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.
Credits to Purposefairy.com
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.