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Believe it or not, but there are people out there who get paid for being good at video games. OK, so it’s not quite that simple, but for a small subset of gamers playing is their job. And today 80 of the best at Dota 2, one of the most popular games in the world, are competing in a tournament where the winners will take home over $6 million.
Known as The International, it’s the biggest (in terms of prize money) competitive gaming event in the world. But for those not in the know, turning on the stream can be mind-boggling. To help you grasp the basics and understand what’s happening as The International kicks off today, I’ve answered 10 common questions asked by those new to eSports.
10. WHAT IS ‘DOTA 2’?
Let’s starts off nice and simple. Dota 2 is a free-to-play PC game that has over 11 million players a month. It’s the latest game in a genre called Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), highly competitive multiplayer games that also include League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. A single match in* Dota 2* sees 10 players split into two teams of five and fight for control of a symmetrical map, with the ultimate goal of destroying their opponents’ base. Each player controls a single hero with different abilities. If you’re still confused, you might try this hockey analogy—or watch the video below.
9. HOW EXACTLY DO THEY WIN A MATCH?
In order to win a Dota 2 game your team must destroy the opponents’ base (called the “Ancient”) before they manage to destroy yours. However before that’s possible your team must kill off the defensive towers across the other team’s side of the map. Each team has 11 towers, five of which need to be destroyed—along with the Ancient—to win. While this may sound easy it is often anything but, as the opposing players will be trying to destroy your towers as well, and defense is just as important as offense. Along the way you can kill enemy players using your abilities to open up a brief window to attack towers with little threat.
8. WHAT HAPPENS AT THE START OF A MATCH?
As previously mentioned each player in the match controls a unique hero. There are currently 110 heroes to choose from, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. The first part of any pro game is the draft, where the captain of each team will pick the five heroes that they and their teammates will use during that game. Each captain can also ban five heroes so that the other team is not able to pick them for that match. A hero may be banned because they fit well with the strategy the opponent is trying to use or because one of the players on the other team is extremely good with a certain hero, and banning that hero means they won’t be able to play it.
7. HOW LONG DOES A MATCH LAST?
A typical Dota game can last anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. That said some games will be over around the 10 minute mark while others can go on for hours. The longest professional Dota match went on for three hours and 20 minutes, although the likelihood of that happening at The International is very slim. Stalemates can last that long, but if a team no longer feels they can win that match they will type “GG” (which stands for “good game”) into the game’s chat window to surrender. If you see someone type GG it’s game over.
6. WHAT EXACTLY IS THE INTERNATIONAL?
The International is the biggest event in the annual Dota calendar and also the biggest competitive gaming event in the world. This year’s event, from August 3 to August 8, is known as The International 5 as there have been four previous Internationals. It’s currently the only competitive Dota event that is organized and hosted by the game developers Valve. The rest of the year sees independent parties organizing tournaments, and teams that do well in these tournaments are invited to play at The International. A selection of other teams from across the world are also invited to play in a qualifying tournament to gain a place at the event.
5. WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING TO WIN?
Up for grabs at The International 5 is a share of the $17,000,000 prize pool, the biggest in eSports history. The winners will take over $6 million with each place below them taking a slightly smaller amount with the two teams that come last taking home just over $52,000. The winning team will also claim the coveted Aegis of Champions, a massive, shield-like trophy. The prize pool itself is mostly funded by the Dota community. Valve (the developers of Dota 2) initially put up $1.6million for the prize pool but Dota players buying in-game items have funded the rest.
4. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE PLAYING?
The players taking part in The International are the best in the world. Teams from across the world are taking part, some of which feature players of multiple nationalities. The three countries represented with the highest amount of players at TI5 are China, Ukraine and the USA, with 17 other countries also being present. The two favourites to win the event are European super squad Team Secret, which includes some of the most proven Dota players in the world, and the American squad Evil Geniuses, which features some long time players along with 15-year-old prodigy Sumail Hassan.
3. WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE SHOUTING OVER THE GAME?
Unsurprisingly, those people are the “commentators.” Yes, much like any sport there is a team of commentators that describe the action as it goes. Known as “shout casters” or simply “casters,” they’ll describe what’s going on in the game, pointing out things viewers may have missed and adding excitement to important moments. Unfortunately to those new to Dota what the casters say will mostly sound gibberish thanks to the abundance of jargon surrounding it. But in order to make it entertaining for those new viewers each day one game will feature a newcomer show where a different set of casters will break everything down to its most basic level and introduce you to the game of Dota.
2. WHAT IS THE CROWD CHEERING FOR?
There will undoubtedly be times when the crowd in attendance at the Key Arena (and any Dota fans you may be watching with) will start cheering and you will probably have no idea why. Unfortunately the thing they are cheering for may not always be obvious. They could be cheering for something as simple as one player killing another in an exciting way, or they could be cheering because a hero that is very rarely played was picked in the draft. Because there are so many possibilities in Dota it is impossible to predict why people will get excited at TI, so try to pay attention and don’t be afraid to ask someone what the fuss is about.
1. WHY DOES ANYONE CARE ABOUT PRO GAMERS?
That is a very good question. For many, watching Dota, or any eSport for that matter, is the same as tuning in every Sunday to watch the NFL, or watching the NBA or Premier League. The International is effectively the Superbowl of the Dota world. While it may sound ridiculous for many people that dislike traditional sports this is the best and, sometimes, only way they express fandom and have idols.
There’s also the fact that the people playing are the best in the world, so there is always the chance to learn something new to take into your own play. There are of course also times when the players will do something truly incredible and you just have to sit back in amazement, much like the Odell Beckham Jr catch (for the sports fans out there).
Ultimately watching professional Dota 2 is just incredibly entertaining, and I’m sure that after watching The International 5 you’ll agree.
Mike Stubbsy is a freelance eSports journalist who spends way more time than he should watching other people play video games and playing Dota 2 himself, although somehow he still finds time to write about it and even coach a kids’ football (soccer) team. You can keep up with his life (and regular rants) on Twitter.
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