Last week Friday I sat down with a fresh cup of coffee and decided to queue for a ranked matchmaking session in Dota 2. I’d queued for ranked matches on previous occasions and not had the best of times, waiting in excess of 20 minutes for that heart-jolting “match ready” gong to sound. I hovered over the ranked option and proceeded to click the find match button. This was when everything started going downhill.
Firstly, my mouse ran out of battery power, and then Dota’s queue time rose to the thirty-minute mark. Thirty minutes was bearable, and I needed new batteries for my mouse anyway. I left my desk to swap my dead mouse batteries for fresh ones and completely forgot about Dota. There was something more interesting on TV than waiting in a virtual line. After the TV show ended, Dota 2 popped back into my mind. I dashed back to my computer. My hope quickly faded into gloom as I was still awaiting the game to start. I eventually found a ranked game, a whole 59 minutes into searching.
Things got worse from that point on as no-one in my team spoke English, and neither did the opposition. As for how communication went, none happened during the game except for the rare appearance of Russian and Spanish words. It was an extremely unfortunate way of losing faith in the ranking system from an SA player’s perspective, although it hasn’t stopped me from playing a few ranked games since then.
South Africa has an amazing Dota 2 community with many talented players. Finding a normal game takes between 2-5 minutes and it is where a lot of the hype happens. We also have three South African Dota 2 servers ensuring low latency for all. So where have we gone wrong? The answer lies within ranked matchmaking itself. There’s a very unsavoury stigma floating around our ranked scene, causing many devoted players to play more public matches or risk playing on EU servers. Many that try and succeed at finding ranked matches are unfortunately greeted by foreign words that leave them uncomfortable and lessen their overall Dota 2 experience. This has resulted in South Africans leaving ranked matchmaking altogether.
The only way of promoting ranked Dota 2 matches in South Africa is to take the first leap, and search for those ranked games. It has to start somewhere and who better to do it than yourself. Some other ways include:
forming a party with a few friends and searching together
joining the South African chat group in Dota 2
encouraging players on your friends list to search for ranked games
Ranked matchmaking is a better way to match up against players of similar skill, which will inevitably make you a better player. The European and Chinese regions produce excellent players due to high-skill ranked games. It’s time South Africa does the same.