Week 12 – Main Post – DotA

A screenshot showing the title menu of DotA2, a video game.

Some of my fondest memories of gaming take me back to when I was a kid, playing Warcraft III on the laptop my parents purchased me. It was running Windows Vista – say what you will be this will forever be one my favorite versions of windows – and had this bulky detachable battery on the bottom that propped it up. But that’s jumping ahead.

An AI generated image depicting the old HP Pavilion laptop I owned throughout my childhood.

I learned to play on the computer at around two to three years old. Of course, I wasn’t actually playing anything properly, but I would sit there and press buttons, infatuated with the characters responding to my inputs. In the years to come, my parents would leave me with an “uncle” – a close family friend – while they were busy and I’d sit there watching him play various RTS games and ARPGs, Diablo I and Diablo II, Command & Conquer, stuff like that. My father would often take me to internet cafés, and I’d sit there for hours. This was in the early 2000s, in Romania.

An AI generated image depicting an internet café in a dark basement with rows of desktops beside each other.

Eventually, by the time I was five, I was glued to the family computer. I recall playing various DOS games – Jill of the Jungle, Prince of Persia, Diablo I, and my favorite, Warcraft II. Despite being young, I was tech-savvy, and I was absolutely INFATUATED with Warcraft II. I’d wake up early and play as much as I could before having to go to kindergarten, my parents would have to drag me out of the house and I kicked, screamed, and cried – All I wanted to do was play Warcraft. I even remember, that same year we immigrated to Canada and I completed the second half of kindergarten here. One of my first assignments was to draw a comic / picture story – fantastic considering I didn’t speak any English – of whatever our favorite thing was at the time. You guessed it, I drew Warcraft II. The image of the poorly drawn guard tower, with stickman archers perched above is forever ingrained into my memory.

Clearly, my love for Blizzard games followed me throughout my childhood, and my life. Back to my Windows Vista laptop, at the time, considering I was a child and did not have any income, I did what any early internet user would, I pirated myself a copy of Warcraft III and dumped countless hours powering through the campaign, base game and Wrath of the Lich King – the pure shock of witnessing Arthas become the Lich King blew me away at the time. My group of friends had also pirated the game and I figured out how to spoof LAN servers so that we could play together. We used a software called GameRanger, considering we had pirated copies we couldn’t play online through Blizzard’s servers but GameRanger solved that issue.

A screenshot of Warcraft III remastered.

As a side note, on the topic of loving Blizzard games – I also grew up playing StarCraft. One of my not-so-fond memories is when StarCraft II was being released. My parents had pre-ordered the game for me and I showed up to EB Games at the brightest hour of the release date. I walked in with my mom, was handed my box and I rushed home, oozing with excitement. Man, the physical boxes that came with blizzard games back then were the best – I still have them all of them which I collected over the years. I got home, installed the game and was utterly disappointed to find out my dinky laptop couldn’t run the game. This was the day I learned about hardware requirements in the world of PC gaming.

Back to Warcraft III. From here, the world was our oyster. The sheer number of WCII custom maps publicly available was endless, and honestly, these were incredibly well made. We’d play various game modes, custom campaigns, mini games. We were never bored. Later into our time with Warcraft, my older sister asked me if I played DotA. I didn’t know what that was at the time, but she told me that it’s a craze and all the computer kids at her school were playing it. Ever so curious, I decided to look into it and see what she was talking about – to my surprise, the original DotA was a custom map/game mode for Warcraft III. At first, I downloaded the map and would host servers for my friends, but there were only two or three of us who played WCIII, DotA being a game mode designed for ten players, it didn’t necessarily function correctly. Nonetheless, we still had a blast messing around. I remember how we’d complain that Tiny and Strygwyr (Bloodseeker) were absolutely broken – of course, we didn’t know proper mechanics or counters at the time. Keep in mind I was probably like 10 years old at the time.

I then discovered Garena, another software that operated similarly to GameRanger which featured countless servers for DotA. We now started playing online with random players and really enjoyed it.

A few years later, I remember seeing the beta announcement of DotA 2 on steam. A full, standalone version of the game and far more polished than Warcraft III’s version. I immediately signed myself up, stating how much I loved WCIII and how much of the original DotA I had played. To my surprise, and excitement, I ended up getting beta access at the start of 2012. And for better or worse – this moment impacted the next decade of my life.

A screenshot showing the original title menu of DotA2, a video game.
A screenshot showing gameplay of DotA2, a video game.

DotA 2 was incredible, it was everything I ever wanted out of a video game. For the longest time it was pretty much the only thing I played. I quickly started receiving beta keys and dished them out to each of my friends – If any of you are reading, I’m sorry for introducing this addiction into your lives. We played DotA for countless hours, and as common with any MOBA fully developed an addiction to it. My parents absolutely hated it. Bless them for being so supportive throughout my childhood and nurturing my passion for video games, but I’m convinced that DotA 2 was the game which made them regret their decisions. This game was my life throughout grade 9 and 10. I’ll include a screenshot of my DotaBuff history below. You can see for yourself. This website has a full record of my gametime – there were days where I’d play 8 consecutive matches in a row.

A screenshot of my DotaBuff, a website which shows my complete play history of DotA2 - Ranging from 2012 to 2023.

For those who’ve never played, a match will take approximately 45 minutes, but could be longer or shorter. My grades suffered at one point so I had to take a hiatus, but the pandemic brought me back to it.

This game has been part of a massive portion of my life. I still play odd match from time to time, meaning I’ve been playing this game for over 11 years. So many fond memories are attributed to this game. From learning to curse out my teammates in Spanish (there was a time where there were many Spanish speaking players on the NA servers), to gathering my friends on Skype to queue up together, to gathering in person to watch the The International each year – DotA’s grand championships where the best teams faced off against each other.

We witnessed NAVI’s dream run with the infinitely lovable Dendi and his bizarre fountain hooks on Pudge in 2013. We watched the Cinderella Story of OG unfold live in 2018 and 2019 – the only team to win The International two years back-to-back. We gathered in 2021 during the pandemic to watch the unbelievable run of Team Spirit and their unconventional play style that steam rolled the competition.

The fountain hook video is a classic. Essentially, during the 2013 world finals, Dendi – a player on NAVI, figured out a bug that could insta-kill the opposing team’s characters. Despite NAVI losing the series, the managed to turn it around and win due to this exploit. This was quickly patched out of the game, but seeing this happen was mind-boggling. It wasn’t so much a bug, rather a clever use of the already established hero ability mechanics.

Even if you’re not a player of the game, I highly recommend the following documentary made by Red Bull covering OG’s 2018 run. It’s incredibly well made and tells the story of a group of induvial who became millionaires against all odds. This is a beloved piece of DotA history.

Countless hours of my life have been invested into this game, and the payout resulted in lifelong friendships and core-memories. My friends and I played this game as children. We played this game as teenagers. And from time to time, we still play this game together as adults.

Through the highs and lows. Through the rampant toxicity of this game’s early years and the video game addiction I developed due to it. It will forever hold the fondest place in my heart.

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