The world of competitive gaming is coming to the main stage.  Leading the charge are Massive Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs). These competitions feature big-name players, highly-trained players and BIG money prizes. MOBAs focus on fast-paced gameplay, intricate strategy, and expert team work.

Team: For the Win

You join a team of 3-5 players and go against another team of live players. You compete for victory by advancing your characters skill levels, gaining new abilities and weapons, and destroying your opponent’s base. The base rules are simple enough and the quick play time allows gamers continual practice and improvement.

The Big Three

Three of the most famous are MOBAs in America are (reviews of these games will be coming soon):

WORD OF WARNING: MOBAs are created to be highly addictive.

These games are a mix of several different genres that make for a fast-paced, highly-competitive, highly addicting gaming experience. A video example looks like this (Heroes of the Storm trailer)


3 Reasons MOBAs Dominate

  1. Fast Paced Play: An average MOBA game will take from 20-30 minutes to play. That means even a kid with a tight game-play allowance can get into them.
  2. Ranking: The players who are drawn to MOBAs LOVE to know that they are better than other players. The player ranking system is at the core of the MOBA game style.
  3. Character and Team Work Complexity: There are dozens of characters to choose from, each with their own
    League of Legends boasts 95+ different characters to be played.  Image: Riot Games

    strengths and weaknesses. These characters grow over the course of a game and gain new abilities.

In addition, you generally work as part of a team. Any player has the possibility of winning any game. There are endless numbers of strategies that can be used to win and continual play is required in order to figure them out.


And when I say popular

  • MILLIONS of people go online just to watch professional MOBA gamers play. There are entire websites (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
    Spectators watch The International DOTA 2 Championships, a 5-on-5 video game, played at KeyArena in Seattle Thursday, August 6, 2015. Credit: Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times

    dedicated to the topic. The major feed sites Twitch has and the new Youtube channel where people can watch professional gamers play. Take a look at what these arena tournaments can look like: here




3 Reasons MOBAs are concerning:

  • Hostile social environment: Because rankings are on the line MOBAs are known for having some of the least-inviting gaming experiences in the gaming world.
    • League of Legends has had horrendous accounts of harassment and verbal abuse of players, especially their female gamers. WARNING: This article contains offensive language (it is, after all, about online harassment).
  • Accessible goals: MOBAs are masters of giving players small goals to aim for. It’s just one more round, one more competition, one more weekend of practice until you get that ranking you wanted. When these goals go unfulfilled it drives the gamer to put more time in so they can reach the desired achievement.
    • The Heroes of the Storm site even brags about this: “Though you can knock out a few games pretty rapidly, you may find yourself constantly waiting to jump into ‘just one more’ game.”
  • Requires dedication: In MOBAs you’re dedicated to your ranking. There are two things that can really set back your ranking in a MOBA:
    • 1) Logging out of a game: If you quit a game partway through (dinner time, bed time, home work, etc), you will be penalized and possibly banned. Quitting when you’re losing is a ways some players have tried to avoid getting a loss on their record, which robs the victor of a win. To fix this MOBAs heavily penalize the behavior.
      • DOWNSIDE: There’s commitment to finish once you’ve started. This can lead to parent-gamer strife.
    • 2) Not getting enough games in during the ranking period. Rankings reset periodically. When they do everyone goes back to the beginning and has to earn their stripes again.
      • The Plus: This is to encourage improvement in players and allow for the games to update different aspects of their game. The game is never stagnant and the idea is no single person should top the charts all the time.
      • The Minus: Players must continue to play and hone their skills. There isn’t really such a thing as taking time off for someone who wants to win at a MOBA. 20 minute games are quick, but playing 10-20 of them in a day requires a lot of time.

MOBAs in review:

  • MOBAs are highly-popular and generally are free to play. They are also highly addictive because they tie in the fast-paced play of a strategy game with the character-building elements of a role playing game (RPG) and the team work of a cooperative first person shooter (FPS).
  • MOBAs can have a hostile play environment because winning and losing affects everyone’s records. They seem to be a lurking point for internet trolls who simply love to hate on those who are different from them.
  • MOBAs require players to dedicate time and focus to them in order to progress and be successful in rankings.

But, What If I’m Nice?

Yes, it is possible to play a MOBA without getting overly focused on your rankings. Yes, people can just play for fun. However, the games are DESIGNED to draw players into caring about winning and losing. They are DESIGNED to get you to come back again and again and WILLINGLY give up your free time and focus in exchange for a shot at success in-game. That leaves room for concern in educated gamers.