When we went to Lipa City, Batangas for the long weekend, most of the time was spent at the sari sari store/billiards hall/computer shop owned by my uncle. Thanks to all my xy chromosone relatives, I had a glimpse of something that has been in my consciousness since high school, a game so popular and addicting it even spawned a YouTube video and a series of memes called “DotA vs Girlfriend” (tagalog version: DotA o Ako).
From what I gathered from asking (to the point of being hushed a couple of times), the game is between two teams called Sentinel and Scourge. The objective is to destroy a structure in the opponent’s base called the “Ancient”. Hence, the name “Defense of the Ancient”. Each base has towers and those little creatures that just attack without a care about their lives that protect the said Ancients. Meanwhile, each human player controls one distinct hero chosen from the beginning of the game. According to my cousin, each hero (and there is a lot to choose from) have unique strengths, abilities, as well as weaknesses. Basically, the players try to level up their characters so they would be strong enough to kill/destroy the rival’s Ancient and win the game.
To make it more interesting, it is not enough that you know how play. One should know how to plan, engage in teamwork, sacrifice, listen, share and strategize.
Thanks to national holidays, almost every male teenager in the neighborhood had permission from their parents to play all night and up to six AM the next day. Once, when I went to scout for WiFi, I initially thought that all the people watching were merely waiting for their turn to play because there weren’t enough computers but I was wrong. Apparently, people take the game seriously (seriously as in there are tournaments up to the international level as well as money made via betting) and I was to have my first taste of a DotA tournament. The price at stake? More than a thousand pesos for a best of three 5v5 (five versus five) game plus bragging rights.
I was amazed by the way the tournament was held. It’s as if there was some unwritten yet strictly followed code on how to behave properly in gatherings as such. First off, the opposing teams should not be able to see each other’s computer monitor or else plots and plans would be revealed. Same goes with the supporters. They couldn’t go to the other side and spy then rat about what they saw to their friends. It like, makes you a very lowly creature. Secrecy was so valued that when one of his teammates said a little too loudly to the other their next move, my cousin Gero, who was sort of the leader, sent them a private message saying “They already know your play. Idiots!” (original: Alam na nila galaw niyo. Mga bobo!).
I have come to despise DotA players because they always make internet shops 10 times worse with their shouting and general chaos. Imagine me trying to finish a case study at 12 midnight in a rented computer because my laptop had one of its topak moments while guys hurled curses in every direction, curses with so much conviction Jesse Pinkman’s “bitch” would be ashamed of itself.
Fortunately, I was told that “trash talk settings” could be set and agreed upon before a tournament starts. “Trash talk on” meant that the players could use words to break their opponent’s spirits, all kinds of cuss imaginable and available. Even the spectators could join in, noise pollution at its finest and loudest and crassest. Meanwhile, in “trash talk off”, players very rarely spoke with their rivals. It was the same as sitting in a library with only the keyboard sounds and the occasional wince. Personally, I think the latter is better because the tension is felt even if no words are uttered.
Fortunately, my cousin’s team won the first and the very well fought off last game. Gero and Chin were the only people I know. The other three were recruited from a different area in the same Barangay. Meanwhile, the visitors who came all the way from the city went home empty handed with wounded egos.
I would never forget the last few minutes of the third game especially because I was on the winner’s bench. Everyone was intently watching and every time a tower was broken, I could hear silent rejoices as well as sighs of disappointment. Finally, when the heroes reached the Ancient, even before it was destroyed, the people seated stood up and everyone started smiling at each other while murmuring the relieved “ahhs” and giving the players pats on the back. The losing side, on one hand, left as fast as they could.
The next day, Gero had to leave for Isabela so he bid goodbye to his DotA mates whom he spent most of his waking hours for the past 10 days with. In his words, “daig ng madami ang magaling“. DotA might be one of the few areas where quantity beats quality.
People could actually make playing DotA their career. In fact, I learned that a top player could earn 20,000 pesos a month by merely playing. Top teams even have managers who bets for them during tournaments and the bids go really high. I guess gambling is second nature to humans.
The experience made me want to learn the game. Who knows? I might be recruited at Mineski. Haha.