Posted on November 21, 2014 by MerliniDota

I don’t view myself as a master of Zen or as a person who is completely immune to the constant negativity that Dota 2 exposes us to, but right now I’m in a rather peaceful mindset in and out of Dota. Fons has called me “Zen-lini,” and perhaps one of the most alluring parts of the stream is my positivity. I would like to share some history and some advice on that front in hopes that it can lead you to having more fun in Dota 2 and more importantly, being more happy in life.

Story time: “Back in my day…”

When I first started playing Dota (~8-9 years ago), I wasn’t the most pleasant person to play with. I didn’t have a quick temper, but I was certainly quick to judge players. If things weren’t going our way, I jumped on them for what I perceived to be mistakes. Of course, this quickly led to a fair amount of altercations, but why did I care so much for pointing out somebody else’s errors? I didn’t know why. This mindset continued on for a year or so, and as I my competitive thirst grew, my tendency to get annoyed at hideously bad plays was more evident to me. I wasn’t a toxic player, but I could certainly relate to them.

Eventually, in-house leagues (IHLs) developed. The first that I played was started by a devoted man that went by the name of Ucross. He was an older dentist who played Dota and programmed on the side for fun. He was one of the first people that I had met that I thought was truly objective. Not the farfetched, futuristic notion of a 100% objective being or omniscient judge, but for a human, he was mega-objective. Anyways, for those of you that are unfamiliar with what IHLs are, an IHL is a small group of players (~100-200), usually gated by some sort of skill barrier, that play 5 on 5’s against each other on teams created by a bot. The bot starts every player off at an arbitrary rating, such as 1000, and you gain points if you win a game, lose points if you suffer defeat. Ucross had created a North American IHL and a corresponding bot. This was the first attempt that I had seen that attempted to quantify player skill in an objective manner.

I excitedly started playing in the league with many other young, aspiring Dota players. The games were more “tryhard” than your average high difficulty pub. Tempers ran hot, many insults were traded, and most importantly, good Dota was played. A lot of people whine about the current matchmaking system, but back in Dota 1 lobbies, 5 random people were pitted against 5 random people. You usually had no idea of who you were playing with. It could’ve been their absolute first game, or their ten thousandth game. No calibration, no anti-smurfing measures, no penalties for leaving. Scary times. Moving onwards, this was the first time that I played in close game after close game, and I loved it. I could finally learn more of the intricacies of Dota from all these other skilled players. I incorporated good strategies and tactics that I had seen, and shaved off the bad habits or inefficient plays that led to losses. I was as hardcore a Dota player as ever. 50 hours a Dota a week was unheard of for me. I must’ve been sick or back at home (I was in college at the time) for me to play that little. 90 hours a week was the standard. I learned so many things from IHL, and through my extreme dedication and quick ability to learn, I was rank 1 in that season for many seasons to come. However, being number 1 didn’t make me feel like a Dota god. I didn’t feel that I was that good. I was actually surprised that I was number 1 because there were so many more things to learn. It was more so that the competition wasn’t very stiff and Dota was still a very raw, unexplored game in terms of strategy. After being rank 1 for a while, being at the top started losing a lot of meaning because I just wanted to improve at Dota and learn more. Being a big fish in a little sea meant very little to me. But it did to other people.

I was heavily involved in the league and knew almost all the players. I would see some people come and go, but the vast majority of the “in-house pool” stayed the same, and I grew to know many very well in a Dota sense. And once I saw some of their attitudes in game, I was surprised to see how people viewed their ratings. Even after several simple facts that should defeat their argument of things such as variance or “elo hell”, countered by large sample size or league resets respectively, most people were skeptical of their ratings. To emphasize that last point, I would see people play a few hundred games and stay within +-50 points of their rating (you won maybe 10-20 points per game), and I would observe people reset after reset, shoot towards their old rating as if they had just jumped off and on a scale, and end up at almost in the exact same percentile they were before. Top 50 players thought they were top 5 players, and bottom 50 players refused to believe they were the worst in the league This was where the Dunning-Kruger effect was especially evident for me. Taken from Wikipedia, the Dunning-Kruger effect is “a cognitive bias whereby unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability to of the unskilled to realize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them are also easy for others.” I realized that I thought that I was worse than what my number told me, and most other people thought they were much better than actually were and refused to believe this number, their rating that was attached to their name. A rating system that was constantly improved upon by Ucross. It’s important to remember that Ucross was the objective programmer, and he didn’t care what his rating was (it was fairly low in the league). His number one priority was making sure the league ran smoothly and that the games were good. Games were good if the teams were evenly balanced, which only happened a few days after each reset and only if his rating algorithm worked well.

During my reign in IHL, I had to learn to compensate for people’s lower rating so I could win more often. I actually bought the chicken every game because ~200 gold to me was worth less to me than somebody else, because they couldn’t farm well. I had to give lower rated players directions and specific instructions because they didn’t know what to do. And despite all this and my every effort to win the game, people still made ridiculous excuses for why we lost. People blamed me for NOT buying chicken and complained about being poor all game. People blamed me FOR buying chicken and wards because I could use the gold more effectively than they could and it hurt my team because I bought those items. People blamed the heroes even though it was -armm (all random mirror match, same 5 heroes on each team). And then I came to the simple realization that people will always make excuses regardless of mode, regardless of players, regardless of everything that is staring them right in face. I’ve heard nearly every excuse under the sun for why a team lost or for why people should be rated higher than they actually are. People can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that they might, just might, not be as good as they perceive themselves to be.

This leads me to the more important part of this piece, the actual advice. I read a surprisingly useful article a few years ago. It was uncanny because it was extremely pertinent to Dota and seemed like it had great insight into Dota even though the writers had probably never even heard of the game. Below is all taken from the article, none of these are my own words. I didn’t want to taint them with my interpretation, because the interpretation should be individually tailored to yourself. Mold them to become your own.

15 Things You Should Give Up In Order To Be Happy

Credits to Purposefairy.com

  1. Give up your need to always be right.
    There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” -Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?
  2. Give up your need for control.
    Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.
    “By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” -Lao Tzu
  3. Give up on blame.
    Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
  4. Give up on your self-defeating self-talk.
    Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
    “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” -Eckhart Tolle
  5. Give up your limiting beliefs.
    Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
    “A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” -Elly Roselle
  6. Give up complaining.
    Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
  7. Give up the luxury of criticism.
    Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.
  8. Give up your need to impress others.
    Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
  9. Give up your resistance to change.
    Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
    “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” -Joseph Campbell
  10. Give up labels.
    Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open.
    “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” -Wayne Dyer
  11. Give up on your fears.
    Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
    “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
  12. Give up your excuses.
    Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.
  13. Give up the past.
    I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
  14. Give up attachment.
    This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.
  15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations.
    Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

With all my love,

I loved this article and I’m glad I got the chance to share it. I hope it sparks some introspection and it presents you with a different, more positive outlook when you play Dota.