Three Lane Highway: five things more important than winning

Mid Lane

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

Dota 2 is about winning. I'm not sure that's a very controversial point. Interpretations of the game are split by experience and skill level, role, personal investment, taste, and so on. How much winning matters is perhaps a more divisive topic, but what it comes down to in the end is this: Dota 2 is about winning. It's about executing your plan in such a way that your opponent doesn't get to execute theirs. It's about tumbling into the random number generator in the hope that this time will be your time. It's about clicking on the little wizards and hoping that their health bars run out before yours do.

That's the theory, anyway. My experience of Dota 2, particularly my recent experience, is a little different. I'd say that while most people would agree that their ultimate goal is to win, the majority of matches actually revolve around other goals entirely. At some point - usually in the midgame, after establishing a startling early lead that makes victory in twenty minutes all but a certainty - many players find their priorities shift. If there's one defining characteristic of normal and high-bracket Dota 2, for me, it's this: that the majority of teams do not actually want to win in twenty minutes. At the very least, they do not act like it.

Here, then, are five things that are often seen to be more important than winning the game. Another way of putting that might be 'ways to throw a game' - but I think that's too reductive. What I'm exploring, here, are the directions you throw in. You can't just throw something; you have to throw it somewhere.

Endorsement of the Faceless Void extended schooling program

Poor Level 7 Faceless Void. Nobody believes in him. He's a little slow. He was this first-picked, supposedly brilliant addition to the enemy team, but look at him. All that popularity amounts to a young man that barely has the mana to string his two spells together. He's rocking brown boots and Gloves of Haste. Even popular kids, you realise, need help sometimes.

Extra tutoring is what is needed, here. With space, time and encouragement, Level 7 Faceless Void has every chance to make good on his potential. You see the importance of a flexible education system that accounts for the needs of the individual, one that understands that not every Level 7 can be expected to perform to the same degree.

To your delight, the program works. You give Faceless Void the freedom to work out his issues on jungle creeps if that's what he needs to do. You feed him a few free meals, now and then, to allow him to focus on his studies. But most importantly you show him that it's worth persevering: you step willingly into Chronosphere after Chronosphere, demonstrating that - yes! - he lives up to the hype. The first time you see a smile creep across that faceless face, lightning bristling from a freshly-completed Mjollnir, you cant help but smile back. Then your ancient explodes.

Dire victory.

Respect for Roshan's personal space

You understand that you are a visitor to this place and that - unlike another team we might mention - you respect the rights of its native inhabitants. Roshan is a prisoner of a sort, yes, but that does not mean that he is below your regard. It would be entirely more proper of you to simply leave him to get on with whatever is he's doing in that cave that's barely big enough for him. What one hunchback dinosaur demon bear monster thing does in his spare time is entirely up to said hunchback dinosaur demon bear monster thing, you resolve.

As for planting wards around his pit - what are you thinking? How would you feel if somebody set up surveillance cameras in your driveway? Violated, is how you would feel. Monitored. Roshan may never leave his cave, but should he ever decide to - likely to go off and ruin an all-star match somewhere - he deserves the right to do so without being tracked like an enemy of the state.

You're not like that. You respect Roshan, and believe that he respects you right back.

Roshan has been slain by the Dire.

Getting the high score in famous singleplayer character action game, Dota 2

Sure, sure. It's a team game. More like asymmetrical co-op. Remember how, in Super Mario Galaxy, Player Two could sit there with a Wiimote and hoover up stars or whatever while Player One went about the actual business of beating the game? It's like that. You're Player One, and your friends are basically just four Player Twos, planting wards and clicking creeps or whatever while you play the actual game. But Dota 2 isn't Super Mario - it's Devil May Cry. It's Bayonetta. You're Player One and you're going to S-Rank this thing. You're 10-0 at eight minutes: it's time to dig deep.

You don't build combos going one-on-one. You need to be taking two, three, four enemies at a time. One versus five? Why not. Let's go. Time to fine-tune those clutch counters and perfect your dodge-roll. You are totally Dante. You are not Dante. There is no dodge-roll button. Shit. Guys?

The integrity of your minimalist performing arts piece about the failings of Athenian democracy

"Guys!" "Guys?" "GUYS." "Guys..."


Dire victory.

Pursuit of a Cultural victory

Military victories are boring, more about rote lategame clean-up than creativity or finesse. Culture is where it's at. You don't just want to win: you want to demonstrate that your way of life is more advanced, has greater inherent value than that of your opponent. That you are so sophisticated that you do not care about how sophisticated you are.

It is for this reason that your supports do not need Mekansms or Force Staves. These things are feudal barriers in the path of enlightenment, expressions of man's feeble paleolithic need for shelter, protection, warmth and safety. A true culture is beyond these things. In a true culture, every single god damn person has a Dagon.

The Dire have achieved victory through Domination!

Astute readers will have noticed that these noble goals are not mutually exclusive. In the right conditions, it is possible to achieve every one of them in a single match! And still lose.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.