The South African DOTA Diary

In Gareth Jenkinson’s first ‘DOTA Diary’, the gamer from KZN recalls the start of his love affair with gaming and details his journey into the world of DOTA.

Thanks to my brothers, I’ve been a PC gamer for the past 15 years. They’ve been wonderful, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding years of gaming.

As early as I can remember, my older siblings were seated in front of their PCs, playing a wide variety of games. I remember watching them play the early Tomb Raiders and Age of Empires, as well our beloved first-person shooters like Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, and the like.

I loved those games, but I must admit I’m a real fan of MMORPGs. I was hooked on World of Warcraft from its vanilla days and I still maintain it’s the best online game I’ve ever played.

Sadly, that game demands far too much time and I found myself looking for something just as enjoyable. but a little less time-devouring.

What I found was ironically more of the same – madly addictive, time-warping, and highly competitive.


Being a massive Warcraft fan, I briefly played the original Defense of the Ancients mod in Warcraft III – Reign of Chaos, but my love affair with the game would only take shape years later as I went cold-turkey from World of Warcraft.

If you have never played DOTA 2, I suggest you watch Free to Play. The documentary follows the lives of the top DOTA 2 players as they prepare for The International – which is like the World Cup of DOTA.

The hour-long feature highlights the pressures of the game and how the top players try to find balance in a world that is starting to recognise eSports players for what they are and what they’re made of – a voraciously competitive community of people.

DOTA has made massive strides for the industry in terms of raising the stakes in prize-money and media coverage of gaming. This year’s The International boasted a total prize pool of nearly $25-million (R350-million!) – most mainstream sports competitions dream of having that kind of prize money.

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Playing the game

The International is fun to watch. But it’s kind of like watching rugby. You’d like to think you could play like those guys, but the reality is that you’d get hurt – badly.

But we play the game at our level, liking to think we will one day be as good as the likes of Dendi – arguably DOTA’s most famous player, who is featured in Free to Play.

The premise of the game is simple. There are two factions, the Dire and the Radiant. Both factions have a main base that houses their Ancient – hence Defense of the Ancients. Each faction has five players that control a unique character called a ‘hero’.

Simply put, the aim of the game is to destroy the opposition’s Ancient, by helping waves of units called ‘creeps’ knock down the opposition’s towers that defend three different paths or lanes leading to their Ancient.

Simple, right? Wrong.

What makes DOTA so enjoyable, and yet so frustrating, is that there are 113 different heroes to choose from, every single time you play. Each hero is unique, they have completely different abilities that can counter opposing heroes, or be countered.

You might pick Axe, looking to cut through creeps and push your lane, but you can get picked-off by a pesky Sniper using his range to constantly harass you.

As you play, your hero gains experience and levels – meaning deaths cost you priceless experience and gold used to buy items to beef up your hero’s arsenal. Die a few too many times and you are almost always guaranteed a defeat.

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Dealing with the community

When I first started playing, I died a lot. The unlucky people I was matched up with tore me a new one. I think it works like that for everyone – DOTA really is the proverbial school of hard knocks.

The community can be unforgiving and infuriatingly impatient. But that forces you to learn, to do a little bit of homework before you pick your hero and dive head-first into a game.

Learning how to play a hero properly is rewarding and the satisfaction of having a good game is amazing, considering the complexity and competitive nature of the game.

Join my journey

Like anything in life, what you put in is what you get out. If you play a couple of games of DOTA every day, you are bound to get better.
This game demands time, patience, concentration, and knowledge to become competent. I’d like to think I have three of those four requirements and I’m constantly trying to learn as much as I can to become a better player.

Gaming is meant to be fun, but no one likes to lose. I do a fair bit of losing, but I’m slowly getting there.

DOTA is fun, but it’s got a tough learning curve. I’d like to think my 250 hours of game time have taught me something and I’m looking forward to documenting the next few hundred hours in this blog going forward.

Gareth Jenkinson is a gaming and eSports fanatic. When he is not playing games (or losing them), he works as a sports journalist and presenter for East Coast Radio.