The multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) sub-genre of RTS games has become rather popular lately thanks to the release of several popular free-to-play titles: League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth and, more recently, Dota 2. But why does the average gamer take online public matches so seriously?
I could explain the gameplay of MOBAs but it’s described well enough on Wikipedia. Most titles follow this design although some have alternative modes with smaller team sizes or simpler rule sets. I saw recently that Dota 2 had been officially released on Steam after a lengthy beta period, and so I decided to download the game to see what all the fuss is about (although I had to wait in a queue for a few days before I could install it due to its popularity). Once set up I decided to jump into the tutorials to get to know the title a bit better; I already had some basic knowledge of how these games work so it was more about learning the controls and getting a feel for the gameplay I’d previously only experienced via YouTube videos.
I understand the communities behind these games are very passionate and sometimes a bit too hard on new players. I recently wrote about a LoL player who was jailed for a comment he posted on his Facebook page, and so I decided to learn as much as possible before going into my first online match. After watching a number of tutorial videos by seasoned players with titles such as ‘Big mistakes noobs make’ and ‘Heroes noobs shouldn’t play’, I began to realise that learning to play this title would be more of a chore than it would be fun. In any other game you can play through a single tutorial to understand the basic concepts and then jump into an online game to learn the rest as you play, but I knew that wasn’t a good idea in a MOBA game as I would most likely fall foul to abuse from teammates.
These MOBA games are highly competitive in the eSports arena with some competitions awarding up to $1 million to the winners, so I can understand that in these situations poor performance would be met with abuse from teammates and sponsors. It seems like this level of competition is felt by randomly-grouped players in public online matches, almost as though they are competing professionally. I’ve played a lot of online multiplayers in my PC gaming years which are mostly team-based (deathmatch doesn’t appeal to me) and while these are also highly competitive, they don’t include anywhere near as much anger and hatred as I understand MOBAs do. Is this what happens when a particular title becomes recognised as an eSport?
I’d like to know more about this situation so if you’re an experienced player of one the above mentioned games, would you be willing to provide your thoughts on the subject? Please let me know through the comments section below or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.