The International, the tournament I can’t take my eyes off of.

10 Aug

dota2For the last several days I accidentally was dragged into watching Valve’s e-sports masterpiece “The International”. Their massive tournament for their newly unbeta’d DOTA2. Now I have talked a bit about e-sports on the podcast during this years EVO tournament and I was involved in the competitive side of gaming for the old UFC games back in the day so I am a bit more receptive than most to the idea of e-sports, but here is the kicker. I have literally never played DOTA2. In fact, I haven’t played a MOBA (Multi-Player Online Battle Arena) at all.

benaroya_hall_-_dota_2_internationalNow the first thing I noticed when launching the stream on twitch was the massive size of the viewership, on the one stream I was on at the time had a little of a hundred and fifty thousand viewers on it at the time. That’s right 150,000, so more people were watching people play a video game than most Oakland A’s games or just about any NHL game involving teams below the Mason-Dixon line. This is without any perceived marketing short of a banner on steam (which cost valve a total of nothing).

The production quality for “The International” is nothing short of brilliant. I looks, feels and sounds better than anything I have ever seen in e-sports. Amazing production elements, excellent announcers, no really I have no clue where they found any of the guys that had these skills and knowledge of the game but I am insanely impressed and I have hired, fired and trained sportscasters. They do an admirable job explaining the game mechanics and tactics in real time without losing the action.

It helps that the game itself is just plain a good watch. Anyone that has played strategy games can pick up a lot of the gross level basics of what is going on, but the game it self is slick looking and naturally builds tension through the early game, to explosions (most of the time anyway) in the mid to late game. Aggressive games can be over in around 40 minutes, I have heard of slower games going towards an hour and a half (which I admit sounds awful), the longest I have seen clocked in at a little over an hour and it was an amazing game between LGD Gaming of China and Team Liquid of the US and Canada.

Watching the packed Benaroya Hall, no really it was packed to the gills (Which matters in e-sports, just like in football, baseball, basketball, mma, whatever, the crowd is half of the experience), you see a level of nationalism that one would usually associate with MMA than an e-sport. Benaroya is filled with American, Swedish, Chinese flags all over the place. During Liquid’s amazing round 2 comeback chants of USA nearly drowned out the audio, when Chinese super team DK pulled a rabit out of it’s hat to steal a win Chinese fans lost it.

All of the pieces are there for “The International” are there for this to be the big event in e-sports, including a really slick name. My only gripe is that half of the time I found myself frantically googling terms like “carry” and “BKB”. I get that e-sports have never been targeting the uninitiated, but emerging sports like the UFC have done a great job taking care of them while still calling the action and this is the next step for this event to drive sales of the game… oh wait the game is free? What?

Check out the final two days of competition at dota2.com

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