Why Dota 2 Is Navy Blue

A hallmark of depression is an ongoing attempt to fade out. That’s what it’s like for me anyway. The signal connecting me to the rest of the world sputters and struggles. Conversations turn to static, the future is a station I don’t have the right antenna for, everywhere there are blanks and so I start reciprocating and blanking myself out too.

There used to be a lot of navy blue in my wardrobe at these junctures. Not a rich, dark navy but the powdery one that comes from too many washes and wears. It’s a colour which, already faded, is rendered near-invisible by the ubiquity of denim in our clothes-scape. Wear an oversized navy sweater and jeans and you can slip out of view.

Last year was rough in terms of depression. It’s been part of my life for seventeen years and there’s an ebb and flow to it. That’s not to suggest it has any kind of tidal regularity which would be useful in predicting or dealing with it, though. Sometimes it creeps towards you, giving you time to pack up your things and move elsewhere, mentally. Sometimes it rushes in with alarming speed and threatens to wash you away.

I actually try not to wear that powdery overwashed shade of navy because I know why I do it and I’m trying to reverse cause and effect. It’s bizarrely important to me that my hoodie is now a mossy green, for example. But there are other manifestations of navy blue I hadn’t expected. Last year one of them was a videogame; Dota 2.

Playing as part of a team of five people is a social experience, simply by virtue of other people being there. There’s basic co-operation needed to fight the other team, in-game chat options and, if you play with friends, voices on the end of a Skype call. It’s very easy to sit and listen as you click around the map, to fade out but convince yourself you’ve somehow succeeded in being with other people for a while, that you’re maybe dealing with depression better this time because TEAMWORK!

It took far longer than it should have to realise what was really happening because, if I’m honest, I would still love there to be a way out of this disease. I wanted playing Dota to be the answer because I still want there to be an answer. Any answer. That feeling will probably never go away.

I realised that Dota had become my new navy blue when I realised I was no longer learning anything and hadn’t in months. I have a broad understanding of the game, where to stand, who to aim at, but it ended up stagnating. Each game was another wash and wear. Gradually my Dota playing faded to a powdery navy. Out of date, comfortable, safe, anonymous.

I’ve had to do the same thing as with my actual clothes, attempting to invert cause and effect. It’s harder to do with a mindset, though. Part of dealing with it has been following the professional eSports scene. Paying attention to newness and innovation, keeping up with patches, finding ways to play actively rather than passively.

In games, it’s easier with strangers, like how going to a party where you know no-one and can reinvent yourself is sometimes easier than an evening where you know one or two people and realise you’ve been cycling through the same old topics of conversation while picking at nachos for two hours. With friends the effort has to be redoubled because everyone forms habits, some in response to your own. Shifting all of that by a few degrees of action and aggression will take a while, I think.

There isn’t really an ending to this story because I’m hoping that it actually represents a beginning. After a while keeping particular shades of blue from my wardrobe became something I did automatically. I hope that doing the same for a videogame mindset will see it become second nature too. So far the results, or at least the differences, have been positive and I think I have a lot to gain in pursuing the idea.

4 thoughts on “Why Dota 2 Is Navy Blue

  1. I noticed a similar recurrent pattern of gaming behaviour in my post-grad year, when it all became about the job hunt and the daily scouring of newspapers and websites.

    Call of Duty: Black Ops, I think it was at the time. I say “I think” because I honestly can’t separate one Call of Duty experience from another after a while. It became That Thing I Was Good At; something I thought was a reminder that I wasn’t totally useless as a human being. Would a totally useless human being get an attack chopper three games in a row and consistently come in the top half of the scoreboard? I didn’t think so. But, like your experience with DOTA 2, it became part of a cycle of depression for me and I never realised it until, one day, I just did.

    Things are better now…I think. And I play lots of other games that have nothing to do with guns or machismo chopper-summoning.

    • I’m in that post-grad job hunting year… For me it’s Planetside 2. Organising and leading an outfit has been my only comfort that I might still be a useful human being. At least, I thought could say, me being here and doing this was helping other people have a good time playing the game and so must be worth something.

      But I’ve come to realise it’s little more that a group of people and a place to be where it’s always the same. The digital equivalent of proping up the bar at a local. Whilst I lack the willpower to do anything with my time (like writing) it’s a place to go to make time disappear. I’m not sure I can subvert my use of it, but at least now I know that when I find myself staring at the Planetside 2 launcher without really consciously having opened it, just having done so out of idle habit, I make myself leave my study and do something else, anything else. If I come back later and still want to play, fine, but often I find I’ll just get on with some work or something else instead.

      • Once you come out the other side with a job and some sense of direction everything feels SO much better. It’s worth the slog, so hang in there and keep playing I guess.

  2. This resonates with me strongly. I had not thought about how DOTA had become a crutch.

    It sounds like you’re thinking of giving up DOTA, but I suspect you’re just trying to change your in-game patterns. DOTA is such a social game it would be a shame to lose that positivity.