[NEW] The comedy and tragedy of the Dota 2 Shanghai Major | shanghai dota2 open – Vietnamnhanvan

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Three Lane Highway

Documenting Chris’ complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2. To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

You either laugh or you cry. After the anger and drama of the Shanghai Major’s opening days—and in spite of the genuinely excellent Dota that has happened and continues to happen—the event has consolidated itself as the world’s first cringe comedy with a three million dollar prize pool.

We’ve been given a whole season in just a few days, starting with an incredible pilot episode that demonstrates a rare commitment to pushing a punchline until it stops being funny. Then: The One With The Starving Broadcast Director. The One With The Trapped Manager. The One With The Stranded Talent. The One With The Imprisoned Cosplayers. The One With The ‘VIP’ Room. The One With The Mystery X-Files Hell Noise. The One With The Missing Keyboard. The One With The Missing Audience.

Season-spanning running gags include massive delays, audio and video issues, unsoundproof soundproof booths that make you sick, and so on. And so on.

Good comedy twists the knife: the last Chinese team in contention was eliminated today. There are no hometown teams in the top eight, which is unprecedented for a region that at one point was considered to be the most competitive in the world. China’s star had fallen since, for sure, but I don’t think anybody expected a result this comprehensively poor. If you were wondering what the worst-case-scenario for the future of Dota as a spectator sport in China looked like, it looks like an 18,000-seater UFO full of mistakes.

The Shanghai Major has been a dis-AIII-ster, as TobiWan once put it, but for the most part its problems are true accidents. Asking ‘why would they do this?’ is as pointless in this context as it is in a game of Dota 2: if Valve or PerfectWorld had known it would be this way, they wouldn’t have done it this way.

Were it not for the quality of the matches it would be tempting to write the whole thing off as a fiasco and move on.

And there are plenty of people working tirelessly to make sure that it doesn’t stay this way. The new production team, struggling to get an international broadcast on its feet with only a few days’ notice. The commentary teams from every territory, pulling double or even triple shifts to keep the event alive. The players, who have continued to turn out top-tier performances, who have flirted with rebellion here and there but never committed to open revolt. As baffling and terrible as it has been at times, the show has gone on.

It may be too late to save the narrative, however. This will be remembered as the Major that went wrong, and it’ll hopefully be the only one—you’ve got to believe that the team in Manila is playing their own game of How Do We Make Sure This Isn’t Us right now.

Then there’s the existing narrative that these problems play into: the notion that professional Dota 2 in China must necessarily always encounter issues on this scale, something that isn’t the case for League of Legends (and hasn’t been for Dota in the past) but that has been on the rise since the disastrous World Cyber Arena in January. This is a complex situation that requires serious and informed consideration, but in the short term all it has done is inspired an ugly racist streak in Twitch chat (something that Twitch chat has not traditionally needed help with.)

Were it not for the quality of the matches it would be tempting to write the whole thing off as a fiasco and move on. There’s not much to be taken away from the problems of the playoffs save ‘well maybe let’s not do this again’—I feel, vicariously, a bit like I did when I missed my plane home after the Frankfurt Major because I was drunk. Slow zoom in on an idiot’s face. Music. Credits.

Valve-as-enemy (particularly Gabe Newell-as-enemy) is a new angle for most.

The lasting significance of the Shanghai Major isn’t in the issues with its production, however, but in the event’s relationship with comedy in general: in the firing of James ‘2GD’ Harding and the extraordinary manner in which Gabe Newell and Valve chose to do it. This community has been let down by tournament showrunners before. It is telling that most assumed, when Harding announced that he’d been fired, that PerfectWorld were responsible. Valve have been absent and uncommunicative in the past, but they have never before set themselves in opposition to their audience’s most vocal element as visibly or unapologetically as this. Valve-as-enemy (particularly Gabe Newell-as-enemy) is a new angle for most.

With regard to their customers Valve like to position themselves as an Aikido master in a forest of spears: never striking first, always reacting, responding, redirecting. Their role is to watch, first and foremost, and to only take the most subtle, efficient and direct action. The notion that they’re a purely data-driven studio has symbolic as well as practical value, hedging against the uncomfortable consequences of being responsible for quite so many players and developers. They are protected by the implication that it’s not us that has all of this power, it’s you.

The frank and personal nature of Newell’s reddit post dispels that mystique—it’s like discovering that your Aikido master has a gun down the back of his pants. The Zen openness of Valve’s management structure suddenly looks a whole lot more Confucian, top-down, political and preference-driven.

I fully believe that Newell means what he wrote. It seems likely that it was necessary to fire Harding in order to protect the event, Valve’s relationship with their partners, and possibly Valve’s own sense of what they’d like Dota 2 to represent. Yet it is precisely because his sentiment was genuine, so directly put, and so much in opposition to community demand, that this series of events is so surprising. They moved against the data.

The situation has been rendered binary and oppositional—’ass or them’.

I’m of the opinion that this doesn’t matter much if the decision was the right one. In fact, there are plenty of other instances where I’ve wanted Valve to take a stronger line—player behaviour being the standout example. In Harding’s case I’m not sure that they could have made any other call: he dropped a c-bomb, he made a government censorship joke about porn in arguably the worst country in the world to do that in. Perhaps in other circumstances these would be grounds to issue a warning but give him a chance to get it right on the second day. That’s not that the call that was made. Fine. Sometimes things work out that way.

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Yet the audience’s takeaway from this isn’t that c-bombs aren’t allowed: it’s that humour isn’t allowed, that esports should aspire to the mode and manner of traditional sport. This is likely not the response that Valve wanted, but the aggressive and arrogant-sounding way in which they went about handling the Harding situation has driven his fans to his version of events. You’re either for humour and with Harding or you’re with Valve and you want your esports with a side of golf tournament. The situation has been rendered binary and oppositional—’ass or them’.

This question of tone is a useful discussion to have, or at least it was. Harding himself has argued eloquently in the past that esports are best served with humour, most notably in this (long) interview from last year’s International (which he wasn’t invited to host.) Some of the things he did on the Shanghai stream were, I thought, genuinely great: the silly games to get analysts to come out of their shells, the willingness to challenge the ego of a pro player every now and then. What the stream didn’t need was the dick jokes and the swearing and the deliberate attempts to make people uncomfortable—not because these things should be banned, but because there are smarter and funnier ways to entertain your audience. Fourteen year old boys may constitute a substantial part of the esports viewership, but they do not levy a tax in forced edgyness by default. You have to choose to pander to them.

Valve were, I thought, getting closer and closer to what I would perceive as the ideal third way: that esports are not beholden to the history of either sports or games.

In coming at this one so publicly and aggressively, Valve have drawn an equivalent emotional response from the community. Harding’s case for himself is built on a defensive reflex: esports were built by edgy boys in bedrooms, not billionaires in boardrooms. It is attractive to frame this as an existential fight for the industry’s future: alienated vs. predator. In truth, however, it’s an argument over which outdated idea is going to inherit the business. You can either have ‘games are for teenagers’ or you can have ‘sports are businesses’, and those are your only options.

Valve were, I thought, getting closer and closer to what I would perceive as the ideal third way: that esports are not beholden to the history of either sports or games. That they are their own, new thing, and can adopt business models and modes of conduct that haven’t been thought of yet. That they can be dramatic and lucrative and also silly and entertaining—that they can own the fact that they are ultimately high octane god damn wizard sports. That you can take the irreverence and wit of esports past and professionalise them, bring them to a bigger audience, make them for everybody.

Instead the situation has devolved into name-calling. You don’t have a discussion about what an esports panel performance should be. You don’t even have a dry and data-driven decision to simply give the loudest people what they want. You have Gabe Newell calling somebody an ass on reddit and his audience laughing through their tears at the dramatic irony of the Major’s subsequent collapse.

The scene will recover, but it’ll also remember—and because this is an esports community, it will remember in the form of memes. The real tragedy of this event isn’t the production. It’s Valve handling a delicate situation so badly that they’ve turned their own power into a joke.

PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!

[NEW] Dota 2 May Become Major Driver of E-Sports in China | shanghai dota2 open – Vietnamnhanvan

At the conclusion of last year’s international Dota tournament, Ti8, the venue location for Ti9 was announced. It was to be held: Shanghai, China. The Vancouver stadium immediately exploded with ear-splitting cheers as Chinese fans finally had their wish of attending the event on their home ground come true. Many said they were swept off their feet and unable to accurately express their profound excitement through the deafening roars alone.

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Dota is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by American game developer Valve Corporation. The game has, since its inception around 2011, been a global cultural phenomenon, bringing millions across the world together to one platform and allowing them to engage in fierce clashes and participate in the game’s development. The game has not only garnered the support of fans across the West, but also in the East too, particularly those in China.

Signing ceremony celebrating Dota 2 Ti9 officially arrival in Shanghai (Source: Internet)

Following a recent report showing the relatively empty e-sports scene in China, estimates are that in the coming 5 years, China will see a rise in demand of e-sports talents from a rough estimate of 50,000 to up to a blazing 200 million. With Dota being a rising star in the sector, it is very likely that it can supply the necessary talents to fill in the gaps and transcend from a mere video game in China to a major driver for its e-sports scene.

But why exactly is that?

Soaring popularity in China

With Ti9 finally making its way to China this time, Valve split the ticket sales on two different platforms—Damai.cn and Universe. Tickets of Ti9 allocated to Chinese fans were sold out in less than 1 minute. 26,804 tickets gone in the span of 53 seconds, with the grand finals tickets being sold out in less than 27 seconds to be exact, according to the Director of Operations for e-sports organization Team Secret, Matthew Bailey. That said, Dota’s popularity in China should, by sheer numbers alone, be quite obvious and warrant no further explanation.

“From high school to now, from regular school competitions to Ti9, from one Dota streamer to several, Dota has left a deep imprint in my youth,” said a Chinese fan on Zhihu. “My friends and I may be bound by work, life, and visa problems, making it hard for us to go to Seattle, Vancouver, or Cologne to cheer for our beloved team, but damn it. This time, it’s finally here!”

Dota 2 Ti9 aegis (source: Dota 2 China)

But more than that, Chinese players make up a massive chunk of the total volume of players across Dota. According to data shown on SteamDB, a community website not affiliated with Valve or Steam, Southeast Asian servers contributes to around 70 to 80 percent of matches per day now compared to its initial 40 percent back in 2013. And this is not counting the player volumes from Perfect World servers, which hosts games for players in China specifically. If the two sets of data were to be combined, this could mean a greater leap in actual numbers.

Dota 2 servers across the world not including Perfect World ones (Source: Dota.rgp.io)

“If we take a leap and assume a major chunk of the SEA player base is Chinese speaking we can add the numbers. SEA and China numbers together make up 50-55% of matches on any day. Additionally, looking at the number of players searching for a match we can see similar numbers of 50-55%,” as mentioned in the findings.

The overwhelming popularity of the game has even galvanized some schools to make it a subject of study in certain areas in China. That’s right. Chongqing Energy College is just one of several schools that offers courses aimed at teaching students about the game, as well as about the growing sensation that is e-sports. What the educational institutes are hoping for is that students will take what they learn from Dota, a team-based game that requires cooperation and coordination, and apply those skills to real world situations. Ludicrous as it sounds, it shows just how popular the video game has really become in the country.

Government approval and support

Following the conclusion of Ti8, the state media broadcasted Chinese team PSG.LGD’s achievement of coming in second during the grand finals of the international tournament. To have a video game, an already-sensitive topic in China, appear on Xinwen Lianbo, the government’s news outlet for making important announcements, is no small feat for any legally licensed video game in the country. CCTV called the game a “green game” back in 2015, roughly meaning a healthy game for all ages to play.

CCTV news broadcasting Dota 2 tournament in 2017 (Source: Bilibili)

It can be said that Dota 2 came to China at a lucky period back in 2012. It passed the government’s cultural screenings without a sweat and had its exclusive rights to market and distribute in mainland China granted to Chinese game publisher Perfect World. With that said, it has been enjoying a smooth cruise and a steady growth in popularity in China.

Not only that, China’s decision to suspend new game license approvals last year in March may have even boosted Dota’s prominence in the market further. The nine-month long freeze on license approvals devasted major game publishers such as Tencent, who has seen its share prices plummet because the licensing halt crippled its ability to generate gaming revenues. Because new mobile games weren’t coming out, existing PC titles were able to gain an even better traction in the market. While Tencent was bearing the brunt of the freeze and losing out almost $150 billion in the company’s market value, Dota was climbing steadily in its daily active users and game volumes.

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Moving further back in time, China’s mobile- and PC-focused gaming scene today could be more or less traced back to its 15-year ban on video game consoles, making it a great breeding ground for PC games to flourish. Game consoles were first banned in 2000 due to fears that the devices and the content they came with would have a negative influences on the mental and physical development of children. When the ban was finally lifted after more than a decade, popular PC titles—such as Dota—were already deeply rooted in the minds of Chinese players, and even providing a source of inspiration for other games such as the popular mobile MOBA, Arena of Valor.

Ti 2018 in Rogers Arena, Vancouver (Source: Internet)

Even though Arena of Valor is the most popular mobile game in China played by over 600 million monthly active users, it is perhaps not as influential to the whole gaming sector as Dota would likely have. The latest Arena of Valor world cup tournament to be held features a maximum prize pool of roughly $2.3 million, according to the official website. This is a meager amount compared to Dota Ti9’s colossal and still growing $23 million prize pool. The annual Dota event has broken the record for e-sports prize pools for eight years in a row consistently. Not taking into account the massive turnout that’s about to hit Shanghai in August, the event alone will bring forth not only a lucrative boom to China’s gaming sector, but also to other important markets such as tourism and more.

Active community engagement

With all that said, the biggest driver behind Dota’s ever-rising popularity in China is still arguably its passionate and highly engaging community behind.

Dota 2 may be overseen by Valve Corporation, but it’s still a widely community-driven, constantly evolving ecosystem. The main developers are to this day constantly observing and heeding to feedback from a loud and deeply engaged community. Chinese members occupy a relatively major chunk of the group, constantly contributing to Dota’s overall art style using the in-game workshop for designing and selling their own cosmetic kits. The open contribution allows community members to not only feel more engaged to the development of the game, but also make a profit while seeing their creations come to life at live events.

Monkey King in Dota 2 (Source: Dota 2)

Over the years, Valve has also poured in lots of efforts to cater to the Chinese crowd by bringing tons of in-game promotions and cosmetic add-ons that reflect Chinese culture. From the launch of the Chinese New Year festival promotion in 2015 to the approval of various skins with Chinese characteristics, to even the addition of the popular hero—Monkey King as a playable character in the game, Chinese fans were able to resonate with the game every step of the way. The voice-over for the Dota 2 Monkey King was even done by the same actor who played the Monkey King back in the 80s Chinese TV series of the same title. The thoughtful decision allows Chinese players to have their classic, beloved, and mischievous monkey protagonist come to life on their computer screens and wreak havoc across the exciting battlefield.

The Chinese e-sports market has become the most influential and promising market in the world. According to third party statistics research institutions, the overall market size of China’s e-sports in 2018 is 94.05 billion yuan (RMB, the same below), and is expected to exceed 135 billion yuan in 2020. From the perspective of e-sports users, numbers are expected to reach 430 million yuan in 2020.

PSG.LGD team members (Source: PSG e-sports)

Whether Dota would be able to boost these numbers and become a major driving force behind China’s ballooning gaming sector remains to be seen. As for now, fans across the world are simply anxious and excited for the ninth international Dota tournament to unfold in August at Shanghai.

Featured photo credit to yandex


G1 NEWBEE vs ViciGaming Shanghai Dota 2 Open


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