I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Play Dota 2!” was what came from Chris Kemp’s mic. “But it’s not enough that you just play it”, he elaborated. “I need you to be competent at it.”
With those simple words, my course was set: I was to play Dota 2, against humans, and get a killing spree. Three kills in a row. How bad could it be?
Well, first off, I previously had less than 20 minutes of Dota 2 under my belt. I had downloaded the game roughly a year ago and booted it, only to give it a cursory glance while promising myself that I would revisit it again later. Of course, like all good procrastinators, I never made good on my promise and Dota 2 was all but forgotten under the tsunami of the Endless Backlog™.
I had a week to meet Chris’ challenge, and through bitter experience I knew all too well that merely hopping online and finding games would be suicide, to say nothing of the torrent of abuse and ridicule I’d likely endure. So, I decided on a scholastic approach: first, I’d play the tutorials. Then, I’d do research, consult guides, learn tips and tricks, get help on avoiding mistakes that noobs typically make and find out which heroes are beginner-friendly. Finally, I’d duke it out with bots a few times before even attempting to take on a human adversary.
My research went well. Friends and colleagues scoffed when I explained the challenge and elaborated on my method of learning, but I paid them no heed. I applied what I had learnt and, to my surprise, I found that I was actually enjoying myself. Could it be? Was I turning into a Dota 2 addict? Only time would tell; presently, I had more pressing concerns. Namely, choosing an appropriate hero.
You see, one caveat imposed upon me by Grandmaster Chris and his henchman Rickismo was that I was not to use the Sniper. Appearing in the tutorial, the Sniper is a decent starting hero and a popular choice for beginners. But I was denied his use. Dota 2‘s impressive roster of playable characters is a marvel unto itself and positively daunting to newcomers. I went through a slew of heroes – the Lich, the Faceless Void, Gyrocopter, Sven and the Dragon Knight, to name a few – before finally settling upon the Venomancer. I’ve always been more of a support type of guy, and when you play against those younger than yourself, you need to fight smarter, not necessarily stronger or faster. Thus, the Venomancer ended up being perfect for my needs.
Once I felt confident enough, I entered the online fray. After getting annoyed at the prospect of waiting in excess of 10 minutes to join a match, I was finally playing the game in the wild. My experience was pretty much like I envisioned it to be, being somewhat outmatched by younger guys spouting colourful language over their mics. Still, they were surprisingly accommodating and I learnt a lot, even though I walked away with only two kills.
This basic scenario repeated itself numerous times as the week progressed, with variations on connectivity, player friendliness and dumb luck. My best experiences were when I played not on the Internet, but on a LAN. See, I have a ragtag group of fellow LAN devotees and we regularly meet up in the name of good sportsmanship and junk food. When I explained to them the challenge laid out to me, they were only too happy to oblige in helping me fulfill it. And best of all, while some of them have a lot more Dota 2 under their belts, none of them could be considered pro players.
After grinding away with them for a number of days, I was finally able to score the coveted “killing spree” that Chris required of me.
But I was not satisfied.
“Screw this,” I thought. “Let me go for a four-kill streak and show Mr. Kemp who’s boss.” My opportunity was not long in coming; one of my opponents, Necronos, happened to be by himself, low on health and in the path of some of my creeps. After laying down annoying wards, spitting poison and releasing a deadly toxin cloud, he was done for and my brag-worthy “DOMINATION” was realised, complete with screenshot. I had beaten the challenge.
What did I take away from this experience? Well, I got to play a game that I had previously ignored and found myself oddly enthralled by it. I don’t believe I’ll invest 800+ hours in it and watch tournaments, but it’s certainly a lot of fun and it’s definitely gonna be a recurring feature at my LAN sessions. Thank you, Chris Kemp. I can now live Basshunter’s (in)famous song: