"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 realise 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 behaviour."
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 realised 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 behaviours. 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 defences.
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) realised 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 favourite 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 millimetre 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.