I write this diary in the hopes that will one day be discovered so that history may record that I was not a poor neophyte, for I have undertaken the monstrous task of becoming somewhat decent- but not at all great- at DOTA 2.

A bold task indeed, but not one I felt was impossible. After all, there are plenty of players far better than me at the game, and unless they have stood completely average in skill since time immemorial it stands to reason that they were at one point "noobs" as well. As the old adage goes, "Before you can walk, you must crawl while five people mercilessly beat you while insulting your lineage."


I've completed the basic training and find myself befuddled. Movement is done in a way that is foreign to me, the screen never looks quite big enough even at maximum resolution, and I find my fingers wandering to the wrong key placement. I constantly cancel channeling spells- chief among them portals- while juggling another menu or action. I scroll too little. I scroll too much. I must remember to fumble with the settings more, or else I might take too long to adapt.


The itinerary of the basic training was fairly straightforward when compared to the controls. It covered the basic principles of the genre; stay behind creeps (poor basic soldiers who throw themselves in harms way without hesitation), don't over extend, and kill whatever you can.

What I did find odd was the mechanic of "last-hitting"and "denying." When one delivers the fatal blow to an enemy creep, one is rewarded with a sum of money. How my character, wielding a long-range riffle, was able to loot the corpse of an foe simply by blowing the poor soul's brains out is beyond my reasoning. Denial is far more peculiar; an allied creep can be slaughtered so that an enemy cannot loot the unfortunate infantry. This act seems both barbarous in it's action as well as unsportsmanlike in it's intention. I would expect a sport, even one so savagely violent as this, to at least adhere to some form of gentlemanly conduct.


Passive bots bore me. I have reached the spot where I can last-hit with fair accuracy, though denying -through both mechanics, practice, and morality- eludes me. These passive automatons hold no more challenge for me, nay, they mock my very being. "Very well done," they say, "Your skills are improving, but you are yet unable to best me!"


"But I can!" I yell back at them, "But every time I challenge you to combat you will inevitably flee!"

"Then we will never know who is the better," the scoff as they run into the pitch-black of the forrest.

I had had enough. I quickly changed the difficulty from "Passive" to "Easy." and though the match was handily won, it was not due to my efforts. I had died five times and had not a single kill or assist to my name.

If this is not a circle of hell, then it is the entrance or at very least the gift shop.


I have found a companion for the long journey ahead. His name is Rizzrack the Timbersaw. What attracts me to him is not his abilities or playstyle, even though both are quite enjoyable. What I adore in him is his abject fear of trees; his twitchiness as he walks lanes and his verbal acknowledgment of how uncomfortable he is at all times. "There are trees....eeeeeverywhere..." he says in a shaking voice.

"I know," I whisper back.

I find in him a confidant who shares a fear similar to my own. Sometimes acquaintances and fellow sportsmen will beckon me to play a game without the luxery of the quiet unthreatening bots as an opponents. It is in these games that I always find a new horror that I had not yet discovered. Ursa is a terrifying beast that, to my experience, cannot be killed. A dark knight riding a horse can seemingly vaporize my hero in a flash. There are foes that rise from the dead as soon as they fall, butchering all in their path. There is a landlocked mermaid who isn't as frightening as the aforementioned lot, but she still managed to kill me and I find that good enough reason to be paranoid.


It's during these matches that I lose nerve and my training fails me. My last-hits don't connect and the match spirals into failure after failure. Every once in a while I am fortunate enough to get an assist or -should the stars align- an actual kill, but each small victory behind me doesn't compare to the dark wall of unending trials and gruesome surprises that lays looming in front of me.

Sometimes we hide, just Rizzrack and I, in the deepest parts of the forest that only we know of.

"There are trees....eeeeverywhere..." he shivers.

"I know," I whisper, "But there are worse things out there."



DOTA Diaries is a (hopefully) ongoing series of articles chronically the journeys of Zachary Long AKA the InvadingDuck. He just finished Dear Ester again, so that's probably why it's all fancy and weird. If you want you can follow his thoughts on Twitter @invadingduck. The title art was done by DCNeil, so go check out some of his other stuff.