Thoughts of a Dota addict

The first step in overcoming addiction is to admit that you have a problem. I’m addicted to Dota 2. I’ve been playing this video game on and off for a few years. I’ve invested more than seven hundred hours of my time into it.

Crunching numbers, one can comprehend how much of my life this game has cost me. Seven hundred hours is about a month of twenty four seven gameplay. It takes me an hour to read twenty five pages of a book. I could have read seventeen thousand five hundred pages in this time. Assuming that the average size of a book is five hundred pages (and I know I might be overestimating), I could have read thirty five books; not counting school books, that’s more than what I have thus far read in my life. I could have burned three hundred thousand calories if I’d spent this time exercising. I could have worked on numerous open source projects to gain knowledge and improve my skills. I could have watched hundreds of informative documentaries and videos on the internet. I could have made a few new friends. Yet, these seven hundred hours are insignificant compared to what most serious players have put into the game.

I’ve heard people say that if you’re enjoying yourself, you aren’t wasting time. But the thing is, I don’t really enjoy playing Dota. I feel the need to play it like a chain smoker feels the need to smoke. Does he enjoy his tenth consecutive cigarette? I don’t think so. But he still lights it up because he needs to. I play Dota because I need to play it, not because I want to. When I win a game, my brain gets that smidgen of dopamine it’s been craving for. But it’s not enough; I need to play another one. And then another one. I keep on playing till my head, eyes and fingers start aching. More than half of every game is spent putting up with the drudgery of farming your character. Being repetitive, this can be a very debilitating activity. It requires fast clicking and open eyes. Needless to say, I don’t enjoy the game even when I’m winning at it. It’s like getting a good grade in an exam. It makes you happy, but would you like to give an exam just for the happiness of getting a good grade?

It’s a whole other story when I’m losing. I feel angry, frustrated and anxious. Games like Dota and League of Legends fall into the genre of MOBA games. To my knowledge, this is the only genre of games in which the weaker your team is the stronger your opponents get. In other games like Call of Duty, for example, if your teammates aren’t good and they get killed, it doesn’t matter that much. You might end up facing a lot of opponents but you can win if you are good enough. In MOBA games, on the other hand, every time your teammates die your opponents get currency and experience. You just can’t win if your teammates aren’t good players. This leads to a lot of flaming and finger pointing. Everyone seems to think it’s someone else’s fault they’re losing. It’s a very horrible and distressing virtual environment to expose yourself to. Even if you keep yourself from echoing the insults back, the negativity gets to you. Furthermore, you cannot quit the game midway. You have to complete the whole game which can last upto an hour. Your team can’t even surrender. Your opponents mostly take their time finishing the game while you beg them to end it faster. And ultimately, you want it to end faster so you can waste another hour taking a shot at getting that pinch of dopamine which never seems to be enough. Only in about ten percent of the games you lose, you can say that your team played well. Ninety percent of the time you’re thinking that you lost because of someone else’s mistakes. You’re thinking that some random person on the internet just wasted an hour of your life and worsened the craving you had for winning. An hour of playing with irascible teammates feels like an eternity of despondence.

Dota 2 is a beautiful trap. A trap you can’t get yourself out of if you fall in deep enough. I’ve uninstalled the game dozens of times now, only to reinstall it back a few days, weeks or months later. But this time I’m really going to quit. I’ve locked myself out of my steam account and I’m never going to play a MOBA game again. I truly envy you if you can play without getting addicted and while not inadvertently prioritizing the game over anything important like your family, health, studies, work or social life. But if you are like me and numerous others, I wish you the best of luck in getting rid of this horrid addiction. It’s back to reading books for me.