When I first heard of this month's topic, I knew exactly what I had to write about. I consider myself a mature gamer (in attitude, not years: I'm 26), and with maturity comes responsibility. No not doing my homework cuz I would rather play Final Fantasy Tactics, no ditching class to conquer Rome and make my Chinese empire reign supreme in Civilization III, no playing hookie from work to drum Joker and the Thief one more time in Rock Band. I thought I had it all under control, but I was wrong.
I have been an avid gamer my entire life. Some of my first memories are playing Adventure and King's Quest whatever, back when having 32 colors was straight luxury. My console game life has traveled along similar lines to many in this community: sinking my teeth into Nintendo, moving to SNES and Genesis, on and on, into my present 360/PSP/DS self. RPGs are my bag. And, of course, I am a PC gamer (well...Mac now) as well: I crave Blizzard, and their not-so-worthy competitors. I play Blizzard for real, but always single player either because my connection is too slow or I cannot connect to battle.net for some reason that my P2P just will not tell me. It is the content of these games: the tried and true fantasy that takes me back, hitting my video game comfort zone right on the head.
So after finishing off the Frozen Throne (much after it had come out), I stumbled into my local dry cleaner in Ann Arbor, MI and the clerk there was playing a modded WC3 level. I looked at his hero and saw unconventional abilities, new items, and frankly, a chaotic mess - I wanted MOAR! I went home and downloaded it. Cool, its got AI, I thought, cuz I knew multiplayer was not an option. The numbers of hours played in that session is unknown, but when I came to, it was almost four in the morning. No playing past four I told myself, besides, there is always tomorrow. True, true, TRUE.
The next day, there I was back at it. There were about 80 heroes to choose from at that point, and with all of the loot, I set out trying to find my favorite - Kardel caught my eye early, and has remained a frequent choice. Hours, and hours, and hours, and tomorrow became today as I kept playing until late again. I literally had moments of "oh, like two hours have passed," look at the clock, and yeah, its four in the morning again. Luckily I had just graduated from school, so time wasn't too important, but that would change.
Having just graduated from law school, I had to start studying for the bar - it is really not that cool at all. Basically it was 9-9 every day, for 60 days straight. At the end of each of these days, all I wanted to do was not think about the law, or studying, or really life in general (we've all been there). So, my reward for another day of slugging it out was DotA. But, in a perverse way, this game was touching weird pressure centers - I feel in control, but I am not. Most games I play melt in the face of my superiority. Frankly, I do not really play super-challenging games any more because I do not have time, but that AI in DotA would just kick my ass. There is nothing more frustrating than going along for 40 minutes, only to have a misstep, get owned by Viper, and then realize that that one death pretty much just crushed your hopes at victory, AND its one in the morning, AND there is a super hideous day in front of you, now, today. I couldn't remember the last game that frustrated me so (Aztec on 00 Agent?), but I kept coming back for more. Eventually, I found an older AI that was so stupid I could own 1-5, but it didn't feel as gratifying. Nonetheless, I stuck to the stupid AI because I loved the content: I wanted to try out these classes without having to feel like unless I played flawless I would lose. With so many combinations, the possibilities seemed endless - I could play forever.
As it turns out, once I finished with the bar, I was also finished with DotA. As with many video games, the experience is linked with a time and a place, and that time and that place, was thankfully over. I kept it on my computer, but never fired it up. Flash forward ten months, I passed the bar, but have been looking for employment for a few months. The job hunt is wearing me thin, and in fact, it made me feel a lot like I did during studying for the bar: hopeless, separated, lost in the face of enormity. Before I got too philosophical, almost like a gut reaction, I saw that picture of Arthas in my finder and thought, I've got some free time, why don't I fire up some DotA? I decided to write this post at four in the morning. The fire is still there.
I think the title of the topic is particularly apt for me: if I've been in a loving, secure relationship for my entire life with video games, DotA is the secretary she doesn't know about. I feel compulsion to play this game. The closest I can get to addiction. But like most addictions, it is not the substance itself I am addicted to, but the escape, the relief from the real world. I needed it when I studied for the bar, and I've needed it again while I search for a job. Part of me is happy that I have an outlet, but another part of me wonders why I waste my time with this "release" when I go to bed wanting Atropos to flame in hell for enfeebling me while some other bastard blinks in and kills me. Love, hate: a very fine line indeed. Perhaps that is the balance that keeps me coming back - it is a controlled mirror world: in real life, I am felling my way through, sometimes painfully, so I can succeed in the future. The game is not much different.
So, why is DotA my smack? It is the content. It is fresh enough that it feels totally new, but conventional enough to slot me right back into my golden-age-of-fascination FF1 days - just think if video games were food, FF1 would be my mac and cheese. In some ways, it is the most original fantasy game I have played in long time because it sheds the conventional classes. How refreshing is it to play as a Stealth Assassin instead of a thief, or Axe instead of a knight? The content is what drew me in and kept me coming back, and back, and back.
You're probably thinking, why doesn't this clown get on battle.net and settle things for real? Time and place. For me, this game is about me, making a my time and a my place. read