More than Just a Video Game

27 Feb

Michael Ty SA21-U

For a long time now, my friends have been urging me to play this new game called DOTA 2 (Defense of The Ancients) which is apparently the latest pc game everyone’s busy playing. Last week I found myself spectating their video gaming session for this project. My friend Rex, invited some of his friends and had their session in “Blue Skies” Katipunan that pc gaming corner near KFC which is where a lot of Ateneans usually play.

So they entered what pretty much seemed like their second home while I still took a while to take everything in.  The place can pass as a drug den (seriously, I really think that they sell), poorly lighted, cracked walls, cheap chairs the odd and funky smell of cigarettes mixed with body odor but hey, if you’re a guy who is just looking to have a good game with your friends then it would probably pass. They found a table where the five of them can sit next to each other; I just stood back behind them with my cellphone ready to take down observations.

To make sure that you and I are on the exact same page, let me give you a brief description of what DOTA 2 is. It’s a multiplayer online battle arena real-time strategy game with 2 teams divided into factions called The Radiant and The Dire with five members each. The point of the game is to destroy the enemy’s main tower by slowly advancing to its location. Each team member controls one out of ninety-six playable hero each with their own unique skill. Heroes gain levels and gold by killing creeps that spawn every thirty seconds which they can use to purchase items to allow them to have a significant boost. What makes this game so addicting are the battles among the heroes of the different factions. Your goal is to kill the opposing heroes as much as you can to gain a significant gold and level advantage which will then make destroying the towers relatively easy.

Before the actual game, the group was already talking about the heroes that they’re going to use as to fix the “line-up” and “combo” possibilities. I later found out that not all heroes are created equal. Each hero has their own distinct role that can directly affect the outcome of the entire game. You have the Lane Support- heroes who help their team’s “Carry” (Carry is another role) to control the lane in the early stages of the game. Carries are heroes who are easily killed at the early stages of the game but then obtain the greatest power and utility in the end.  Disablers are heroes who are in charge of crowd control. Gankers are heroes who can deal immense damage early in the game. There are more roles but the ones above are the most common ones.

Their online opponents were a group of Singaporeans. What’s interesting is when the group found out that their opponents were Singaporeans and not Filipinos, the team leader told everyone to be on their toes due to the impression that whenever you play this game against one, you will lose. So Rex, my friend decided that he would choose a ganker and the team ended up having two supports, one carry and one disabler while their opponents had two carriers, two supports and one ganker.  After picking the heroes, they soon bought their items which seemed like they already knew by heart.

So my friend Rex was assigned to handle the “middle lane” thus told me to watch carefully as he’s confident that he would kill the enemy first which he did. Then team had the upper hand during the early game as the team had a good hero kill to death ratio. However because the opponent’s two carries got to “farm” (amass gold and levels) mid-game wasn’t so smooth sailing. Late game proved to be the most difficult as the two teams were so even and the tides could change at an instant. Because of good team coordination, add to the fact that they were seated next to each other, Rex’s team won.

They say boys share a common interest which video gaming but I wasn’t really fond of it ever since I was a child. I was more of a kid who would watch TV and play with my neighbors outside rather than sitting for countless hours playing hardcore video games. I dunno maybe I didn’t find them appealing or maybe I just didn’t give it a chance. What’s interesting is when I was spectating, it seems like boys share the common language: video games, because at that very moment, I felt thrill and excitement as the hero kills were happening. I found myself shouting and laughing at times whenever an opponent dies.

During the intense gaming session I asked them how they usually play and they answered “chill lang” or “basta to have fun lang” but it seems like my presence had influenced them in a way. When they found out that I would be watching them, it’s as if they suddenly shifted to a more focused style of gaming. You could see their faces just inches away from the monitor and their hands were all ready to press the hotkeys.

                The highlight of the day would probably all the trash talking that happened. When the Singaporeans gained the upper hand, they started calling Rex’s team noobs. Eventually one thing led to another and things escalated quickly. Pretty soon, the opponents started making racist remarks like how Filipinos eat dogs, made fun of their skin tone, uneducated. My friend fought back and some of the Chinese remarks were kinda funny because I’m pure Chinese and couple of Rex’s teammates are too. They called the Singaporeans chinky eyed people with small penises. Of course things were awkward at first but we all had a good laugh about it. I even told them to type the “ching chong” phrase. I do apologize if my friends and I joined that racial squabble but the idea of comeback that would internally scar someone proved too good of an opportunity to pass. We knew how a racist Chinese remark would feel since we experience them from time to time be it the slightest joke, but the online veil reassured us that these Singaporeans will never find out that we too were Chinese.


I wasn’t really able to participate in the match but I did however join the trash talking. Probably what motivated me to do that is the people who are at the receiving end would never know that I was Chinese too; too me, it just felt good that I hurt them but the bigger picture is, I also mocked myself.

Quarrels are truly prevalent in online video gaming because of the online veil. I didn’t really have any intention of fighting the Singaporeans but when one of Rex’s friends told me to come up with a good comeback, I came up with the “ching chong” phrase ( I guess this would be my participation). The insight here is that no matter how much you convince yourself that you would never do a thing you personally call taboo, given the right conditions, you may just find yourself doing that and justify it which I think is what cultural relativism and ethnocentrism share. If I were to think of something I consider taboo such as arranged marriages, if I spend a couple of months in the household that practices that, then I may see the rationale behind it up to the point of justifying it.

Participating also made me realize that even in situations such as video gaming, roles are assigned to us and we assign ourselves roles. Similar to what happens in the real world, we may be either good or bad at it. In order for teams to advance, they must play their roles very well and cooperate. The system we think is limited to the physical and also be applied to online. These roles can either entail praise or negative remarks because your teammates can also gauge your role performance to determine if you’re a good investment or not. I believe that the reason why they didn’t ask me to try and play someone’s role for awhile is that they fear that I might screw things up. Since I’m not familiar with DOTA 2, I would be a liability rather than an asset that is why they just asked me to help come up with racist remarks which needless to say, had little or no effect on the chances of winning.

Probably Rex was able to make the racial remarks less awkward for us Chinese since he knew the people I was with for a day. If they were just total strangers then I might take it personally and maybe even start and argument with them. Given that I was with key informant, the situation was made less awkward. If Rex wasn’t there, then I think I wouldn’t be able to conduct the observation properly and understand what was happening since he explained to me how the game works. I’m not familiar with DOTA 2 thus to go at the project alone, would be like swimming in uncharted waters; no idea where I’m headed. Rex being there you could say broke the ice. I got to know the other four members of the gaming circle as they at times told me to come over and watch them play. I asked them how long they’ve played DOTA and most of them answered they were hooked during grade school. When asked what made it so addicting; most if not all of them replied the hero kills and the strategy involved.  Rex told me that back in grade school, he wasn’t really close with the other members of the group. DOTA 2 brought all of them together and told me that during their high school days, immediately after class, they would go to the nearest internet café and play for hours. What may seem like petty or a waste of time at first, turned out to be an avenue where legitimate friendship can happen or maybe even life long bonds.

If this were conducted via questionnaire or interview, then I think it won’t yield quality results. My history teacher likes to say that we can learn about war via lectures or books but to know about it is to experience it that’s why we had a Corregidor field trip back in high school. I think participant observation operates on the same thought. If we actually immerse ourselves in the culture or at least allow ourselves to be exposed to it then we wouldn’t be too quick attach so many labels. In line with this, participant observation allows us to appreciate what we’re looking at with our own very eyes. It’s so easy for some to call video games a waste of time but what they don’t realize is that lifelong friendships can be founded on it. It allows us to let go of our false assumptions and keep an open mind as we try to scratch the surface of what would turn us off.

A questionnaire would be better if you’re just looking for quantitative information such as the likes of surveys for let’s say market research. Questionnaires are given out to people who you don’t really see yourself having a relationship beyond “please answer this survey”;  usually.  Interviews should be conducted when you’re looking for qualitative information since you try to understand what’s going through the interviewee’s mind as you try to relive the interviewee’s past experience thru his stories.

Right now I can honestly tell you that I’m kissing my hopes of becoming DL goodbye since I got hooked right after observing them. I’m currently installing DOTA 2 in my PC and I can tell you that it’s starting to affect my priorities; if only I had better self-control. At the end of the day however, this potential addiction I think reveals a salient truth: experience entails discernment. If we personally experience a culture, then we might identify with it or maybe even make it part of our own.

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


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