I’ve been a gamer since I was 8 years old. However, I have not been a member of the PC gaming community for long, and as someone who doesn’t even own a real gaming PC, I hazard to say I’m a member of it at all. At the time of this writing, I’m sitting in my living room watching The International Dota 2 Championships match 4 of the Grand Finale. Prior to my viewing of these tournament matches on ESPN 2 (kudos to ESPN making the choice to show some E-Sports, by the way), I was only vaguely aware of what Dota 2 was and I only learned a few days ago what MOBA actually meant. Upon viewing this tournament however, it would seem that I am miles behind the curve on this phenomenon.
It is incredible to me to turn on these matches and see the thousands of fans and supporters of these teams cheering and reveling in the spirit of the game. As far as I knew, Dota was a game in which very few people participated, a fringe distraction at best. If I were to ask every single person that I know if they knew what Dota 2 was, approximately one hundred percent of them would say they had no idea and they’d ask why I was invading their personal space and then they’d hit me. But even though I don’t know anything about Dota 2 and no one I know knows anything about Dota 2, it’s puzzling, and at the same time oddly inspiring to tune in to The International and be met with a roar that could stand alongside, even deafen that of any cheer created by crowds in NFL or NBA stadiums the country over.
How has something this popular gone seemingly unnoticed by so many? Exactly why is Dota 2 so popular, and how has it stayed under the radar for so long? Not only Dota, but multiple MOBAs possess this type of amazingly fanatic fanbase. Watching these matches has been enlightening and they’ve given me a few hypotheses on how Dota 2 has reached its level of popularity, while simultaneously remaining unnoticed by the mainstream. I think it’s the sense of camaraderie that develops between these players and the community, because the community are also players. That’s why these teams inspire such a rabid following, why this game inspires such a rabid following. Because everyone who plays this game is in it together. At anytime could someone in the audience log in to Dota 2 and be engaged in a battle opposing any one of the players on the dais. The fans can participate with the best in the world. No other game gives their fans this opportunity. I am a huge fan of the Atlanta Falcons, but at no point would I be given the opportunity to block for Matt Ryan. No amateur soccer player will get the chance to get the assist from Clint Dempsey, and no baseball enthusiast will get the chance to strike out Albert Pujols. The walls between the players and the professionals is much smaller in this community the fans of the game are a more tight-knit group because of it. I also grew to admire the enthusiasm of the commentators, Tobiwan and, I think, Luminous during The International. During the scarce moments in the matches where the activity began to heat up, these commentators sounded like their newborn son was about to discover the cure for cancer then proceed to do a kickflip over the Stanley Cup while whistling Bohemian Rhapsody backwards. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard commentators get as into the action during any sport as much as these guys. Tobiwan and Luminous’ enthusiasm for what was going on in the matches nearly bled through my television screen and I almost found myself rooting for teams that I had never even heard of.
I can’t believe that I was so unaware of this community that was hiding right under my Steam window for so long. I genuinely enjoyed what I saw of The International even though I couldn’t begin to understand what was happening onscreen. Maybe one day I’ll dare to join in on the fun but until then I only have this to say in conclusion of my experience with The International. It was spectacular.
Congrats to team Newbee, who won the tournament, with an, apparently, iron fist in the fourth match.