“Just let them win, it’s over” one of my teammates typed. “Not yet,” I responded. He didn’t listen.
Blizzard formally announced that its new MOBA Heroes of the Storm wouldn’t come with a surrender option back in April. While I originally disagreed with their reasoning, I now realize it was fairly sound. “We believe the game is never officially over until the core is destroyed,” the developer said in a blog post explaining the decision. “Adding a Surrender option could tempt players to bail out at the slightest setback, removing focus from the game and potentially introduce even more toxic behavior.”
Heroes matches also unfold at a much faster clip than League of Legends, one of the game’s two main rivals and the only one that allows players to start a surrender vote after 20 minutes in a given match. Most Heroes games are finished in that amount of time. It’s hard to imagine a surrender vote that comes before the 20-minute mark yielding many positive results. The far more likely outcome, as Blizzard suggested, would be teams or individual players feeling frustrated after falling behind in the first five or ten minutes of a match (which happens in many Heroes of the Storm games, in my experience), saying “fuck it,” and throwing the game. Five or ten minutes simply isn’t enough time for a match to truly take shape and play itself out, and anything past that point edges so close to endgame territory that it just doesn’t seem worth it. Better to encourage a “never give up, never surrender!” mentality in the player-base than save them a few minutes of game time.
I’ve also realized something else about Heroes of the Storm over the past two and a half months, though. And that is: players are going to surrender whether they technically have an option to or not.
As I gained experience and eventually started climbing up the ranks of the game’s competitive “Hero League” mode, I encountered more and more of these behaviors. First there were lone grumps or pessimistic teammates—people who’d gripe about a team composition making it impossible to win a game. Or in the worst-case scenarios, players who’d get fed up and abandon the match entirely. But over the past few weeks I’ve seen a more concrete type of surrender take shape: players deciding either collectively or individually to simply lie down and let the enemy team bulldoze over them. I mean this quite literally. Part of a team will sometimes decide to call it quits by camping out at their hearthstone—the respawn point in HOTS and the one part of your base the enemy can’t get to—while the other team finishes demolishing our defenses.
I managed to capture a team I was playing on doing this in a game I played over the past weekend. The clip is short because I only started recording once I’d a) died and b) realized what two of my teammates were doing. But it should help give you an idea of what these sorts of ad hoc surrenders look like:
“Just let them win,” my teammate had typed. “It’s over.” He was almost certainly right. But here’s my third revelation: I don’t actually think that winning or losing a match is what makes a fiercely competitive game like Heroes of the Storm fun. The reality of defeat in Heroes of the Storm is far less depressing than the mindset of defeat.
Some of my favorite HOTS matches have actually been ones that I’ve lost. Even if I ultimately end up seeing “DEFEAT” plastered across my computer screen, it’s satisfying to leave a game knowing that my teammates and I refused to give up a millimeter of the map unless our opponents pried it from our stubborn, vice-like grip. Because while we might not have won, I know in those moments that I’ve earned the respect of my opponents (and hopefully my teammates too). That’s its own sort of reward in a community-driven online multiplayer game like this.
There are always going to be players with dramatically different levels of tolerance for failure, however certain defeat may be. Having plunged into Heroes of the Storm over the past few months after doing the same exact thing with League of Legends for the few months before that, I’m not convinced that adding or removing a surrender option makes that much of a difference.
It’s inevitable that you’re going to face players with defeatist attitudes in both these games. What Heroes of the Storm taught me in denying a surrender option, however, is: that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe struggling to rally your teammates is supposed to be part of the challenge. Trying to convince my team that no, it’s not over yet in HOTS has pushed me to be a better player and a more tactful member of the game’s community. It’s a team-based game, after all. Learning to tangle with different personalities and assert yourself amidst all the chaos and noise of battle is one of the essential skills any player has to develop.
Even if it’s only in fleeting moments sometimes, I can start to see a positive outlook taking shape in Heroes of the Storm as well. Midway through a recent game, for instance, the tank on my team said “it’s gg.” Nothing particularly bad had happened right then, the game just wasn’t going in our favor. Another teammate responded in a surprising way, that I found oddly touching.
“Saying we’re gonna lose just brings the whole team down,” the player wrote. “If you’re gonna give up, just keep it to yourself man.” A third person simply responded “^.”
We still ended up losing the match. And I have no way of telling if anything my teammates said to the player who typed “gg” got through to him.
But at the very least, he didn’t say anything similarly negative for the rest of the match. That’s a start.