Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
Hi. My name is Juabe, and today I want to talk about something that is slowly embedding itself into the Philippine culture: the gaming community. From mobile to console to PC, it has become a part of our lives, whether we notice it or not. What I will talk about in particular for this article, is a specific game genre that has taken over almost the whole of the Filipino gaming community. I’m talking about Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs.
That didn’t sound familiar to you? Hmm. How about the words DoTA, LoL, and HoN? Now those acronyms you do know, I’m sure, even if you don’t play these games (well, probably not HoN).
For almost a decade this game format has slowly inched its way into the Philippine scene, pushing away games such as Counter-Strike and Ragnarok, which were at the time a pretty big deal. Now, FPS and MMORPGS have become more of a niche, which is surprising to think considering that one Warcraft 3 mod did all that.
Personally, I have played MOBAs from its humble, buggy, very imbalanced beginnings, to its current popular, slightly less buggy, still sort-of-imbalanced state. Currently I play League of Legends (LoL), a game with an easier learning curve than Defense of the Ancients (DoTA), the granddaddy of the genre.
Now, I won’t debate which one is better, for it is really a waste of time and I believe these two games have evolved into their own thing. What I can say though, is that with years of experience under my belt, I have my thoughts on why they are so damn popular in the Philippines.
It is a great form of escapism.
The Philippines is a place where a lot of shit goes down. It is where politics is a variety show, televised breakups are hard hitting news, and the economy is hiding behind the masks of OFWs and call centers, pretending that everything’s okay.
On top of that, people just have too many problems of their own to deal with. So what do we do? We escape. We disconnect ourselves through dimly lit videoke bars, television shows with predictable yet still entertaining stories, and for the kids (and some adults), video games.
Here, you are not a student struggling to get a degree, or a brother desperately trying to find ways to earn money to help your siblings. In a virtual world, you are a warrior, a mage, a ghastly being ripping out souls of those unlucky enough to encounter you.
We have been figuring out how to temporarily lose ourselves in the moment for centuries, and games are just a modern version of that. What makes MOBAs a bit different than your Candy Crush or Temple Run 2 however, is,
It is actively competitive.
We are a people who have to prove themselves to others. Constantly. We see it on the news every night, one person winning an award on or being recognized. We lap it up and sometimes take it as our own. Of course, we want something to show off to others, right? To increase our street cred, or something.
MOBAs are usually a 5v5 affair, with the simple goal of eliminating the big structure in the middle of your enemy’s base. That means that there are always winners and losers, and no one wants to be a loser. Because you can see their characters running around the map, you get this drive to crush them, similar to when you are playing basketball. You slowly level up, gaining access to stronger skills and gold for more powerful items.
You want to be the best, like no one ever was. Or at least be competent enough to win. Then again, Counter-Strike is competitive, Starcraft is competitive, hell, even Tetris can be serious business, so why aren’t they more popular? Well, more than just competition,
It is a social event.
To put it simply, you need your allies to win. Sure, there would be situations where one man could curbstomp the whole team, screaming at the top of their lungs, “I AM A SEXY, SHOELESS, GOD OF WAR!!!” But most of the time diving headfirst into the whole team alone is not the greatest of strategies. MOBAs require you to work together to achieve your goal. It is a great way to foster new friendships and reinforce old ones.
You do not need to be athletic to play; all you need are basic keyboard and mouse movements. That means that almost everyone can play it, and no one would get left behind, standing idly in the corner while they play street games because you can’t run fast enough. Post game, my friends and I usually do a discussion, whether they end up in victory or defeat, and it becomes another common topic amongst barkadas.
When playing with strangers (a usual case), you are forced into a situation to communicate and become a band of brothers, even just for an hour. It can help improve social skills, which you could use outside the gaming world.
Of course, this is all just idealist talk. It’s not always happytime when to comes to playing these games. On the contrary, each point I’ve discussed has another, darker side. Remember when I said that disconnecting from reality is sometimes good? Well,
Too much escapism is bad.
This is the part where the words “video game addiction” comes to mind. Because gaming is such as easy thing to get into, it becomes pretty damn difficult to get away from it sometimes. Self-control is not a growing child’s strong suit, and without good guidance from an adult, things get out of hand very quickly. Too many times do I see kids in their uniforms playing beside us in the computer shop (we didn’t have classes then, promise). Not just high school, mind you, but college kids as well.
Often I hear conversations about how that class is dull, and thus it’s okay to skip it when the semester starts. In the end, however, I get to listen to these same people panicking about how the hell they are going to pass when they didn’t learn jack shit.
A worse case is when one drowns all their problems, be it personal, financial, or whatever, on gaming. Again, I have witnessed people, some of them my friends, simply burying whatever it is that is causing harm in their life by pretending to be in another world. Hell, even I was a victim of that.
But hey, games are fun, right? The point of playing isn’t to get stressed out, but to relax. Supposedly, cause well, other than the “addiction” aspect,
It can be more frustrating than fun.
And boy, does the game design help you with that. MOBAs skillcap, meaning the culmination of knowledge, experience, execution, and effort required for you to be considered competent, is so damn high. A total newbie in my opinion is required to play at least a hundred games before they could understand what is going on.
That is following the assumption that you are only playing one character. You are required to understand what its skills do, how to use them correctly, and what should be leveled up first to maximize its potential. On top of that, you need to know what the items in the game do, even those that you do not use. For those you do use, a certain order in acquiring them is memorized so that it complements your characters abilities. ON TOP OF THAT, you need at least basic knowledge of what the other hundred characters do, so that you’ll know how to both counter and synergize with them. That’s a lot of shit to learn.
Oh, did I mention that this is still a TEAM GAME? That means if you are not playing with your friends, you are going to put blind faith in your allies and hope that they do well. This implies that even at your peak performance, a team of five mediocre players could still beat you if your companions aren’t good. Frustrating, isn’t it? Then again, veterans of the game could help you out and guide you on your journey to be a master. “Could” is the big word here, cause frankly,
The community isn’t that friendly sometimes.
Okay… most of the time. MOBAs are infamous for the having the most toxic, unruly, trashtalking community in gaming. As I said before, a lot of effort is needed for you to get even slightly good at it. So, if you encounter an ally whose skill level is lower than yours, you are gonna start to get really annoyed at that person. You would feel that all your efforts are for nothing just because some random guy kept getting killed.
The fact that it is online doesn’t help, either. Most of the time, you do not know who is controlling the other character. Add that to the fact that you are playing at a computer, and it gives you a barrier. This wall, to some people, allows them to be rude and hateful towards other players, for they know nothing bad would happen to them.
Of course, things are a bit different when it is played locally. This is why I recommended playing first with friends, preferably those who are strong enough to stay good-natured despite all the negativity this game could bring.
So there we go: the pros and cons on the fascinating and infuriating world of MOBAs. Even with all the bad press it receives, as well as the actions of some players, I still believe that this genre has the potential to become something good. Not world-changing, but at least a positive factor to the community.
If only those fucking noobs could stop feeding. Those scrubs.