I played were an utter atrocity of mannerisms and slurs, many aimed directly at me. I pushed forward, I began to meet and befriend a few players who were actually decent people, providing encouraging and constructive criticism that made me better and switched my casual play to a somewhat more serious one. Things took off from here, much quicker than I ever expected, digging me into a place I never wanted to be. For those who are unaware and reading this, on average a single Dota 2 match ranges between 30 to 50 minutes. Exceptions are always made, some games barely got to 20, others to 60, the longest match according to my dotabuff profile (a website that compiles all your Dota stats) was 82 minutes long.

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When playing Dota it was always an uphill battle to exit the game, if my team lost I wanted to avenge it and get the bitter taste of defeat out of my mouth; if we won I wanted to keep the streak going, winning was intoxicating and you can’t just stop, at least I couldn’t.I got into Dota 2 last summer, May to be specific. In August my senior year of college started, I am a Biology major meaning my classes are no slouch and require a large time commitment but so did Dota. I started to push the limits of when I could go to class, at best I would finish a game of Dota to run out the door and show up just in time before my lectures started. Sometimes I wouldn’t go, I couldn’t take an abandon, I didn’t want to be punished and not be able to get my optimal experience whenever I wanted. When I did go to class I hardly listened, instead I made sure I was up to date on any new Dota news that was announced; if there was none I spent time on the Dota wiki, studying heroes and what their strengths and counters are.

What the best ways to become a threat and when each hero was in their best phase of the game. My grades decreased but not to a large extent, I was able to balance school and Dota, being an average student at the time seemed just fine to me. Work became simply a tedious waste of time that I eventually started going to less and less. It was more of a paid internship really, I could come when I wanted because my school schedule was known so I was given very flexible shifts. Most people would be grateful for such a movable schedule, for me I decided it was better not to go most of the time.

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Perhaps the hardest thing for me to accept is the way the game affected my relationship. I have been in a relationship for five years, four of those years has been semi-long distance. Every other weekend I could go see my girlfriend, a two hour drive away. A long distance relationship started to seem not so bad, I got a weekend with no excuse, no reason not to sit down for two days and play Dota. Even that started to not be enough, since I didn’t have a laptop that could run Dota, I began to drag my whole PC with me to play. This sometimes caused me to spend less time with my significant other, or to put it more bluntly, lie to play more Dota. When I was away our communication dropped incredibly, not texting for hours despite me receiving two messages wondering if I was all right. No, Dota didn’t put a big stress on my relationship, mainly because my other half hardly knew about it.

There is a happy ending to this and funny enough it comes in the form of more games, yup, it sounds crazy but it could not be more true. My last game of Dota 2 was November 14th, the day before the Sony’s new console released. Despite my obsession with Dota, I was still very excited about the next generation of consoles. I got my PS4 on day one and was the first day in many months that the need to play Dota felt subdued. Days became weeks and while the idea of playing Dota was more prominent, I still didn’t play. It has been nearly five months since I have played Dota and I will most likely never go back again, I can’t. I still enjoy watching the game being played, watching a match or two is enjoyable and it still somewhat keeps me in the loop of things, but not the extend it was before.

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This article is in no way a reflection of Dota 2, Valve, or the people who play the game. As I mentioned, the game is wonderful and I have met some people that I can truly call friends. This is a reflection on me and what I did to myself and in that way it is somewhat of a victory. I didn’t truly notice the destructive nature Dota 2 had on me until I looked backed back and really thought about it. It’s something I have to consider for the future and something I hope to never put on myself or others again.

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