Listen to me and listen good. Are you listening? I need you to internalize this; I need you to understand it.
Most people, and that includes your friends, do not play video games to be good at them. Most people play video games to have fun. Yes, I know this is shocking, but hear me out. What if the reason your friends haven’t gotten into Dota is because your obsession with trying to “teach” them how to do it “right” is incredibly off putting?
I talk about Dota a lot. I often sing its praises and in a way that makes other people want to try it. But I consistently hear one particular complaint echoed back: it’s too hard. Too complicated! How am I supposed to learn to do all this stuff?
You don’t have to learn to do any of that shit! There are people with TEN THOUSAND games in Herald and you know what? They’re happier than me. And you. So here it is; your guide to getting people to give Dota 2 an honest and productive try.
Step One: Be A Girl
Okay it helps, yeah, a lot of people will try to learn any game you play if you’re a girl. I don’t know. It’s not my fault men are like this.
Step Two: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Evaluate the people you’re trying to get into the game. Have they ever liked a moba before? No? Then look at what they have played. Are they a healer? Have them try out a few support characters with a nice big heal. Do they like mobility? Tankiness? Killing people in their sleep? Adjust your hero choices around that, give them two or three options that you think they’d like in particular, and then add another 2 or 3 options that are more general crowd winners. Sand King, Tidehunter, Wraith King, characters that are just generally fun or funny or have big impactful ultimates. Pudge is good! Pudge is one of the game’s most popular heroes for a reason. People love hooking.
Look here. This is dota heroes by playrate.
What are you noticing here? It doesn't matter, don’t think about that, just assume they’re popular for a reason. Maybe your friend will end up getting into one of the weird ones no one plays. That’s fine! Toss in one of those if you want. Tell them what they’re about to experience—something possibly off beat.
Is your friend already a serious competitive Moba player? Don’t fuck around. Put them on Invoker if you think they’d like it.
Is your friend coming from League of Legends? What do they play there? There are no guarantees that your friend will want to play the same role (or close to it) in Dota as they do in League, but add a couple of heroes like that to your pool.
Make a list, write it down on paper if you have to.
Step Three: PLAY AROUND
Don’t hop right in a game and have your friend get their ass beat! Don’t even try to get them to do the f$%king tutorial. Hop in a bot game with them, turn cheats on, and just play around with the heroes. Like they’re toys! If they’re like “I don’t really like this one,” you know what you do? You move on to a new hero. There’s over a hundred of them.
Step Three and a Half: THE TV SHOW
Full confession, I don't think the TV show is very good. Marci is the best part of it by far and they only added her to the game afterward because of her explosive popularity. I liked it, but that's just because I'm biased and a Dota 2 player. I'm not well.
But hey if you can get them to watch the first episode, maybe they'll like it. I don't know. Who can say how people work? And maybe that will be the spark that gets them into Dota. Of course if they think it's terrible they're going to wonder who their friend has become, and why you're into this bad show. So it could backfire.
But it does have Marci in it.
Step Four: DON’T
My wife is not much of a competitive gamer. I have tried to get her into Dota multiple times. Each one of those times, I responded to her mistakes by trying to correct them or teach her how to do the right thing. DON'T DO THIS. It is a testament to the vastness of my wife’s affection for me that she has neither given up on trying Dota out on occasion nor strangled me to death in my sleep.
DON’T feel the need to defend the game from criticism. Deflect and be understanding. “The turn speed is weird” haha, yeah, but you get used to it. See how easy that is?
DON’T lose your temper. It’s your job to be patient. You’re the veteran here. This is not an opportunity for you personally to feel like the smartest big boy or girl who ever pooped all by themselves.
Step Five: DO
Draw attention to the parts of the game that are really just fun. Trolly stuff, funny stuff like getting cliffed, force staffing each other. Your friend goes “how do I get items?” Tell them about the couriers. Show them the cutest couriers you can find. If your friend likes cats or dogs or ferrets or lizards this is your time to shine. Look at this cute little thing, it brings you your items. The dress up game with all the outfits, arcana, etcetera.
Step Six: Forgive yourself.
Dota isn’t for everyone. There’s no way to guarantee your friend will get into it. If even after all this they still don’t want to play, don’t sweat it. The best you can do is plant the seed, deep down in their squishy brains, that it’s possible to have a good time with a friend while playing Dota.
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @JSMcQueen.
Cover image courtesy of Valve.