DOTA 2: The Love/Hate Relationship That I Never Thought I Would Cherish

Part 1: Why I Love It

I consider myself to be an avid gamer. I have been playing for all of my life and have found a rewarding experience with many games over many years. From the humble days of playing LAN (Local Area Network) games of Age of Empires 2 with my friends for my birthday celebration at my Dad's school, to the days of MMO's, FPS's, and MOBA's, I have loved most of them and also hated some along the way (Yes, one of those games is you Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark). Video games have taken me through the gambit of emotions. They have made me cry, such as in The Last of Us, and they have also crushed my spirits, such as in Destiny. They have also brought me to the point at which I care about certain games more than I thought I ever would and have thus begun to value them more than the traditional sports that I never thought I would see be trumped. Here is the brief history of how a video game became so important to me. 

There is a hierarchy of games for me. The rankings go like most systems for the average person. It ranges anywhere from a complete pile of steaming garbage to the elegant,magnificent masterpieces that we all enjoy. But for me there are games that I consider to be the best that there is to offer, and then there are the games that have a special place in my heart. To reach this place, there are usually memories associated with the game, mainly involving other people that are dear to me. The first in the hierarchy is Age of Empires 2. I will never forget the long nights of playing with my friends over LAN in a middle school computer lab til 1 AM when the computers all reset for the night and we had to leave. Many battles were fought and won (mainly by me because I was actually pretty good) and we all had so much fun that it became a yearly tradition with me and my friends on my birthday every year until high school. 

There are a few other games in the highest echelon of my rankings, but one has been added recently to that group that I never thought would make it. This game is DOTA 2. 

For those that do not know, DOTA 2 is a Multiplyer Online Battle Arena, aka MOBA. It pits 10 people into the arena in a 5 v. 5 match. Each person selects a hero with different abilities and they fight until the teams Ancient (building in the center of the teams base) has been destroyed by the opposing team. This is a very basic definition of DOTA 2. But I will try to explain it in a way that may make more sense to you sports fans out there. 

Imagine that you have a person from another country come to the United States and your job is to explain the game of American Football to them. You have to explain that the team with the most points wins, but how do you score? Well by scoring touchdowns by advancing the ball down the field to the End-zone which will then count for 6 points. You then have the opportunity to have another play from the 2 yard line...... you begin to see my point. To the person hearing all of this, it seems quite weird. I mean, why do you have to have 7 people on the line of scrimmage in football? 

Death Prophet. 

Now I say this to preface that DOTA 2 is very complex and it is not an easy game to explain. Much like American Football and its complexity, DOTA is similar in its intricacies. This also leads to why I love it. It is a game that is ever changing and I learn from every match. When I first started playing, I had no clue what I was doing. I was going around in public games (pubs) and just trying out heroes that I thought were cool. I first became attached to Death Prophet and became pretty good with her. I began to expand on the number of heroes that I played over the course of time. But then I began to realize something; there is much more to this game than I ever imagined. 

I remember watching my first pro DOTA game about 3-4 months into my time with the game. It was a completely different game than anything I had seen or experienced in my time with DOTA. The only equivalent would be for those sports fans that have seen middle school American Football and then go to a professional game. It is technically the same game with the same rules, but by no means are the two very comparable. While watching the professionals play, I began to see what DOTA has become for me, a sport that in which I can participate and play but also spectate and cheer for the professionals. This is when I began to view DOTA not as a video game anymore, it was now a sport to me. But then something else happened to really confirm this belief: The International 4. 

I never thought in my life that I would consider video games a sport. I just did not think it was possible for me to think that. I was an avid sports fan all of my life, and I also loved video games. They were two distinct entities in my life. I laughed at the idea of Call of Duty or Halo being considered a sport. I did not see how something like a video game could ever take off and become mainstream. I am not saying that they are bad games at all, I just never thought of them as being what the public considered sport. But my mind has changed due to The International 4. TI4, for short, will be looked back on by many in the industry of E-sports as a defining moment. It will at least be viewed that way by me; I could be wrong. 

The International 4 took DOTA 2 from a video game to a sport in my mind. The thought had become to take root before TI4 with watching the pros play, but seeing what unfolded there made all the difference to me. It was a competition unlike any I had ever seen in video games. It was a show of skill and talent that I did not know could be shown through a computer between teams of players on a stage in front of thousands and over live-streaming to hundreds of thousands. This all lead to an unbelievable amount of money for the event through the sale of the Compendium and other in game items inside of DOTA 2. I still cannot believe that a video game tournament had a prize pool of over $10.9 million. Now to give comparison to a sport like golf, the Masters Championship this year gave out $10 million in prize money, the highest ever for the tournament. 

I know you have every right to be skeptical about E-Sports and DOTA 2. I understand because I was skeptical as well. I never thought I would consider watching a video game as entertaining (or in a lot of cases more so) as watching the Super Bowl, World Series, College Football National Championship, or the NBA Championship. My view of video games has changed over the years from something that me and my friends did for fun on my birthday every year, to a legitimate competition between players from all over the world that is supported by all those average gamers like me and potentially you that play the same game and love it so very much.