August 30, 2017

Back from The International 2017

Just got back from a long, exciting weekend in Seattle. Specifically, it was a trip to check out the TI7 finals (and wow, what a story–more on that below). But it was also a time to catch up with friends, check out some breweries, chow down some chowder, and tourist it up a bit.

A second trip to The International

After having a blast last year, I was determined to visit the event again this year. It wasn’t easy; tickets are sold out insanely fast, and cross-country airfare can be difficult to afford. Luckily, it all panned out in the end, and we had two finals tickets lined up.

Last year, I went with Alex. He’s a friend (and former roommate) from college, as well as a queue-buddy in Heroes of Newerth (or, simply, HoN”). We played a lot of HoN together in college. We never got into DOTA 2, as the release was poorly timed for us–we’d just graduated college and didn’t have the hours that every MoBA requires as tributary.

However, Alex follows DOTA 2 more closely than I do, and at the very least knows what all the heroes do. It’s a useful resource (and some would say a requirement) to enjoy watching DOTA 2 — there’s just so much going on; you need someone to ask questions to really get much out of it.

Esportin’ with the boys

While I have long been involved with esports, for a lot of people it’s a completely new experience. This year we were joined by our mutual friend who flew out with me: Matt Yates. Matt is from the same era in college, that saw too many late nights sacrificed to cheap beer and HoN.

Matt, unlike me and Alex, doesn’t follow esports at all. He plays Rocket League with us every couple of weeks; that’s about it. The world of esports, DOTA 2, and The International were all new to him. And bringing along someone you want to have a good time to TI who doesn’t play the game or follow the teams? That’s a challenge.

Alex quickly secured a third ticket, and we were off for a cross-country visit… and an entire esports event to take in. I was just hoping we could suck Matt into it.

Thankfully, it was easy to have a blast at the event. Our shared knowledge of HoN (which itself was a port of the first DOTA game) made it easier to explain what was happening. And by the end, Matt was tossing around predictions, questioning draft picks, and yelling during every teamfight along with the rest of the stadium.

Any nervousness I had at bringing a new friend into the esports realm was quickly squashed, and by the end of the weekend we were excitedly talking about who else we should bring next year.

Who would have thought a group of college buddies who don’t even play DOTA (I’ve uninstalled the game on four separate occassions) would create a yearly tradition around an esports event? Just goes to show that esports is in a pretty exciting (and growing) time.

The International 2017

Going into the event, our goal was essentially to cheer on teams that had players from HoN. Alex and I also had a few favorite players we wanted to see. In the end, we were rooting for OG, Team Secret, Cloud 9, Team Liquid, and EG. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived for the final two days, it did not look good for our HoN brethren.

But, let’s talk about the event itself.

The International 2017 (“TI7) was an absolute nail-biter this year. Despite projections, Chinese teams did exceptionally well, crushing fan favorites and dominating EU teams with little problem. Teams like EG, OG, and Cloud 9 were all out of the tournament fairly early on, with Chinese teams such as LFY, LFG, and Newbee kicking them to lower bracket without much difficulty.

Quickly it dawned on us that our dreams of watching a HoN teams in the final two days was not going to play out. However, the unlikely rise of Team Liquid was fun to watch. And more than that–it was incredibly exciting to see them play in the stadium itself. A very tense run all the way from the lower bracket, rising back and eventually winning the Grand Finals 3-0.

For more about the winners and the games themselves, I’d check out this article from RockPaperShotgun that digs into the details.

That special something

It’s hard to explain just why The International is such a cool event. It’s clear to see why DOTA is Valve’s baby. From the live orchestra and music performances to new hero announcements to dozens of emotional and humorous videos, there’s just so much put into it.

In a way, it feels like Valve just taking yet another victory lap around the track. They bask a bit in their successes with the game, as an esport, and as a company that cares about it’s community. It’s not really structured as a convention, like Blizzcon. Instead, Valve pours their effort into TI, and as a DOTA fan you leave with plenty of swag, announcements, and a newfound appreciation for the game. It makes me jealous that I’m not more of a DOTA fan myself.

Part of the draw is certainly the crowd. Being able to witness it all in-person, and with the roars and gasps during every team fight, it’s something pretty cool. Hell, it’s memorable. But there’s more to The International than the crowd…

What that is, I’ve yet to find out. I’ve been to a few other esport events, but there’s some extra special about TI. And it’s that magic that wants me to gather my friends and make the cross-country trip year after year.

Biggest disappointment? No visit from the man himself, Gabe Newell, though he did make a cameo in one of their perfectly crafted videos.

Actually, wait, no. Biggest disappointment: when I setup a meet-and-greet with the man himself: BreakyCPK. My idiot friends got too distracted to go and grab a beer with him. Alex, Matt, if you guys are reading this, y’all fucked up hard.

Next year, BreakyCPK. We’re coming for you.

hontrash squad out


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