Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.
Towards the end of November most games journalists are preparing their retrospectives for the year that will have been. They're also keeping a wary eye on the release schedule in case an excellent game derails those pencilled-in Game Of The Year ideas. I spent six months of this year working as an eSports reporter so most of the games I focused on had been around for years. Freshness would come from patches and updates, new characters, weird showmatch modes, twists in the metagame and team roster changes. It's a huge amount to absorb so new releases took a back seat. I played Dota or CS:GO, learned about LoL and picked my way through the basics of World of Tanks.
As a result, 2014 for me was more about progress in existing games than seeking out the new. That's why I ended up going back to a Tumblr I started when I was still pretty new to Dota 2. It was to get a sense of that progess – of the distance between nubnub Pip and the Pip who now plays on a team in a games industry competition in which we're actually doing okay!
Here's one of the entries from about two years ago – it's from one of the only times Graham ever booted up Dota.
"Tinker is a ranged intelligence hero who can summon this cool army of robotic spiders!"
I am saying this because I appear to have decided to impart some wisdom to someone in Dota 2. I know.
I decide to take a leaf out of The Apprentice’s book and just say everything confidently. In my head I become a HEROIC version of Alan Sugar and the stuffed monkey and orange jumper adorning my bed assume the roles of Nick and Karren.
"What’s an intelligence hero?" asks Graham.
"I don’t know," I reply confidently.
Often with Dota 2 I feel like I don't know nearly enough. Like I'm staring at a sheer cliff face consisting not of sedimentary rock but of "things I should know", all pressing tightly against each other and stretching off into the sky. But I know this: intelligence heroes have intelligence as their primary attribute and specialise in mana-related shenanigans. That generally means their active abilities get a lot of use which is why they're good for burst damage or as supports. Anything which gives them points in their primary attribute not only increases their mana pool and mana regen but also gives the character an extra damage point.
What I'm saying here, Graham, is that you should come back to Dota because I can now answer your questions. [Never! -Ed]
"Why are you running away? Stay and help me fight!"
"I’m being attacked by a cloud! I might die if I stay and then what use would I be to you?"
YEAH, Chris. Now who’s the Dota expert? Because it certainly isn’t you asking me to stay and die, is it?
There was the silence of someone rolling their eyes and possibly trying not to laugh.
"Pip, that cloud is YOUR ulti. Razor creates an electrical storm directly over your head and then does damage to people nearby. You have to COME BACK and be in the fight!"
I mean, good God! I should come back and remind myself of that moment every time I'm beating myself up about not knowing the exact cast time or damage type of an ability. "You may not know that," I will reassure myself in the bathroom mirror at 2am, "but you are reliably not terrified by using your own skills anymore. GOOD JOB, SOLDIER."
And finally, the debacle resulting from when I killed a Slark and finished off the Roshan attempt he'd started:
After my losing streak a friend spent several matches helping me turn my fortunes around (I am very grateful even though I was also exceedingly grumpy at points!) and we even shared my 100th win. After he had gone to bed I decided on “one more match” just to see if anything he taught me had stuck.
Turns out I might just have an affinity for that Spirit Breaker chap - the game was going SPECTACULARLY. So spectacularly that when I happened upon their Slark casually getting his Roshan on I was able to rip him apart in the most casual fashion. I then turned to leave the pit.
In my defence, I have NEVER been allowed to be the one taking the Aegis before so it is habit to leave the damn thing lying like a hyperactive walnut until someone else pockets it. Suddenly I was the best candidate. Instant panic set in.
"PICK IT UP PICK IT UP PICK IT UP"
Dan and Tom were both yelling at me but I had no free item slots.
"MY INVENTORY IS FULL!"
What the hell do I drop? Oh god oh god oh god oh -
"DROP SOMETHING NOW! DROP A THING DROP A THING OH GOD"
"I AM!" I shrieked, dropping the teleport scrolls on the ground and lunging for the Aegis.
"NOT THE DEMON EDGE! NOT THE DEMON EDGE!" In my haste I had clicked and dropped not the cheap bits of teleport paper but my awesomely powerful sword.
Dan’s Enigma was in the pit with me by now.
"GET THE DEMON EDGE! GET IT NOW!" Tom sounded like he might actually lose it at this point.
Dan and I both threw away our scrolls and he lunged for the sword.
"WE WILL SORT THIS OUT IN THE FOREST."
I now had an empty space for something. Obviously I picked up the single teleport scroll and not the stack of two which I had thrown away seconds before and then chased after Dan into the Radiant jungle.
Seconds passed and the tidal wave of panic began to recede.
Dan's Enigma and my Spirit Breaker stood together awkwardly in the trees.
"Err, here’s your teleport scroll."
"And here is your massively powerful and valuable sword."
"Y’know, I’ve never had an Aegis before."
I think the number of times I've been the one taking the Aegis since this can be counted on one hand. I hadn't considered that the two things might be related but perhaps the lesson I took from this should have been to instantly unfriend everyone else in that match and just pretend it had never happened. At least Aegis carrying has never gone so hideously tits up as this one did, though.
What I'm trying to say with these snippets of ridiculousness is that the value of looking back when involved with a potentially infinite and hard-to-learn game is huge. I wish I'd done it more often, or that I'd documented the progress better after passing through that initial overwhelmed stage. Reading old posts about now-solved problems helped reorient my thinking this week. Instead of creeping inadequacy it's easier to be proud of mastering even a part of it.
Also NO, Graham, I still have no idea what my Game Of The Year is STOP ASKING.