Ten years ago, many would have doubted that e-sports would become a thing. Thousands of people paying thousands of dollars to watch gangly, not-even-handsome dudes sit in front of computers and play video games? My grandma would have a fit!
Of course, we all know that video games actually do require skill. Even though there is no physical exertion (no weight-lifting or running headlong into another buff dude), there is so much mental effort involved when playing video games. That’s why I think it’s more than fair for competitive games to be called “e-sports.” Gamers have to train just as much as “real sportsmen” do, whether it’s by dedicating countless hours to a particular character or by developing finger dexterity.
The International 2017 is happening this week–it’s a massive, international Dota 2 tournament–and over $20 million in prize money is at stake. For people who don’t know, Dota 2 is like League of Legends‘ cousin. Like LOL, the gameplay is very similar: 2 teams, each with five members, has to battle to destroy the enemy’s base. There are turrets and minions, just like in League, only they go by different names. League’s Nexus is DotA’s Ancient. Each player starts by selecting a character each with different weapons and abilities. As the match progresses and the character levels up, stronger skills are unlocked, and money can be spent on more powerful builds.
If you want to come along for the ride, you can watch The International 2017 live on Twitch. You can read updates on the Dota 2 client or check the schedule on their website. If you’re new to games like LOL and Dota, there is a Newcomer’s Stream that you can watch. It’ll discuss characters, items, and strategies that many of the players use.
Like League, competitive Dota starts with the draft. Dota 2 has a pool of over 100 heroes–113 to be exact. Teams take turn banning heroes they don’t want available, so if the opponent is really good at character X, then that character will probably be banned. The 5 roles generally include 2 cores, 2 supports, and 1 flexible position that roams–in League this is called the jungler.
Each hero differs in their abilities, weapons, and speed. Some characters are melee, others are ranged. Some have ultra-powerful ultimate moves, while others have more focus on overall strategy. It’s very similar to League, isn’t it? But the characters are different.
In League, the two distinct sides of the map are the purple and blue side. In Dota, it’s a little different. The green, foliage-filled side is called the Radiant, while the half with the scorched earth and desolate land is referred to as the Dire. To win, a team must destroy the enemy’s Ancient. There are top, mid, and bot lanes (top, middle, bottom) lanes, and just like in League, there are spaces in between the lanes that have various neutral monsters and maze-like trails. Every thirty seconds, minions emerge from the Ancient to help the attack. Each Ancient is protected by 2 turret towers on each lane (six in all), which attack when enemies get too close.
To get more powerful, you need gold. You earn it by killing stuff. Kill minions. Kill heroes. Kill monsters. Kill towers. The more you destroy, the larger your wallet gets. The thing is, some heroes only get strong near the end of the game, when towers have been destroyed, and the Ancient is up for grabs. To get enough power, they have to “farm” money by killing minions and other things. It’s very similar to League, right?
This year’s The International is going to be in Seattle. 18 teams from all over the world re-split into 2 groups of nine. Everyone plays in the competition and the last team from each group is cut, leaving just 16. After that, it’s a double elimination bracket. You can bet that the eight top teams will get a lot of money! It kind of makes me want to do professional gaming, even though I’m nowhere near as talented as those guys. At a $20 million prize pool, this competition is the biggest e-sports event of the year.
So, are there any teams you’re rooting for to win? Or are you a newbie who’s never actually heard of the game? Even so, it’s not too late to get hooked! (Personally, I’m a sucker for Evil Geniuses).