I have a love/hate relationship with DOTA 2. I currently have 506 game hours logged (although much of that time was watching The International tournaments), which is about twice as much as my next most-played Steam game. I love the nuance, the cooperation, and the variety that the game affords.
I hate the fact that, even though I consider myself a fairly capable player, in the grand scheme of things I am actually sub-par.
Probably extremely sub-par.
Because of the realization that I can play, watch, and study a game for this long and still not be any good at it, DOTA has been collecting dust on my Steam shelf as I move on to shinier releases.
For those not in the know, at the end of every DOTA match, each participant has a chance to win a cosmetic item for a random character. These items have no effect on gameplay itself; they merely are there to look pretty and to perhaps keep track of a statistic (such as kills with a certain ability). Players can also spend real world currency to outright buy the items so that they can customize their favorite characters with matching accessories. So like Barbies, but for big kids.
For some reason, I still have 156 different DOTA items in my Steam inventory (from the lowly Revered Spear to the mighty Mace of the Chosen), even though I have not played the game in months. I could put many of these on the Steam Store to accrue some of the losses that my crippling Steam addiction has brought upon me, but I don’t. I could trade them for items in another game that I actually play, but I don’t. And it is not a “I keep forgetting to do this” situation. I have listed items and then taken them off of the store because I do not want to sell them. Which got me thinking: why?
It could be several reasons. Maybe it is the internal pack rat in me, desperate to hoard those shiny things. Maybe it is a hope that if I ever dust DOTA off again, I’ll suddenly be really good at the game (I won’t be) and I’ll look absolutely fabulous while I do it. Maybe I’m holding them so that they gain value (they won’t), like some fine digital wine. These reasons all sound plausible, but they are not why I still have these 156 fancy weapons and armors.
I have them because I feel like I earned them.
I won and lost and devoted 506 hours (just over 21 days!) of my life just in the game, not to mention reading countless strategy articles and character guides. And, occasionally, a window flashed on the screen to inform me that yes, I did in fact win a nice new sword for Kunkka to carry around and completely whiff on Ghost Ships with. Keep in mind, these items are usually a tiny cosmetic change on a very zoomed out screen, making it incredibly difficult to notice that anything has changed at all.
But you bet your bottom dollar I always got a big smile and equipped that new item as soon as I got it, even if it was for a character I would never play as.
Essentially, I keep these items for the same reason people keep any old memento. They are reminders of effort and success. It’s why people have trophy cases, or a shoebox filled with reminders of a past flame. It’s why people collect autographs, or snap pictures of scenery while traveling. These things don’t actually DO anything for us, but they do bring out feelings and emotions; I feel like these digital items serve a similar purpose. I do crack a smile as I mouse over one and remember the time I blinked in, let loose my perfectly timed Ravage, and bashed Dragon Knight over the head with a “Bit of Boat.” Or as I watched Viper try to escape from a different ambush, only to be perpetually slowed and killed as I shot him (him? it?) full of Frost Arrows from my “Genuine Bow of the Master Thief.”
Fifteen years ago, it may have sounded ludicrous that digital clothing for digital characters in a digital world could bring on the same feelings as physical objects in the real world, but millions of people who buy, sell, trade, and collect these items would beg to differ. I did not feel they had that effect on me until I really sat down to think about why I still had them sitting in my inventory. So if you ever want to see an “Inscribed Kindred of the Iron Dragon,” let me know. I’ll probably still have it, even though my “Breathe Fire Kills” will probably still be zero.
Although I may try to sell the “Meat Dragger” one of these days.