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The grip of winter can t save you from hot hot electric sport. There s major Dota 2 in China and minor CS:GO in Romania. In League of Legends the North American Championship Series thunders on leaving drama in its wake, and we round off with a bit of punching for good measure. Have a great weekend!

Dota 2: MarsTV League Winter 2015

That's right! 'Winter 2015'. Like the saying goes, it doesn't matter if you're not sure what year it is when you've got a great set of international Dota 2 teams competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's taking place in China, so eight hours ahead of GMT/seven ahead of CET/sixteen ahead of PST. If you tune in over the weekend you can catch the winner's bracket final and a bunch of lower bracket games on Saturday followed by the lower bracket final and grand final on Sunday. The grand final begins at 10:00 GMT/11:00 CET/02:00 PST, and you can find up to date schedule information on Gosugamers. You can also find the English language Azubu stream here.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: PGL European Minor Championship 2016

Eight European CS:GO squads fight for $50,000 in Bucharest. There's a mixture of established and aspiring talent in contention, so this comes recommended to talent scouts as well as fans of the European scene. The group A matches are taking place today, with group B to follow on Saturday followed by playoffs for the top four teams on Sunday. Play begins at 11:00 GMT/12:00 CET/03:00 PST and runs throughout the day. You can find the stream on Twitch.

League of Legends: North American Championship Series

The new season rolls on with a full weekend of play in North America. Expect a lot of action packed into a relatively short span of time, and after a dramatic first week there's a lot to live up to. In particular, look to TSM to want to improve their performance— they face Cloud9 on Saturday and NRG on Sunday. Check out this page on LoLesports for a full schedule and stream info and the main page for the other regional leagues—there are also games in the LCK and LMS over the weekend.

Killer Instinct: World Cup

Yes, yes, it isn't a PC game. If you don't like it, stop asking for fighting game coverage. Even then it won't matter, because fighting games are awesome. In any case: there's $30,000 on the line in San Antonio as the KI community dukes it out for the world title. Find tournament info here and the stream here. At the moment there isn't a schedule available, but expect games throughout the weekend on Pacific time.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here

They've finally done it. The maniacs, they've finally done it. Valve have launched a community Dota 2 event that really works. The Winter 2016 Battle Pass came out yesterday with no warning whatsoever and has, so far, avoided making almost all of the mistakes that Dota 2 events traditionally make. If you've not been playing for long, let's recap the traditional problems:

It's a separate game mode that doesn't really work half the time

eg. New Bloom 2014, New Bloom 2015, Diretide 2012, Diretide 2013

It changes the way people play regular Dota 2

eg. Nemesis Assassin

It's about abusing a system until you get free stuff

eg. New Bloom 2014, New Bloom 2015, Diretide 2012, Diretide 2013

It's fun but a grind

eg. Wraith Night

It's basically gambling with real money

eg. New Bloom 2015

It didn't happen

eg. Diretide 2014

Only one other event that I can think of dodges most of these pitfalls—the wonderful Greeviling, vanished never to return along with Valve's deep but fleeting obsession with dinosaur gremlin muppet creatures, alas.

The Winter 2016 Battle Pass is a lot of things in one. It's this year's replacement for New Bloom, which traditionally ran—as this will—through spring. To that end it introduces a new time-limited quest system, community-spanning meta-objectives, and a bunch of achievements and trophies and so on.

It also includes the compendium for the Shanghai Major, which encompasses the traditional esports tie-in booklet that somebody presumably reads along with a leveling system, temporary in-game rewards, and a lot of new chests and sets. With the exception of a new custom game mode—they've become the exclusive preserve of the 'Arcade' tab—the Battle Pass incorporates almost every idea that Valve have had over the last three and a bit years of running these things.

Except they all work in harmony with each other. And with the exception of a day one duping bug, nothing is terribly broken. And it's not terribly expensive. And it doesn't invite you to sink lots of money after your initial purchase. And it's more about engaging with the game than grinding for specific rewards. And the interface doesn't take thirty seconds to load for no discernable reason.

This provides a kind of compound relief. One, it's a substantial update in its own right, something that Dota badly needs given the long wait between patches and heroes. Two, it's a great use of the Reborn client that makes me glad that we got through that long, messy relaunch. Three, it's a live event that doesn't feel like a funfair being operated as a social experiment by a haywire AI. At least, not as much as usual.

I can list off my 'serious' problems with the update on the fingers of one hand:

  • This Skywrath set shouldn t be red I guess.
  • They shouldn't have nerfed Skywrath's incredibly lengthy 'in the bag' line by making it less likely to play. From my high horse I can see to the ends of the world, and from this vantage point I declare with utter certainty that this is a terrible decision and the game is dead.
  • If they're going to make Skywrath red, at least make him shout his 'in the bag' line over and over so that I know that Legion Commander and Beastmaster's hawk haven't had a baby or something.
  • Pouring money into a compendium that doesn't increase the associated prize pool is still weird.

That's basically one problem and three lots of nonsense! Good job, Valve!

Through all of this, however—the well-implemented quest system and the daily challenges and the gambling and the new sets and the great terrain and the cool seasonal effects and so on and so on—there's one thing that really makes me happy: Valve are talking about player behaviour again.

Tucked away among the new additions is the 'conduct summary', a one-sheet review of your behaviour over the last 25 games that you've played. In the associated FAQ, Valve explain that they want to make the way the game keeps track of player conduct much more transparent. Your report is designed to let you know that, actually, 77% of players don't incur reports. That assholes are outliers. That a single match isn't enough to get you committed to the low priority queue, and that—through all the strife of matchmaking—a handful of people liked you enough to commend you.

This is a positive change in and of itself, but it's the increased communication that clinches it for me. When I spoke to Valve's Erik Johnson last year, he didn't regard player behaviour as a major issue for the game. This is likely because, if you have all of the data in front of you, the amount of players that cause enough trouble to be worth punishing is actually relatively small (the new conduct summary attests to that.) In the intervening time, however, it seems that Valve have realised that they need to open that data up to the community: it's not enough to say 'this isn't a priority' in private and leave people to get frustrated with what they perceive as a toxic player base.

The conduct summary FAQ puts to rest a bunch of urban myths regarding the report system: that you can be bullied into low prio by an ill-meaning party of players, or that the system is rendered ineffective by 'noise'—players filing reports for the wrong reasons. I don't know that the players who most need to read this FAQ will do so, and I suspect that the most serious offenders won't care when their conduct summary flashes up a run of red icons—but it's progress, and it speaks to increased openness on Valve's part.

I'm really pleased with the Battle Pass system, and it has me excited to try and complete all of the objectives before the event ends, but it's this single simple thing that has me hopeful for the future of the game. Valve's long run of experimental community events has finally borne fruit. If they go on to figure out how to encourage better behaviour from the average Dota player, and do so while writing more openly about their working, then I can t think of a better start to 2016.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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Photo credit: DreamHack Flickr

Buckle up, friends, for another packed weekend of pro gaming. There's high-level play happening across the biggest competitive games on PC. League of Legends continues its Spring season, CS:GO has a massive DreamHack tournament to enjoy, the excellent Hearthstone Starladder StarSeries finally comes to a conclusion, and Dota 2 has something a little more leftfield to check out.

Dota 2: Captain's Draft 3.0

The Captain's Draft 3.0 tournament just kicked off and sports a hefty prizepool of $100k, which can be expanded further through community contributions. Captain's Draft 3.0 is named as such because it uses the slightly different Captain's Draft game mode for the entire tournament. Qualifiers began on the 19th and will continue all weekend. You can find a schedule and results of the matches here, and the stream here.

Hearthstone: StarLadder i-League StarSeries Finals

The Hearthstone StarSeries is finally reaching its LAN climax this weekend. Games have already gotten underway today, but the winner will be crowned on Saturday, walking away with a sizeable chuck of a $50k prizepool. There's a lot of Hearthstone going on this weekend, but this is the most reliable source of high-quality casting and play. You can check the schedule here, albeit in Russian, and find the english version of the stream here.

League of Legends: NA LCS, LPL, LMS, and LCK

LoL's spring season started back up last week, and will continue to be a great watch overthe next few months. North America, China, and Taiwan continue their regular competition as the NA LCS, LPL, and LMS respectively, and we can also add Korea's LCK to this week's list. You can find schedules for the games at the links above, while the big, friendly 'watch live' button on the lolesports.com homepage will take you straight to the stream. 

CS:GO: DreamHack Leipzig 2016

As with Hearthstone, there's a whole bunch of CS:GO being played this weekend, but the biggest tournament by far is DreamHack Leipzig. Na'Vi, Virtus.pro, Dignitas and more will square off at the German LAN event, with the winners taking home $50k for themselves. Games began today and the full schedule is right hereYou can also find the stream here.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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Photo credit: StarLadder.

A new year in electric sport gets underway as the League of Legends championship machine thunders to life after a post-Worlds hiatus. There's money to be won by the best Dota 2 and CS:GO teams in Minsk, and even a little Chinese Heroes of the Storm if that's what you're into.

Dota 2: StarLadder i-League StarSeries XIII Finals

After a week of group stage matches, season 13 of StarLadder will come to an end this weekend in Minsk. The remaining teams in contention are LGD, Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, Alliance and Team Secret—although we'll lose either Alliance or Secret very shortly (at the time of writing, their quarterfinal set is about to begin.) The Dota 2 metagame has changed dramatically in the aftermath of 6.86b's overhauls, so this is a good opportunity to get up to speed. The quarterfinals run on Saturday from 08:00 CET/07:00 GMT/23:00 PST (Friday night: sorry, America.) The grand final will take place on Sunday at 11:00 CET/10:00 GMT/02:00 PST. Find the stream here.

CS:GO: StarLadder i-League StarSeries XIV Finals

Running alongside Dota 2 in Minsk, the year's first subsantial CS:GO tournament has been underway for a little while. The quarterfinals are being played right now to determine whether Na'Vi or ? progress to the next stage (Fnatic have already earned their spot.) They'll join Luminosity, Fnatic, and EnVyUs in tomorrow's semifinals, which begin at 10:00 CET/09:00 GMT/01:00 PST. The grand final will begin on Sunday at 14:00 CET/13:00 GMT/05:00 PST. Here's the stream.

League of Legends: NA LCS, LPL, and LMS

LoL's new season kicked off earlier in the week across the world. Play this weekend will take place in North America, China and Taiwan as the NA LCS, LPL, and LMS all get underway. Click those links to check out schedules for each individual league, and you can find streams at lolesports.com: look for the 'watch live' button on the homepage when games are on.

Heroes of the Storm: Gold Series Heroes League 2015 Grand Finals

The playoffs aren't until next week, but this weekend will see China's best Heroes of the Storm teams battle through group stages for a shot at a share of $100,000. Play begins at 17:00 local time/09:00 GMT/01:00 PST on both days. You can find English-language casting on Gillyweed's Twitch stream.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here

"u play ur game"

Phantom Assassin isn't happy with me, because I have just told Phantom Assassin that they should buy a Black King Bar. This is a solo ranked game, and we're winning, but that can always change. The opposing team has Invoker and Shadow Shaman: both decent reasons for a PA to pick up a BKB. Another good reason is that it's a core item on a character whose chief vulnerability is crowd control spells and magic burst damage. That too.

At this point in the game, Phantom Assassin has Power Treads, a Basher, and a Battlefury. We're in that tentative late period that a lot of solo ranked games end up in, where we've comfortably taken over the map and we've killed Roshan but nobody really wants to go highground. We almost lose a teamfight in their jungle, and I can see which way the wind is blowing, and so I type it out: "PA should get a BKB". And PA—politely, I should add—tells me to shut up and play my own game.

When we win ten minutes later, Phantom Assassin leads the scoreboard with Power Treads, Basher, Battlefury, and two Moon Shards. In this instance, the glass cannon fired true and didn't shatter. On paper I'd still say that Phantom Assassin played it wrong, but the reality is that something clearly went right.

That thing may be luck. It may also be that the rest of PA's team played their asses off to make sure that Invoker and Shadow Shaman were dead before they got anywhere near our carry. It may simply be a reality of life in the mediocre middle of the Dota 2 player population that it doesn't really matter what you build as long as you don't do anything completely stupid.

I suspect the truth is a combination of all of these things. I still think we could have easily lost that game, and those MMR points, and that loss could have come down to PA's refusal to build a defensive item. But I've also played games, recently, where the opposite is true: you lock support and sacrifice all of your gold to maintain vision, dust, smokes, and so on, and it all goes to hell and you'd have been better off jungling a Legion Commander like everybody else. It's become apparent to me that the trick to solo queue is to neither be entirely greedy nor entirely selfless; to try, but never to try too hard. To care, but never, like, a lot.

The more I think about it, the more I consider "u play ur game" to be sound advice. After my attempt to wrestle a heartwarming Christmas tale out of Dota 2 totally misfired, I'd considered simply stepping away from the ladder. But one of the things I find compelling about this game is that struggle to climb, and the psychological barriers you have to negotiate as you rise and fall. I've realised recently that my desire to play 'properly' (and to see others do the same) in part covers for weaknesses in my play. If somebody can make up for a lack of knowledge with technical skill, then what I have to say to them doesn't really matter—at least not in the course of the game we're playing.

I've always played solo ranked like my job was to shore up the weaknesses in the draft that my random teammates chose: normally, as you'd expect, this means playing support. The good thing about this approach is that it teaches you to be versatile, but the weakness is that it prevents you from really digging into a particular role or character—and ultimately, that familiarity translates into game impact which translates into victories and positive MMR.

The problem with playing something you don't want to play because other people 'need' you to is that it prevents the game from ever really feeling like a team effort. You'll always feel like you're throwing yourself under the bus to help ungrateful people who get to stomp around with their jungle Legion Commanders while you pick up the bill. It leads to a sense that you're in opposition to your own team, which is something I've definitely felt—and written about, in this column, dozens of times.

If everybody simply picks what they want to play, then everybody is in it together. You might be truly screwed by your draft, but no one person will be to blame—and, in any case, it's surprisingly rare that solo ranked games punish greed. As much as I loathe this sentiment in the real world, the Dota 2 ladder is a closed system where greed can improve society. Pick what you want to play, try to make it work, and own the consequences. It's more fun, and easier on the mind, than an hour spent picking holes in other people's decisions.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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As of January 13, competitive gaming group Titan is dead. Founder and CEO Damien Grust announced the disbandment on Titan's website, releasing all players and staff on its roster, which included Smite and CS:GO teams.

The group previously placed in the top 10 at The International 4, won in Quake at two DreamHacks and a QuakeCon, claimed a CS:GO Title at the DreamHack Invitational 2 and placed second in the 2015 Smite World Championships. However, as Grust details in his farewell post, the VAC ban dealt to CS:GO team member Hovik 'KQLY' Tovmassian in November 2014 would mark the beginning of the end.

"All the bad press that this brought and the major hit the image of an otherwise respectable brand took was too much," Grust writes. "Sponsors and partners with whom we were about to sign understandably backed out of deals, not wanting to be associated with a company that had just been tarnished. Needless to say, our budget for 2015 had gone up in smoke from one day to another."

It was a financial hit from which Titan has been unable to recover—a catastrophically high price for one member's cheating.

PC Gamer

It's another great weekend of competitive electronic gaming in store, with a World Championship, a Major qualifier, and a community-supported LAN event happening. It's the biggest event of the year for Smite, with it's World Championship running from Thursday through to the end of the weekend. Meanwhile, over in the  Dotaverse there's the Shanghai Major qualifiers to enjoy. Finally, there's one of the cooler events in a while, the Heroes of the Storm 'Heroes Rising' tournament is a crowdfunded LAN event taking place in LA this weekend. Read on to see how you can tune in live:

Smite: World Championship 2016

If you're goal is to watch the highest level of play possible this weekend, regardless of the game, Smite is what you'll want to watch. The biggest event of the year for Hi-Rez's action-MOBA, this is the winner-take-all, final showdown between the best teams in the world. The World Championship started yesterday and runs through January 10th. You can watch on the official Twitch channel here, and games go from 8am-8pm PT most days—you can find the full schedule here. Catch up with what happened on day 1 here, and our very own Chris Thursten is at the event live and ready to fill you in as the weekend continues. 

Dota 2: Shanghai Major Main Qualifiers

Although the Dota 2 Shanghai Major isn't until the beginning of March, qualifiers started on Thursday and and continue through the weekend—with the playoff bracket starting Saturday. There was an open qualifier earlier this week, but the main qualifier is split into four regions, with the top two teams from each region qualifying for the Shanghai Major. Games begin at 10am PT on Friday, and 2:30pm PT Saturday and Sunday, and you can watch live on the BeyondTheSummit Twitch channel here.

Heroes of the Storm: Heroes Rising

Heroes Rising is a LAN tournament held in LA with both invited and qualifying teams, but the coolest part of this event is that it was crowdfunded by Esports Arena, raising over $8k on Kickstarter—70% of which went straight into the prize pool. It begins today at 4pm PT with a series of showmatches (one of the Kickstarter stretch goals) and then continue from 11am-10pm PT on Saturday and 11am-8pm PT on Sunday. You can watch on the main Twitch channel here—another stretch goal added a second stream with alternate games here, and can take a look at the bracket here.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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Dota 2 has had an incredible year. A wide range of tournaments, huge plays, and the ever-shifting metagame have resulted in an exciting scene. There have been laughs, sadness, and always some damn good Dota. With the clock ticking and 2016 looming near, let s take a look at Dota 2 s five biggest moments of 2015.

5. Team Secret and CDEC have an epic base race

Some games are a friendly reminder that the key to victory in Dota 2 is to kill the enemy s ancient. It doesn t matter how much farm a player has or if they can stay alive in the enemy fountain, if they don t kill an ancient, they don t win. In this case not only were CDEC fighting for the game, they were fighting for their Dota 2 Asia Championship slot. Unlike The International 2015 s format, a poor group stage performance could have led to elimination from the DAC, and CDEC were struggling among the competition. In contrast, Secret hadn t lost a game (and wouldn t lose one for the rest of the group stage).

Down two barracks and worried about Lycan s pushing power, CDEC had to fight. In an astounding three minutes of fighting (with about 20 seconds of posturing), numerous buybacks, and a skewer into fountain, this was one of the best base races in Dota history.

4. Unknown.xiu taunt their way into Frankfurt Major 2015

Until 2015, South America had little representation in professional Dota 2. This changed with the Frankfurt Major, when Unknown.xiu, a Peruvian team, managed to work their way through two qualifiers to eventually reach the tournament. As you ll see above, they showed some extra swag in their match versus Digital Chaos. Not only did they take a win, but they relished their victory with some good old fashioned bad manners.

On a more serious note, when a region is suddenly represented on the world stage it can bring substantial growth to the area as a whole. Unknown.xiu has unfortunately split, but the experience gained by the players will help cultivate more talent, and the extra eyes on South America can generate much needed sponsorship. Even if Unknown.xi had limited success upon reaching the Frankfurt Major, they were still able to beat Newbee and earn 12th place. The biggest growth of South America may happen in 2016, but the process started two months ago.

3. The crowd rushes in at The Frankfurt Major

The Frankfurt Major brought an interesting question to the table: could new teams do well in the Major format? When the only Valve-run event was The International, teams had time to form, test their merits, and find a way to improve (or disband). This meant that tons of smaller teams, such as Team Tinker, were forming and developing in tournaments prior to the The International. Most of them sank, but a few managed to swim. The Dota Major s faster schedule had the potential to change all that.

And at first glance, it seemed like the newer teams were struggling. At the Frankfurt Major, only a single open qualifier team made it into the winner s bracket. Then came OG. OG had a mediocre performance in the group stages, snagging third place out of four. They looked like the kind of team spectators might read about out of curiosity, but ignore in favor of fan favorites. Once the main event began, however, they gained some new momentum.

Their first win didn t come as a huge surprise, as Fnatic hadn t won a single game. The victories kept coming, although every win seemed to be followed up with an assumption that the win streak was about to end. That they made it all the way to the grand final and won is this year s Cinderella story, and it earned them a lot of fans on the way: fans that rushed the stage as they lifted the trophy. New teams can not only win Majors, it seems, but they can pick up a major fanbase along the way.

2. Natus Vincere releases its Dota 2 squad (then signs it again)

On October 16th, it was announced that Natus Vincere was disbanding its Dota 2 squad, leaving behind fan-favorite veterans like Dendi and XBOCT. This was a short-lived change, and both Dendi and Sonneiko were shortly signed onto a new Na Vi squad. This brief restructuring served as a reminder that the Dota scene is dramatically changing. The expected synergy between Funn1k, XBOCT, and Dendi was a relic of the past, and even if that lineup was well-loved by fans, it couldn t survive in the increasingly tough Dota 2 scene.

This is the flipside to the many underdog stories of 2015, where OG and numerous other teams suddenly appeared and shone. Good tournament results are a zero-sum game though, and as these new teams find their place, the older organizations might just leave the scene altogether. Na Vi and Dendi have stuck around for now, but for how long?

1. The $6 million dollar slam

The International 5 managed to both shatter and reaffirm expectations of the professional Dota scene. MVP Phoenix surprised the world by fighting their way into seventh place, and in doing so tied with the suddenly floundering Team Secret. However, the biggest surprise story was the sudden reappearance of CDEC. CDEC wasn t directly invited to The International, but instead took second in the Chinese qualifier. Like the OG phoenix that would later rise in the Frankfurt Major, CDEC couldn t stop winning once the main event began. They easily found themselves in the grand finals, having only dropped a single game to the third place LGD.

Within a few day of losing the winner s bracket final to CDEC, Evil Geniuses faced them again in the grand final. Revised strategies and smart drafting delivered them to a 2-1 advantage, a single win away from the lion s share of an 18.5 million dollar prize pool. These are the circumstances that led to the $6m dollar slam.

EG s victory wasn t really about the single play. The game had already gone haywire for CDEC, and a midgame pickoff on Sumail was their only chance at a desperation Roshan kill. The setup was perfect for Evil Geniuses. PPD used Ancient Apparition s Ice Blast for vision, and the Echo Slam followup from Universe was absolutely brutal. A simple play, delivering a simple statement: Evil Geniuses were going to win The International 2015. CDEC had reached for the prize, but EG had proven they were the best.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

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Three Lane Highway

Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2 and wizards in general. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here

On the morning of Christmas Eve I played a game of Dota. I had an idea—actually, an idea that was supposed to form the basis of this post. It s not so easy to spread gifts around the Dota community, these days, so I d decided to spread the spirit of the season rather simply: I d end everything I said in chat with merry Christmas .

I loaded into a game of solo ranked and picked Witch Doctor. I bought wards and the courier and gave a ward to Kunkka, who was headed to the offlane (because this was a solo ranked game). gave u a ward, kunkka I typed. Merry Christmas.

He said thank you. Somebody else typed lol . Then, our mid said something over voice that did not sound threatening or angry but was certainly not in English. It may have been Russian, I didn t know or mind. Kunkka assumed it was Russian, and made his objections clear over voice chat.

Fucking Russian mother ass fuck you were his exact words. He continued along those lines for a little bit. They started shouting at each other. The zero-minute runes spawned.

The opening few minutes of the game went well. Omniknight, my fellow support, successfully stacked and pulled. We got first blood, and then another kill, and then I rotated mid and helped Pudge kill the other team s mid Meepo. Then I did some more warding, then helped get a kill top. I felt pretty good. The yelling did not stop.

Meepo abandoned. Two members of the enemy team followed. They were left with Keeper of the Light and Earthshaker at ten minutes.

They managed to defend for twenty more.

I spent the rest of that Dota game listening to Kunkka scream at Pudge who screamed at Weaver, our safelane carry. Nobody wanted to work together for long enough to break base, or even take Roshan. It was miserable: Omniknight and I supported in silence while Weaver dove tier four towers and died, Pudge screamed at him, did the same, and so on. I didn t say anything for a long time. Then, as we finally took down a lane of barracks and then a second, I realised that I d have preferred it if the other team had won.

Well defended guys I typed. You probably deserve to win this one. Merry Christmas.

Earthshaker responded in Russian. Kunkka lost it, again.

We won the game, I got my +25 MMR, and I thought: man, why does anybody play this game.

The next game ended with a very salty Tiny throwing his own teammates (me) into the enemy team, forever, until the game ended. The one after that wasn t any better. My hopes of a heartwarming Christmas Dota diary faded. Some communities are Christmas-proof, and I suspect that Dota is one of them.

So instead I m going to write about why I do play this game.

I started playing Dota in 2012 because we needed somebody to write about Dota. I d played StarCraft II for a year or so and PvP in various hotbar MMOs for longer. I d just come off a long Star Wars: The Old Republic habit, and going from three 12-action quickbars to just four abilities per character felt quaint, easy even.

It didn t take long for that impression to be proven staggeringly wrong. The first hero I played was Lion, in an easy bot game along with four friends. We won, but it took forever. We thought we d wait a few weeks before braving actual matchmaking, but we lasted a few days. The first hero I played against other people was Gyrocopter. I bought an Aghanim s Scepter, because global-range Call Down seemed like the most overpowered the thing in the game. It wasn t. This game also took forever. We grouped up and used Treant Protector s Nature s Guise to attempt to sneak into the enemy base and destroy the ancient. It didn t work, because that doesn t work, and we lost. It was brilliant.

I had discovered a game that wasn t a set of fixed strategies that had to be mastered and repeated, as most competitive games I d played were. Dota 2 is a sandbox, an opportunity to be creative, and although there is a lot to learn, the purpose of that learning is to expand your options—not close them off. And when you start to apply that creativity, the solutions you come up with are solutions that you own. There are orthodoxies, yes—what role a hero plays, what items they should probably buy—but no rules, in the way that games traditionally enforce rules.

This was a game where you were really responsible for your ideas, your performance, your moments of success (and failure.) There s something specifically compelling about that: the knowledge that the only thing stopping you from improving is your own willingness to improve, and that when you do get better your friends will watch it happen.

That was what prompted my deepest-ever investment in a competitive game, compounded by this sense that Dota is—no matter how toxic the community—unavoidably social. You need to work with others, and so you need to learn with others, and it s hard not to make friends as you do that. This is a game that is essentially very human, from the professional scene down. It inspires jokes, arguments, friendships, rivalries, dumb songs, anxiety, tryharding, shitposting, unlike any other game I ve played. It s not just an ARTS, or a MOBA, or whatever: it s a giant social sandbox, a stage for people to play on which uses strategy as the basis for a shared vocabulary.

Don t get me wrong. There are some really shitty people playing Dota. There are a lot of shitty people playing Dota. And sometimes, like yesterday, it doesn t really feel worth it. The lesson here is partly the same old: solo ranked is a disaster, play with a group. But it s also helpful to remember why I ve dumped so much time (and hat money) on this ridiculous game. Because Dota is unique. And there are a lot of games that try to be a bit like Dota, and they don t succeed, because this is the only game in the world where a first-time player can try to use a talking tree s tree magic to sneak an invisible helicopter into a fortress.

Merry Christmas, Dota. You re weird.

Pcgp Logo Red Small PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!


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