Laws of the Ladder

In every multiplayer game there are laws: Unwritten societal rules that are never understood until they have been transgressed. Take, for instance, Brood War. I played a lot of UMS maps for that game, specifically large Free For All games. Despite being called free for all, there were unwritten rules. If you allied with anyone and gave them shared vision (even without their consent), you were untouchable, as every other player in the game thought it was rude to attack you. In a similar vein, if someone “broke the peace,” even if it was killing a random zealot, disproportionate retribution was allowed and encouraged. Typing too much was a sign of aggression and made everyone team against you. Typing too little the same thing.

In Dota, I played tens of thousands of hours on the old WC3 modded version from Dota-EX up to the patch where they introduced the force staff. In all of my time playing, I learned multiple lessons. The most important of which is that the profit of winning can only sometimes unite a group. But the hatred of one single player on the other team always will. The best and most coordinated games I played all came from a mutual hatred of one player on the other team. We weren’t playing to win, we were playing to deny that single player the satisfaction of winning.

In some ways, the esports world is like that. Multiple unwritten rules people had no idea they crossed until doing so. Where spite is the strongest emotion that can drive people to far greater heights than they’d reach otherwise. It’s just one of those funny things that keeps making me play these multiplayer games.

Slingshot senior columnist. StarCraft and CS:GO expert who pushes narratives over numbers. You can reach him at

Facebook Comments