By: Jethro Ong and David Asuncion | SA 21- X
It was a Saturday afternoon when we decided to turn on our computers and play a video game called Dota 2. From the start, we were extremely excited. We thought that it would just be a moment of fun, laughter, and enjoyment — we could not have been more wrong.
Dota 2 is a competitive video game that is played by millions worldwide. It has different game modes, though the usual and most frequently played is the 5v5 MOBA —Multiplayer Online Battle Arena— in where players choose from a pool of over a hundred heroes. Since the release of the game, it immediately became a successful hit due to the accomplishments of its predecessor. It is currently available for free in Steam, the PC client of Valve Corporation.
Dota 2 is also played professionally in an international level, with prize pools reaching over tens of millions of U.S. dollars. There are plenty of Filipino teams who have managed to achieve world-wide success and as a result, inspired a lot of Filipino players to work hard in the game. For the professional players, Dota 2 is considered to be their jobs. It is what they do for their incomes and livelihood. Most, if not all, have quit their jobs and schools for the chance of recognition. E-sports, in general, is a rising industry with Dota 2 leading the charge. Organizations and companies are always fighting for the opportunity to sponsor a good team that can represent them internationally.
We had no idea what to expect so Jethro asked his good friend, Patrick – whose friends call him as Pubes because of his seemingly natural curly hair – to help us with our activity. It was 3 P.M when we launched the game. Pubes, however, was still in-game so we had to wait around 30 minutes for him to finish his game. In that free time that we had, we decided to read about the skills and strengths of some of the heroes. There were over a hundred heroes available so we naturally lacked the time to read all of them.
When we were finally searching for a game, Pubes started by telling us the basics of the game. So, we start the game by picking a hero. Different heroes have different roles – such as support and carry – therefore, the difficulty also differs for each hero. Each hero gets 4 skills, 3 normal skills and an extremely powerful skill which are often called “SS” or “ulti” by players. We go to a lane where monsters spawn every 30 seconds, and we kill these monsters because they give us gold which helps us buy items to make our heroes stronger. There are three lanes available in the map: the top, middle, and bottom. In these lanes, we also fight against the enemy heroes who are trying to farm our monsters. In the process, we try to kill each other’s heroes. When we kill enemy heroes, we also get gold from it. The heroes respawn back in their base every time they die. The end game is the enemy “Ancient” which is in the enemy base, opposite side of the map from where we started. It is defended by three sets of towers in each lane and two towers inside the base.
In our first game, we played with two random people in our team. David chose to play Lifestealer while Jethro played Lycan. We were clueless on what to do so in the first minute of the game, David has already died to the enemy hero — Jethro followed soon after that. Due to our inexperience and lack of knowledge about the game, we were bombarded with insults not only from our opponents, but also our teammates as well. Even Pubes could not help but jokingly ask, “Am I being trolled? Is this a social experiment?” We died repeatedly until the enemy heroes became too strong for us. “Bobo niyo pota,” one of our teammates, who was surprisingly a Filipino, said. Eventually, the enemy breached our base and destroyed our Ancient.
After a game that seemed to have lasted for an eternity, we unfortunately had to play more games to reach the minimum requirement of two hours. Jethro asked Pubes, “G ka pa?” in which he replied, “Yeah dude g lang.”
In our second game, Pubes tried to help us more. In the hero selection, he told Jethro to pick Wraith King.
P: Bro, piliin mo si Wraith King.
J: Sino yun?
P: Yung skeleton.
J: Ha saan?
Unfortunately, the time allotted for choosing a hero ended before Jethro could find Wraith King so he had to play Legion Commander instead. In the second game that we played, we noticed that we played better, although not by much. We still died frequently, but we could finally get some kills on the enemies. Nonetheless, we were still insulted by our enemies and teammates. “Bobo niyo. Wala na to,” one of our teammates, who again is a Filipino, said. By now, we noticed that there are indeed a lot of Filipinos who play Dota 2. The second game was closer than the last one but it still seemed that the enemy team was having a fairly easy time, like they can defeat us whenever they want to. Eventually, our Ancient was destroyed once again. The game ended with Jethro having six kills and David having three. We were happy with what we have accomplished in that game.
The games ended with a lot of time to spare because we lost them exceedingly fast. Pubes said that games can last over an hour but we were not able to experience those types of intense matches because the games that we played were never close to begin with. Having us on the team is an automatic disadvantage and the enemy heroes are just abusing us, making themselves stronger. As a result, we sadly had to play another game. Pubes did not want to play anymore but thankfully, Jethro was able to convince him to play another.
In the third game, Jethro chose Lina because of her attractive, fire look while David played Disruptor. Again, we played poorly and what followed were, once again, insults from everyone. We do think that we still played better from the former games. We managed to kill enemy heroes, destroy objectives, and earn more items. The game was closer, but still was not close enough. Almost like the previous games, the match ended in the 42-minute mark — we lost miserably.
Afterwards, Pubes said that he was hungry so he cannot play anymore. We had to end our activity on that note.
We understood from the beginning that this game entailed the use of strategy and team work but we weren’t even able to get to that part. It was difficult to understand how to control your hero as it always seemed like your opponents were way more powerful than you. When we were attacking them, they always seemed to be damaging us at a higher rate than our damage to them. This was also coupled with our difficulty at understanding what all the items were and how to use them. There are different items for every hero and we could not seem to figure out how to use them. There was also difficulty in understanding how to get around the sizable map where our opposition seemed to get around easily. On top of this, each character has powers which can be upgraded and was also difficult to use as a first-time player. It might be obvious at this point but we obviously lost the matches that we played. We kept dying at enemy hands at very high rate which annoyed our teammates and made our opponents amused and bored. Majority of the sense used was auditory and visual senses and the occasional awareness of how much you are clicking your mouse and keyboard while playing. The visuals of the game are colorful and chaotic because of the hero designs and the variety of creative attacks and special attacks. At times, it would seem like fireworks were going off while seasoned players would be more attuned to what is happening.
It is sad to think that, especially in a team-based game like Dota 2, there are some who insult their teammates and try to put them down when they should be the one encouraging and helping them to increase their chance of winning. Being toxic to other people will never affect them positively. Telling them that they are “bobo” will not magically make them smart. It will only make them lose confidence and subsequently, make them play worse. One lesson that we got in this activity – which can relate to not only situations in Dota 2 – is that people will only be nice to you when you are useful to them. If we played better and carried the team, our teammates will be saying “Nice!” or “Good job”, instead of saying “bobo” all the time. They will act nice and try to become our friends. It is also evident that most players do not play casually or “just for fun” – they play to win because for them, winning is fun. Losing is often frustrating to serious players; this applies not only to Dota 2 but other competitive sports as well. Hence, we go back to the term that Dota 2 is a competitive video game.
Before he left, Pubes also mentioned how popular Dota 2 is to the Filipino community. Ever since the first iteration of Dota, it has always been extremely popular and the go-to game for Filipino gamers. Dota 2 is available in almost every computer shop so there are plenty of gamers who go there to play with their friends. According to him, playing with your friends is more fun because you can shout or in the case of playing against them, it’s always entertaining to have a little friendly banter. As a result of the game being popular in the Philippines, players from other Asian countries became familiar with some Filipino slangs, especially curse words – the most common being “bobo” and “putang ina’. Inside of the game, Filipinos have a terrible reputation for being extremely noisy and having aggressive personalities, often being called as “Peenoise” by others.
Most Dota 2 players are high-school and college students. When asked why they play the game, most would say that it releases their stress from their “acads” and love-life. It helps them think about something else when they feel life gets difficult. Others would say that they play just for fun – but again, that requires the act of winning. Some would probably say that the game gives them a sense of accomplishment that they cannot get anywhere else. Unfortunately, we were not able to ask this question to our teammates because of their hostility to us. For Pubes, gaming has become something that is part of his daily life. It is what he does in his free time and he managed to meet a lot of friends online which made him enjoy gaming even more. It just so happens that Dota 2 is one of the game that he plays.
After the activity, we decided to play more games of Dota 2. After a couple of games, we finally got our first win. It was a close and intense match. The feeling that we got in the end were beyond words — we were exceedingly excited and we sensed a rush of adrenaline going through our bodies. Perhaps that is the reason why people play Dota 2. However, we still do not condone any actions or behavior that involves insulting other people.
- What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
The concept of the game is really simple and looking it from an outsider’s perspective, it looks really easy. However, it is a whole different story when we were participating in it. at first, we thought it would be a simple game where we kill the enemy heroes but in truth, it is way more complex than that. Strategy and teamwork is extremely vital and to accomplish that, you need communication with your teammates as well. You cannot experience that by simply observing. In observing, you see that the heroes farm the enemy creeps and kill the enemy heroes by using their skills and strengths. What can’t be seen in observing is how each hero compliments each other and how the team that helps each other the most wins. For example, two heroes are fighting against a single enemy hero. The two manage to finish off the alone hero and because of this, they gain an advantage over the opposing team. It sounds like a very simple thing to do, but there is a lot more happening that just that. First, what events led to that situation? Why is it 2v1 in the first place? If the hero who is alone somehow gets help from his team, then it is very likely that they would be the ones killing the enemy, instead of them dying. It’s very easy for someone observing to say, “Oh, why did he not do that?” or “What is he doing?” but there are a lot of things going inside of a person’s mind while playing – and you need to experience it yourself to acknowledge that.
- What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
Having a key informant really helped us a lot. We are deeply thankful to Pubes who, despite our idiocy and incompetence, helped us with our activity. At first, we were very nervous because we did not know what to do nor expect. He helped us by telling us the basics of the game and introducing certain terms that helped us to understand and perform better. Even when we were performing terribly, he did not get mad at us nor insult us like what our other teammates did. He thoroughly explained the background of the game and why it is super popular world-wide. We were also able to grasp how big Dota 2 really is because of him.
- What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
We gained insight into why the game is so popular. By participating and observing in the games we would notice how much teamwork and strategy is integral to the game. The passion of the players would clearly been seen by the way they curse, lament being lumped with bad players and how they would also celebrate when they are dominating or when victory is guaranteed. Of course playing the game ourselves and seeing firsthand how complex it is made us understand why these games can be addictive. These games make players invest time and money because victories can be so rewarding. A questionnaire or an interview might be able to tell us these things but it would perhaps be filtered information or perhaps the statements about thrill of the game might be lost on us.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
A questionnaire might be useful when a researcher is only looking for certain specific information from the participants. We think this means that the researcher already has a background knowledge of the topic in order to know what specific information he requires rather than getting a feel of a certain cultural practice in participant observation. We also know that questionnaires or surveys are used in order for a researcher to draw conclusions about a larger demographic to describe the current situation. An interview is more personal than a questionnaire as direct questioning is the method. We think that this still entails prepared specific questions although impromptu questions sometimes arise. Interviews are better than participant observation when a person is the focus of a research paper.
5. Using our cafeteria observation exercise as reference, what insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?
It was different to learn much about Philippine society and culture through playing DOTA 2 because of its digital and online medium however cursing and putting down bad and inexperience players was a practice we noticed. DOTA 2 players are usually young and male which might explain the desire to appear strong and insult inferior players. The players were we physically present tended to be animated and noisy during the games which might be distinct from the way other foreign players react.
To conclude, we had fun even though everyone seemed to be talking trash to us. Dota 2 is a fun and highly enjoyable game which we can easily recommend to everyone. We, however, wish that the Filipino community can change their ways in being toxic and noisy. In the end of the day, Dota 2 is just a game meant for pleasure and enjoyment – and not only are you denying that fact for other people by being a douchebag, but you’re also destroying the game for yourself by needlessly getting mad.
Our Key Informant – Patrick “Pubes” Arceo
Ong, Jethro Victor M.
Asuncion, David Ezekiel S.