It’s been over a month since Kris and I attended the latest iteration of the biggest event in Dota 2 -The International 6. For one week, we were at the beating, bleeding heart of the game that we have spent thousands of hours playing, watching, learning, and loving. For most of the world, it was just another week, another stream on Twitch. Another event for gamers to make small talk about for a while. For us, it was a week that we’ve been dreaming about for years – a true nerdy dream come true.
From the moment that Kris and I first realized that we could attend TI6 and booked our tickets, I honestly had trouble processing that we were ACTUALLY GOING TO TI. For weeks, I caught myself thinking ‘Only 3 months until you’re going to TI’. It’s tough to describe in words what it felt like to even contemplate going to go and see players that I had been following for years.
With about a week to go, this hype elevated to another level. The crew head of GosuGamers (a gaming site that I have written for since last year) asked me to be the official interviewer for the site for the event. I was given press access to the whole event (meaning I went for free, and quickly sold my pre-bought tickets), and details about the press day that would happen the weekend before TI itself. I was actually going to meet the players. Talk to them. Try not to make jokes that were too bad.
Before we knew it, the press day was upon us. A Saturday morning and early afternoon spent conversing about the game I love with the players I may or may not have significant feelings for. Or, to be more precise, to spend an hour too scared shitless and nervous to actually talk to anyone, before proceeding to actually be an effective(ish) interviewer for the rest of the time. I managed to interview AdmiralBulldog (a favourite player of Kris and I), Raven, GeNeral, Shadow, Ohaiyo, and the entire team of Escape Gaming, which was split up into two videos (qojqva and syNdereN and Khezu, Yapz0r and Era). I was incredibly nervous for most of the time, shown by my repeated head-bobbing (I look like my neck isn’t quite working properly).
Despite my nerves, this day was arguably my favourite day of the entire tournament. Sure, we would see some sick plays and meet the community over the course of the following week. But in terms of level of dream achievement, I don’t think it got better than the press day for me. I was in Seattle, interviewing players, and writing pieces and doing videos about them. I have never felt more legitimate in the eSports world yet. Kris even dipped her toe into eSports journalism, writing a well-received piece on the cosplayers of TI6.
While the press day may have been the high point in terms of personal legitimacy, the rest of TI certainly made my inner fanboy happy on an almost continuous basis. From being able to easily look from the screen where the action was taking place to their agonizing faces in the team booths, to obtaining piles of merchandise, to new heroes (yes, more than one!) being revealed and teased, to the overall high production value of the event, I almost constantly had a smile on my face more prominent than the pain in my neck from looking up at the screen for hours at a time.
What I was struck by most at the main event was the community. Even though we were sitting with press, everyone seemed to just be there for the love of the game itself. Sure, they would feverishly write pieces during the action, but when there was a crucial play, bad decision, or upset, there would not be a person in Key Arena not watching. Some of my favourite moments were just sitting with some of the friends we made, talking about our lives, Dota, and how we were hoping to get one of the rare drops that occurred only for people in the stadium. The entirety of Key Arena was a true community, united in its love for Dota 2.
This sense of community extended to the players and personalities themselves. There were constant photo sessions, where us plebs could meet and take a photo with our favourite members of the community, from players to casters to hosts. We ony managed to get to one of these sessions, with Troels ‘syNdereN’ Nielsen.
Troels plays for Escape Gaming, and he is the player that got me interested in Dota 2. I played Dota 1 back in high school, but left it behind me when I went to university. After a couple of years, I found out about Dota 2, and was playing it casually. Then I discovered Troels’ stream of the game. I watched him whenever I could, and loved that I could watch and learn from one of the best in the world. It helps that he was funny and, as I would discover on the press day and autograph session, an incredibly nice, warm guy. Only that kind of person would agree to the glorious photo that is the header image of this piece.
Even outside of the assigned sessions, personalities were all very approachable. You could walk up to them while they were wandering the arena, and if they were free, they would happily talk to you and share some of their time. It warmed my heart that even though they were famous in the community, they didn’t see themselves as above everyone else. They earnestly thanked you for any kind words or stories you would share. They offered of themselves, both in time and energy.
From interviewing to watching to prowling the arena looking to snag a photo with someone you know and love, TI6 was truly a dream weekend. Kris and I saw some of the best Dota 2 we’ve ever seen. We made friends that we will hopefully keep in touch with for years to come (even though I am terrible at social media). We met our idols. All in all, TI6 was a week of happiness that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Can we go back yet?