The first time someone paused a match of Dota 2, I was shocked. I didn't know pausing was possible. I remember thinking to myself, wow, what the hell? What's happening? Am I seriously playing a multiplayer game that people can pause?
Games have done stuff like this before, that's true. But as I sink more time into Dota 2, I've come to really appreciate the feature. I've paused to grab a drink or some food. I've paused to see who is knocking at the door. I've even paused to go to the bathroom. Being able to pause feels like an entirely new world to me.
I'm not like, a serial pauser or something. In my 114 hours with the game, I've only paused a handful of times. And it's not like the system is perfect or anything, either — other people can unpause the game at any time, unless someone happened to disconnect from the game. In that case, a pause can go uninterrupted for a little while — the idea being that a pause can give the person who disconnected some time to get back into the match. It's not the best system by any means, but just the fact that it's an option is amazing.
I'm used to having games like Hearthstone hurry me up for taking too long. I'm used to having to leave briefly matches unattended, only to come back and find my enemies or sometimes even my teammates doing awful things like teabagging me or throwing me off the map. I'm used to being reported in Xbox Live for having to tend to real-life emergencies. Hell, I'm used to a lack of pause causing relationship problems before, just like games critic Jenn Frank describes in her piece about gaming widows:
Destiny, Ted explains, is a living world, "like an MMO." As such, there is no "pause," Ted says.
Ted and I are getting married. I need him to sign his name to something, probably some contractual thing. "Teh-duh!" I intonate, separating his name into two distinct syllables. My clarion-call carries across the house.
"Just a minute!" he yells back from the living room. A half-hour passes. He's on the Vita for at least two more.
Later, Ted tells me there is no "pause," not in the sense where games often have a "pause." He isn't even playing multiplayer; he is on a solo mission. "I can't put the game down," he explains to me, helplessly.
This, I do understand.
I am not angry with Ted. I am furious with Destiny, however. Due to a design flaw — in this case, the flaw is with a game that cannot be paused — I am finally experiencing true relationship strife.
Most multiplayer games, quite frankly, aren't built with the idea that you have to play them in the real world. A world where you have other more pressing responsibilities, a world with people that you need to pay attention to for a minute or two, sometimes. And it makes sense: games are an experience. Of course they do everything in their power to keep you hooked. That's the entire point. Nevermind the fact that pausing can cause a logistical nightmare for developers, depending on the type of game in question. Imagine if players could pause something like World of Warcraft?
Still, the fact Dota 2 has it at all is, in my mind, remarkable. Remember: Dota 2 requires tons of dedication and concentration. Matches can last up to an hour. The people playing are some of the most passionate gamers out there. You'd think this would make the game too hardcore to have a feature like pausing, as this would interrupt the flow of a match. But naw: you can totally pause in Dota 2, if you need to. I wish more games could offer the option.