The way Valve ran The International says a lot about them as a company. They put on a videogame competition at the Benaroya Hall, a concert hall regularly reserved for the Seattle Symphony and opera. It was a well-run event, showcasing their upcoming title, DotA 2, further legitimizing the hobby and promoting a positive public image.
Teams came from all over and competed in a series of best-of-three matches leading up to the best-of-five finals on Sunday night. What came through is the ethos of the competitors. There were vastly different approaches to the game, ranging from the almost mathematical brand of Chinese DotA to the exciting and risk-taking European styles.
After several days of heated competition it came down to a match between returning champions Na’Vi and the Chinese under-dogs, iG, who emerged from the loser’s bracket to take on what might be the best team in DotA. The finals started roughly for Na’Vi and in-step with plenty of their prior rounds, they seemed to be throwing the first game. But iG held their ground in the remaining matches and ultimately came through with multiple upset victories and won the million dollar pot, 3-1.
This followed after three days of weeding through fiercely contested matches. There were few hitches in the competition, apart from occasional pauses caused by lag – it’s worth noting, the game’s still in Beta – and the audience remained fully engaged throughout. It was an uplifting sort of event and with all the hype and liberal use of air horns, easily rivaled the excitement surrounding competitive sport, albeit in a slightly self-conscious and inhibited way.
We spoke with some members of Valve and all were in good spirits, talkative, and excited about how the tournament had come together. We talked with a writer on the game whom described it felt good to be a part of something that brought people together.
Those in attendance were also buzzing about the event. People came from all over and many just to see The International. Many had made a trip out of it and were there for the full three day stretch. It’s telling of DotA’s broad appeal that it has this kind of draw, especially when the Penny Arcade Expo had been taking place only a couple miles uptown, with plenty of yet-to-be-released games on show, and tournaments of its own.
Alongside the event, Valve would launch an in-game DotA 2 spectating client where fans could watch from within the context of the game. There were also a variety of streaming services made available over the DotA web-site. Considering the self-promoted competitions are relatively new for the developer, they have gone all-out to ensure they’re getting it right early and often.
The International was a spirited and largely successful event that brought people together out of admiration and genuine excitement for Valve’s work. It conveyed a special quality specific to the developer, showing the way they connect with the audience and are committed to furthering not only their own craft but the perception of gaming’s value as a competitive thing.