I have been a gamer all my life. I played hundreds of hours of Pokemon, I got every last dime out of my N64, I beat up my Xbox controllers. At heart though it is the PC that has the strongest hold.
Civilization, Rome Total War, Rise of Nations, these were the games that sucked up hours of my time. It was hard to imagine anything surpassing the RTS format. It is the perfect mix of strategy and immediate action. As all the great RTS games came and went, however, one could not help but feel that video games had reached some sort of artistic cul-de-sac.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you about the cutting edge of video games – and it involves a lot of money. The greatest video game to ever exist is a wicked combination of Chess and World of Warcraft, engaging your mind and body so completely that hours will pass away as you attempt to master this brutal game. That’s the thing – you have to master this game once you start. This game is called DOTA 2 – Defense of the Ancients.
The amazing thing about DOTA 2 is that it is rapidly becoming the kind of high-stakes professional competition that was previously reserved for football or racing. This is a story about a free-to-play game that originated as a mod for another game becoming the next great arena for young people to train and achieve greatness.
Before 2014 you probably didn’t need to know about this arena. That is not to say that the action wasn’t furious and highly compelling, but from a societal perspective it only mattered to the E-sports community. In 2014 a number of things changed.
Let’s start with the most important DOTA tournament: The International. Held every June at Key Arena in Washington, this event is the culmination of the year of preparation and lesser competitions for DOTA players. The reward for winning this tournament is a prize pool and the honor of being known as the greatest DOTA team in the world. Let’s return to the prize pool: for “TI4”, the winning team was awarded $5 million and the total prize pool was $10 million.
Perhaps in this day and age of multi-hundred-billion dollar bailouts, the million number doesn’t cause that much of a reaction. In the context of similar kinds of competitive events, like the Kentucky Derby and the Tour de France, DOTA 2’s Tournament International is massive.
Additionally, this underestimates the total size and impact of the community because TI is just one of many different tournaments with their own sizable, but not gargantuan, prize pools. Most importantly this prize pool was almost entirely user-contributed. This means that individuals, gamers, willingly gave almost 8 million dollars of their own money for little reward except a few aesthetic benefits and the knowledge that they were contributing to the greater glory of the sport.
It goes much deeper than the money. DOTA players have become community celebrities and professionals who play a video games for a living. Teams like Natus Vincere are branded and sell merchandise. They have biased fans who are willing to go to the plate for them on internet forums just like any other sport.
Gambling organizations have become a fixture of the community. “Casters” or the E-sports equivalent of announcers, are also becoming professional. Needless to say, sponsorships, especially from gamer friendly companies like Red Bull, make DOTA 2 an unmistakable card-carrying competitive sports cash cow.
DOTA 2: Defense Of The Ancients is the future of video games. It is the leader of a new brand of virtual reality and real community that is marching forward, known as E-sports. It is my pleasure to keep you at least a little in the loop about what this DOTA thing is all about.