Howdy yall slacks here
No idea if anyone will read this or even why I am writing it today, but I have had this on my mind for a while so I thought I would post it cause nothing is happening on the subrreddit as of late and im bored.
Recently, I achieved a goal I wanted for like 2 years. I GOT IMMORTAL IN DOTA. It was a ride, but I wanted to write about what happened to my personality along the way. I find self reflection is the key to growth, so I got to reflecting after my obsession was over, and I thought that I would share.
THE STAGES OF DOTA
I believe that Dota 2 has stages, like grief. First we enter the "honeymoon" phase where we just love everything about the game. We explore the heroes and learn about them, games are fun and exist to experiment with new items and heros and wacky combinations. It's exciting, filthy, and a whole lot of fun with no care for wins or losses, only the joy of new experiences and learning.
after that, we go to the "specialization" phase, where we find heros that we love and playstyles which mesh well with what we find personal enjoyment out of, and we spam that shit. Some players like being the big badass, some like being the helpful medic, some like being techies. All around, its about building that style and creating your special craft.
Eventually, we get to the most dangerous phase: the GET GOOD phase. This can take years to get too for some, or can be the jumpstart of the game for others a few days after they pick it up. You start to care less about having fun, but more about seeing how good you could really get if you tried. You check out pro player meta item builds. You watch some youtube videos, read guides about your heros, watch esports events to see whats hot and why. The idea sets in your head that you just wanna see where you can get if you really, really dedicated yourself to victory.
All in all, I think every dota player will go through these phases eventually, some even going through them multiple times. What im writing about today is the effect of mental health on these phases of dota and how they can affect you.
Mental Health and Dota Madness
So here's the thing about the stages of Dota: as you progress down the path of MMR ENLIGHTEMENT, you find yourself becoming better as a player, but worse as a person. Or at least that's what I have observed. Why does this happen to people? Why does it seem like everyone in dota eventually becomes a raging asshole? Well, lets break it down.
Dota is a game of mistakes. To get better, one must identify mistakes and avoid them.
- this is the big one. If you want to get better at dota, you need to identify what are good and bad habits, good and bad items, good and bad builds. Not making mistakes, or forcing mistakes upon your enemies, is the easyiest way to improve at the game. However, it's the first step to DOTA MADNESS, for if you train yourself to see what is WRONG for yourself, you will then notice when your allies do WRONG. This is natural, but something that can drive a person insane because of the fact that you lack control over your allies. Your allies might not notice the mistakes they make, or even worse believe the mistake they make is not a mistake at all, and YOUR WRONG. Either way, it is impossible to get better without having a "game plan" for what is good and bad to do, and the act of forming such a plan means that there must be "good" and "bad" play.
The Differential Effects of Time Investment and Personal Investment
- Here's the thing about Time Investment: the more you put in, the more it means to you. Dota is already a EXTREAMLY time invested game: where most videogames take 10 minutes a match, we can take up to 6x that just to play 1 game. Not only that, but the tens of thousands of hours to actually be GOOD is insane compared to other videogame titles. I would argue that only traditional MMOS are larger time sinks than mobas, and god knows those poor souls aint even playin the things competitively. Time is the most precious things any of us have on this earth. We lose it every day with no chance to get it back, and the more we lose the more we realize how precious it is. I'm not saying that dota is a bad way to spend your time by the way, im just saying that it's VARIES between each person who plays it. Recently, I became a daddy, and my dota time (which used to be a degenerate 8-12 hours a day) became more like 3-4 at most. Those games, that precious TIME means to much to me now, which in turn means its so much more FRUSTRAITING when something goes wrong, cause I just need to sit with that loss until i can make it right again.
- The biggest issue with this IS THAT ITS A MULTIPLAYER GAME. Your teammates might be 13 year old kids in a lan cafe with 15 hours to play today. They might be a single father on the weekend with 1 hour to spare and THIS GAME IS IT . Thats the thing about videogames and ours in particular, we are never going to stop playing, but life moves on and people's time investment and personal investment differ. Where as you might be in the GET GOOD phase, your allies might be in the honeymoon phase. There is no way to tell, and this leads to very rage inducing moments when the first pick dagon pudge is ruining you but for him it's just a way to have fun in something he has much less investment in.
My personal Journey
All of this happened to me, as a dota player. I started out with only joy and love, trying new heros, trying new builds, being wacky and friendly. Eventually however, the drive that pushes all dota players to play the hardest game in the world kicked in. I'll be real with yall, when i first started getting invited to dota esports events i didnt want to watch the games cause they just made me want to play, rather than watch some other asshole play. But eventually, the urge grows to GET GOOD and I started watching more and more. Trying to learn, trying to better, and setting out goals. Goals are great and healthy, so the road to IMMORTAL began. However, I would never imagine the person it would slowly turn me into: a fucking crazy person so hell bent on improvement that all aspects of joy slipped away. Suddenly the man that would have fun in every game became a fucking warlock spammer who would flame his teammates for mistakes to try and stop their behavior and be utterly invested in dota, assuming all others were as well. It happened, I got that immortal rank, but at what cost?
The lesson to be learned
Here's the thing about ranking up in dota. We hope that it will bring us to a place where we are SURRROUNDED by people equally invested as us. We dream that in IMMORTAL RANK people are uber try hards that are all working their hardest to showcase how amazing they are and how hard they worked, removing the Differential Effects of Time Investment and Personal Investment. Sure, it does happen, you do find people that are just good and care about winning, but heres the thing: its pretty much exactly the same. You still have people that grief and shadow amulet for missing a pull. You still have people abandon. Smurfs, ruininers, they are in all brackets, and nothing ever really reaches this UTOPIA OF DOTA. Unfortunately, it kinda just is what it is. It's a great goal to try to better yourself, but when you finally get there and realize the person you had to become to fulfil that dream, it is bittersweet at best. Look, none of us are pro players. None of us are going to be millionaires off dota, so why try so hard? Cause we are winners goddamit, thats why we choose the hard shit. It's not suppose to be easy. Thats why it feels so fucking good.
So what was my lesson to be learned? Gaining MMR and getting better is easy. Staying a nice, stable human being while ALSO getting good at dota is almost fucking impossible. Almost every single pro dota player has clips of them flaming the fuck out of people psychotically. Gorgc has become literally insane (in a good way). There are like, 2 pro players I can think of that have reached what I call SELF ACTUALIZATION: the true dota goal.
What is DOTA Self Actualization?
In psychology, there is something called maslow's hierarchy of needs. In short, it's a pyramid that shows what a person NEEDS in their life. The bottom of the pyramid is stuff for survival: food, water, shelter. then it moves on to more abstract things like respect, love, ect. But what is at the top, the hardest peak, what very few actually ever achieve, is SELF ACTUALIZATION. When a person can realize that not a lot of things matter, and that they are the person they wish to be. They arnt concerned about how they look, or flaws in their personality. They know who they are, what they like, and they are happy with it.
Dota Self Actualization is the final STAGE OF DOTA. It's the phase after GET GOOD, when one can look back and say, "yes. this is where I can get if I try, and I am happy. Lets have some fun". In truth, MOST dota players will never reach this stage, or might reach it and then start the cycle over. It's a moment of clarity where you can say "I am ready to have fun again", but most importantly, I AM READY TO NO LONGER BE AN ASSHOLE.
The hardest thing to do in DOTA is to be good, but not be a piece of shit
I know this sounds stupid, but really think about it. To be able to see the mistakes of others, internalize it, and not lash out at them because you have reached a zen like state of being able to have enough mental fortitude to say "these guys have diffrent lives and investment levels as me, and might not be in the same Stage as I am" is unbelievably hard. IT IS SO EASY to just flame them. IT IS SO EASY to just assume they are a evil fucking smurf bastard who exists only to ruin lives. It's so easy to have fun at the game but be fucking terrible at it. BUT IT IS SO HARD TO BE ACTUALLY GOOD BUT NICE. Its so hard to say that you, personally, care more and thats not a good or bad thing, and it's not their fault. But, it truly is the apex of being a dota player.
There are not many self actualized dota players. I can name like 3. People that are high skilled, know how good they are, but are in control of their emotions and intelligent enough to not lash out at others and be fucking ascended monks. But this is not something that just happens: this is a learned skill. And heres some tips
TIPS FOR ASENDING TO DOTA ZEN
Learn something every game. Look, shit games happen. Some dudes just fuckin come into a game on their 8th loss and decide to feed down mid. But that dosn't mean you cant practice a wierd new pull or a cool item. Consider fucked games a way to expand experimental stuff. It's like forced smurfing except you arn't a piece of shit! Remind yourself every game of dota you can learn: and never give up. Your stuck in the game and time can either be wasted or spent doing SOMETHING. so try something
Realize that getting toxic is part of getting good, but its what you must fight against. Toxicity never helps. It might make you feel good, but it's a slow burn of pain that gets into your head. I know you have laid in bed at night thinking about the vile shit you said to someone online and feel bad. It's important to try to fight against this. Bonus tips here: if your mad, no more microphone. Try typing and then read the insane shit you just wrote and you will most likely delete it. I know its not perfect but its so easy to say crazy shit (and high mmr players should ALWAYS BE TALKING) but not tilting youself or your team is very important
Become a man of the future. "why did you do this", "we should have done that" and "you didnt" is bitch speak. You want to improve, and you want to move forward, always think forward. "we should do this" "can you build that" is much harder to do, but shows how GOOD you are and inspires hope in yourself and your team.
Apologize. Shit happenns in the moment, your talking and your dusa dies in the middle of no where without ulting and bkb. You flame them. But make a POINT to apologize every single time, in the most pathedic and sad way so that you dont want to flame to begin with so you dont need to do a long ass apology. It's so easy to take humanity out of allies that are fucking up and just label them as "dont speak my language" or "some fucking bot" but to truly ascend means to realize they are actual humans and that they might care less than you and thats ok. Everyone lashes out and if they dont they are fucking serial killers who will lash out on their next victim. Apologize. It makes you and them feel whole again.
STOP on lose streaks. know your limits. no sane human can go 5 hours of getting their shit kicked in without going insane. Find that limit (its 3 losses in a row for me) and STOP. have a backup game. have a backup activity. No good will come of game 4 (or the game past your limit). Keep track of that limit. I know you have all night to play and you set aside 8 hours of dota. But those will be the worst 6 hours of your life if you dont at least take a hour break. Chill. it only gets worse if you go past your limit. Shit for ranked I stop at 1 loss.
Move on. Look, I know theres no stopping you in your GET GOOD phase. There was no stopping me, and I went insane. But just know that the end will be not as fulfilling as you think, and that what matters is having FUCKING FUN in your FREE TIME. so be happy with where you are at when you are "done". move on. go back to enjoying youself. and when you get into a game with a raging person, remember they are where you once were, and its ok. Ascending to DOTA ZEN is hard.
Where do I (we) go from here?
Well, realizing that you lost your mind in the effort to get to immortal is a great step one. Now it is the long, hard journey of getting good but not being an asshole about it. It's time to HELP rather than FLAME, and become a leader once again in games. It's time to have fun again rather than win. The journey is not easy. It will take some time to get over the HUNGER of victory and return to a normal functioning human being who likes to win but is ok if they lose. But remember: losing games stays with you only until the next win, but being a toxic psychopath stays with you forever. Realize where others are in their journey, and shepherd them rather than put them down. Its hard. less than 1% of dota players will ever get there. But if your ready for a challenge, do the hardest thing in the world. Be happy with where you are, and have empathy for others in your games. It is the most rewarding place in dota