The year was 2013. September was beginning and my friends and I were sitting down at EXP Restaurant on a Sunday morning to watch the finals of the International Dota 2 Tournament in Seattle. Navi had clinched the final spot and would face Alliance. It was a fun event and a lot of beer and nachos were consumed. This led to my friends getting some ideas, “Hey, why don’t we play Dota 2 in a tournament? We’re pretty good!” When you’ve had three pitchers of Pilsner anything seems like a good idea to a group of young to middle aged men.
The thought percolated in my brain for a while and then a few weeks later I saw it. Ancient Trials, a locally sponsored Dota 2 tournament administered by Heartless Gerbils Entertainment Limited.
And so my rise to pro gaming stardom began.
Now, I’m not bad at Dota 2. At this point I have 1250 hours in the game and around 600 wins. I’m mostly 50/50 for win-lose rate. I’m not bad, but I’m also not great. The average age for a pro gamer according to the internet is 20-26, because after you hit your mid 20’s your reaction time begins to slow a bit, or as the coach of the Chinese Dota 2 Team EHOME said, “You can’t click as fast.”
I’m 35. Yeah.
So I emailed some gaming friends to see who was available. The guy who usually plays our support role was going on vacation so he couldn’t support our asses. That’s okay. I usually play off-support, so this meant I had to step up my warding skills and learn to watch out for my teammates better. My role was set. Next we had our captain, a former Counterstrike pro. Then we recruited a guy with a massive steam library and his gamer girlfriend. Finally we rounded out our team with a multi-talented artist and techno musician. They alternated between mid, initiator, and carry. After a week of chatting and discussion, we ended up with this rag-tag bunch of gamers. Coincidentally I work with all of them. The guy who was going on vacation felt bad that he couldn’t help, so he set up new Steam accounts for us and installed Dota on all of them. Our artist member also made some nice logo’s for our steam profiles so we looked professional. And we did! We decide to call ourselves “Dudes and Bros” or “ DnB”, which right off the bat annoyed our co-worker’s girlfriend. Off to a great start.
We were ready to start training, but arranging practice times was tough. We thought we’d play together three times a week. That sounds like enough, right? Sure! We forgot to take into account one thing: life. Sometimes some of us would be late or unable to make a practice because random issues would get in the way. I can count on one hand how many times we got to play as an actual team during our practice phase. Whenever we did finally get together we talked a lot about strategies. We had a great pushing line up as well as one with global ultimate abilities. These line ups worked well in the pub games we played so we were excited to see how they fared in the tournament.
The day of our qualifier game came. We were pumped and ready, “Let’s start out easy.” We began with our straight forward pushing line up. No one will expect it.
Our first game started well with a successful draft. We got all of the heroes we wanted for the strategy we were doing. They didn’t out pick us in the draft, but boy did they counter us hard with their skill. Their carries farmed the lanes while we pushed, so when Naga Siren popped her ult, they swept in as a team and squashed us like bugs. Our perfect plan foiled. We lost, we lost bad.
We started to watch the games of our fellow competitors. Some of these people had played thousands of games more than us, not just a few hundred, literally thousands. My wins were around 500 at that time, and the amount of wins on our weakest competitor was 1500. And that’s just the wins!
We wanted to hate them, but they were so polite and professional: saying GG when we forfeited, and saying thank-you for the game when we were done. Those mother fuckers! Worst of all, some of our games were cast by a professional caster called Briefcase. Watching our games and listening to him tear into our plays and skill level was devastating. He wasn’t mean or spiteful at all, in fact he was very pleasant, but he called us out on every mistake and misplay as a good caster should. He was right about every little thing. That mother fucker!
We only managed to win one game, and that was against a team gathered the day before registration ended. They were people as unprepared as ourselves, but even then it was a close game. All the other teams decimated us. With every loss our morale dropped. We started to in-fight, argue, second guess ourselves, and think about quitting all together.
In the final week with only three games left I got us all together in Ventrilo, and said, “Fuck it, let’s just play heroes we like and have fun!” And we did. We still lost, but god dammit we had a good time doing it. For our last game we picked an unbalanced mix of strength-melee heroes and roamed as group of five the whole game just ganking. Contrary to any sensible strategy, we did nothing but hide in the forest and jump out on unsuspecting heroes. That game was the closest we had all tournament, and it was the most fun!
After that loss we congratulated the finalists, and threw in our towel. All of our hopes and dreams of becoming pro Dota 2 players at the International went with it. However we didn’t go away without any recognition. At the end of the tournament we got an honorable mention award, “Best New Meta,” for our bizarre yet effective strategy that last game.
Would I do another tournament for Dota 2? I doubt it. I no longer have delusions of grandeur about being a competitive gamer. Now I just have fun, and that’s what games were made for, right? I find I’m less stressed in these games and get less angry, which for me is weird. I learned a lot, and I’m a much better player for it. The fact that I advanced my own skill made the entire experience worth it for me. That’s why I love Dota 2. It’s not just how many wins I have, or my kill to death ratio, it’s that I challenge myself to play better and smarter every game; with every win or lose I improve.
P.S. Ancient Trials tried to get enough people for another tournament but they didn’t have enough interest this time. If you are reading this and want to try you hand at it and live in or close to Vancouver BC, let them know on their facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/ancienttrials
P.S.S. If you really want to see me fail hard, here’s the link to Briefcase’s youtube. I’m “The Zombie Christ.j2” Please… be nice. https://www.youtube.com/user/briefgames