Wednesday, August 14, 2013

                For those that follow competitive video gaming, you may know that this past week (specifically, from the 2nd of August to the 11th of August, with the main event of the tournament running from August 7-11), Valve ran what was called The International 3, the largest Dota 2 tournament to date, with the largest prize pool for a single competitive gaming event, a grand total of $2,874,407 split across the top eight teams, with first place winning a grand total of $1,437,204. The winners themselves, a Swedish team, Alliance, beat Ukraine team Na’Vi in the grand finals, in a very tense and close set that ended up in 3-2.

For those that may know me or may have read my introduction on Zero Second Cooldown, you may know that I’m a huge fighting game fan and lover of the Fighting Game Community. Ever since I got involved in the FGC with Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s release in 2011, I’ve only missed viewing one major tournament to date (CEO 2013, to be specific), and have attended a number of tournament (primarily weekly tournaments, as well as Evolution 2013), so as a viewer, I’m very close to the Fighting Game Community. Spending the large majority of a weekend watching a video game tournament is not a new experience to me in the slightest, so, now that I’ve gotten into Dota 2 a bit, I decided to take the plunge and spend parts of last week watching different matches leading up to the Grand Finals of The International 3, as well as the latter half of Loser’s Finals and Grand Finals itself.

In all, I’ve been rather vehement about not getting into eSports in the past. I’ve done my best to stand by fighting games, for better or worse, and to try and show my dedication for the games and the community and scene that I love. But in recent times, it’s changed, and with Brad Shoemaker of Giant Bomb’s newfound love of Dota 2, I’ve done my part in growing up and trying the game out, which I found out that I actually quite like. So while I still do not consider myself eSports (due to finding the term rather dumb, really), I do like to consider, or at the least hope, that I’ve become more open-minded in the world of competitive video gaming.

Onto the actual event itself, I thought, in essence, it was great, and if something like this is a look at what the future of competitive gaming of any and all genres of video games, I am all for it. To me, the term “eSports” is something that comes off as too sterile, too serious, and void of any real heart, soul, or personality. While I did expect something like this to some extent with The International 3, I was thrilled to find out that I was completely off-base with my prediction. At many fighting game tournaments, crowd shots will frequently have people holding up all sorts of signs, these crowd monsters having signs of salt shakers and “BIG FAT PHONY” to wave when someone loses their match awfully, and at The International 3, it warned my heart to see Kappa faces and all sorts of signs that, while I may not have gotten the joke or the reference, I still thought was great to see how this community had such life to it compared to stories I’ve heard.

The matches, with the exception of the longest match in competitive Dota 2 history (which ended up finishing at 98 minutes 58 seconds), were all great, I thought. Having only played Dota 2 at a medium to low level, and generally with Limited Heroes, so a lot of the tactics used (such as jungling, which I’ve only said to a League of Legends playing friend as a joke to poke fun at MOBAs and eSports) and the large majority of the heroes used at The International 3 (“Chen? Clockwerk? Timbersaw?” were my frequent reactions during the earlier parts of the tournament) were completely unknown to me. While, I feel, that the commentators didn’t do the best job explaining certain intricacies or terms (for example, I ended up asking friends what a ‘deny’ was after The International 3), the commentary was still strong, fresh, and vibrant. While, at least in my opinion, it didn’t quite reach a level of something like Yipes’s commentary for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I definitely got excited when those hype, intense moments started happening in the game.

Alongside that, the intricacies of how the drafting worked for picking heroes and banning heroes was incredibly interesting to me. From a pure mindgames standpoint of a big hero being banned, and then the other team immediately picking another hero that wasn’t caught, crazy picks being made (from what I noticed, Venomancer was one of those big picks towards the end of the tournament) it was all interesting and, though not quite the same, reminded me of how Super Smash Bros. Melee high level play bans all but a number of stages, and from a few stages, those stages are shaved down into a final stage to play on. To me, it adds another level of depth that I didn’t quite know about, but it makes me really think more about the intricacies of Dota 2.

Even some of the high level tactics was great. The “Fountain Pull” trick in particular was great. Essentially having a character from the opposing team pulled out of a fight by using a tricky to pull off, high level tactic, is something that I love as a fighting game fan, despite not knowing all of the finer details behind it from a Dota 2 standpoint. And the thing that I loved even more was the divide from it: the people who didn’t want that particular technique allowed, and the group of people that are all for it and the knowledge that Valve was cool with it if it could be pulled off made me even more hype. Fighting games have been known for all sorts of techniques that aren’t necessarily intended, but are left to be used, like infinites in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, the DHC Glitch in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (which was patched out in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3), and TAC infinites in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and while I’ve generally believed (again, a fault of my own) that eSports is not one to allow these unintended techniques and strategies to be done, knowing how great Valve has been about it is heartwarming.

The Grand Finals themselves were what really got me hooked. While the other matches I had watched beforehand were great, there’s nothing quite like seeing the best two teams duke it out to show the world who is the very best. Similarly to how I was kept on the edge of my seat during the Grand Finals of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Evolution 2013 this year, Dota 2 did the exact same for me. The entire set was tense, a back-and-forth between Alliance and Na’Vi. Despite not having the most knowledge of the game, I was able to easily feed off the hype from the commentators and the crowd, and knew just enough about Dota 2 to be able to follow the game and get sucked into the vortex of sheer excitement. The entire set culminating into a base rush from Alliance after Na’Vi tries to go after Roshan was easily one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a competitive video game, ever, bar none.

Despite my general lack of knowledge about eSports, MOBAs, and Dota 2, I still thoroughly enjoyed what I watched of The International 3. The sheer love that this community has for their game, the passion and personality they show from their spectators to their commentators, all the way to the game itself. Combofiend’s “BIONIC ARM!” set against Marn back at Final Round 14 was the moment that got me hooked into fighting games, got me to buy a fightstick, and essentially got me to where I am with the community today. While I probably won’t dedicate nearly as much time to Dota 2 as I do to fighting games, I have no doubt in my mind that, thanks to The International 3, I’ll definitely be trying out Dota 2 some more and definitely will watch some Dota 2 tournaments in the future.


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