Where the Black DotA 2 Players At?

Many moons ago, I decided to create a column on DotA 2 called, “I Wish I Knew How to Quit [DotA 2],” a play on the “I just can’t quit you” line from Brokeback Moutain, a movie I have never seen. Nevertheless, the quote was apropos at the time. Those articles were a cathartic attempt to outline how I was addicted to DotA 2, and how that addiction almost destroyed my marriage, and my life. 

Ironically, after getting some of that from off my chest, stopped playing. The desire to play was just not there anymore. Perhaps putting all my business out there—”confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” ~James 5:16—had something to do with it, and the deed was done. On the other hand, maybe it was taking action on the fact that I was doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result; it is not fun suffering through games where two teammates who are not carries build a Hand of Midas, including the offlane Furion who steals all the farm. Oh, and of course the annoying “lakad matatag” spam did not help. 

So I quit. For two years, DotA-free was the way to be. 

I go on about living my best life. Then, one day, I see someone on my Steam list I do not remember seeing in years! My notifications indicated that 1iJay Bot was playing DotA 2. Inspired, I told him that it has been years, but we should catch up in a game sometime. He agreed, and in the meantime, I re-installed.

I got juked! I never saw 1iJay Bot on DotA 2 after that day, but I got sucked back in. Of course, I jumped right into ranked. Eight years of DotA 2 plus eight years of Defense of the Ancients should do a body good, right? WRONG! Since I stopped playing, Valve has added ranked tiers, and I had to calibrate. When I was done, I made it into Archon, and proceed to lose. A lot. I was winning only 1/3 of my games, and totally not enjoying myself.

The game was at first alien to me. I had forgotten that Roshan was relocated from center south to center north. Void Spirit, Spitfire, Mars, and Hoodwink were heroes I had never seen before. New items like Falcon Blade, Witch Blade, Gleipnir, Aeon Disk, Echo Sabre, and a host of neutral items that can be farmed from neutrals confused me. The game had left me behind.

This time, I did not quit, but sought help. I joined Reddit’s DotA 2 channel on Discord seeking advice. I recalibrated into Crusader tier in an effort to play at my “actual” rank, rather than where I was years ago, and I have been stuck there ever since; the “yo-yo” effect of win a bunch, lose a bunch is real. Treadmill, trench, whatever they call the “forced 50%” these days, I feel it.

Thanks to a newly-made friend, phanfle, who impressed me with his support skills when I was playing carry, I have been able to accelerate my game into the modern meta. I was still in the mentality of “carry and support,” or “mid, safelane, offlane,” where the offlaner just survives against a 1v3 trilane. Today’s DotA involves positions 1-5. I will play whatever it takes to win, but I find that I am best at position 1 because my aversion to death keeps me alive to farm; I just needed better farming patterns, and phanfle helped with that, especially with Spectre and Wraith King. He also taught me how to properly position 5 through his own gameplay, for the times when I feel like I’m stuck in a series of games where everyone wants to carry, so I let them. I prefer a healer like Dazzle.

phanfle also recommended that I watch YouTube videos for heroes I enjoy playing, to learn how to play them “properly.” He recommended BananaSlamJamma (BSJ), a guy I had never heard of. Well, I did watch a few videos, but I also caught up on some professional DotA. I forgot that I had seen TI 2017 already, but I watched the entire Main Event anyway. Did the same with 2018 and 2019.

Seeing Liquid, OG, and Secret in all three Internationals was a treat, but team Infamous was the most impressive: a South American team with almost no funding or infrastructure or reputation running with the big dogs. With Ana of OG representing Australia, The International was a true international tournament…almost.

The first International was ten years ten years ago. During that time, I have seen professional players of every ethnicity except that of African descent.

Where the Black DotA 2 players at?

Sheever even liked my response, “I’m still trying to find 5 black players for a game!” We still do not have answers though.

I can go onto Twitch at just about any time of the day and find black gamers on FPS games like CoD, FortniteApex Legends, Mortal Kombat, SFV, and Tekken. We are underrepresented in FPS and fighting games—let us not even get started with sports! The culture of sports and fighting games developed from “locals,” where people would come and congregate for the purpose of playing competitively. Ever since Goldeneye, FPS games have been increasingly accessible, increasingly popular in the mainstream.  DotA 2, however, is derived out of the strategy genre, a strongly pro-PC arena. Outside of StarCraft 2 and StarCraft: Remastered, I cannot readily think of another straight RTS game that anyone would be streaming outside of DotA 2.

I can remember bawling my eyes out at the foot of my mother’s bed in 1993, when my dad suggested that he get my brother and I a PC, and she said no. Dad believed computers to be the future, and he was right. My mom, being old-fashioned, just saw them as another expensive electronic device (ironically, they are now supplying my children with their own laptops for high school). My tears and pleas worked, and dad would bring home a Packard Bell.

This is actually sarcasm. I replied that nothing had changed in six years.

Yeah, my brother and I learned how to type and navigate Windows 95, but we also learned about games like Doom II and  Duke Nukem 3D. Most importantly, we learned about games like Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Warcraft 2, StarCraft, Heroes of Might and Magic 2all strategy games. Knowing what we now know about educational, vocational, and social opportunities for black children in the 90’s, us having access to a computer was a blessing on the precipice of a miracle. And it was not just that owned a computer; dad kept us up to date, upgrading our PCs by purchasing a new one at least three times before I went off to college in 2002. I recall an eMachine, and then an HP. In this area, I suspect that we are a hyper-minority, not as black kids who owned computers, but as black kids who played as many if not more video games on PC than consoles.

I am not the only person thinking about this.

DotA just happens to be my most-played video game in the past twenty years. I had been patiently waiting to see if it would gain in popularity, and it has. Even if people do not play DotA, they have heard of it. But what about among people who look like me?

In my lonely solitude, I randomly took to Twitter and black discords to lament my isolation, entering some combination of “black DotA players” in the search bar. The tweets retrieved are few, but among them, entries dating as far back as 2013 similarly expressed concern about the absence of black players in competitive DotA. 

I did make contact with a handful of people who are willing to give it a go. Maybe they had never considered trying until someone asked the question. Though they have not begun their tutorials due to work/family because we grown, they have downloaded the game. It is a start, and I would love nothing more than to found a Black Lives Matter guild that is not a meme.


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