Witnessing the making of Dota 2 history

Witnessing the making of Dota 2 history
With 10,000 ticket holders, the Key Arena's atmosphere was sometimes deafening.

At 6.45am on a summer's day, a friend and I stood outside the Key Arena stadium in Seattle, Washington, at the end of a line that stretched for at least 500m.

We were not queuing up for a concert or a mega athletic event.

We were there to witness history be made at the finals of the Defence Of The Ancients (Dota) 2 global tournament, which took place from July 18 to 21.

There was a jaw-dropping total of US$10.9 million (S$13.5 million) in prize money, with US$5 million going to the winning team. It is a prize pool unparalleled in the history of e-sports.

Although the stadium gates would open only at 8am, and the first match was scheduled for 10am, the hype was already building when I joined the queue. Gamers were trash-talking and predicting winners. Two Chinese guys with Team DK's logo shaved into their short crops were looking over the merchandise catalogue, deciding what to buy.

When the gates opened, the crowd made a beeline for the Secret Shop, where Dota 2 merchandise was sold. My friend and I waited almost two hours in line and spent US$1,700 on shirts, leggings, mousepads, figurines, pins and hoodies. This was where our early start paid off. A friend who got in line at 7.15am ended up waiting until 1pm to buy his stuff.

Inside the stadium, the atmosphere fluctuated wildly depending on the match-up. If the English-speaking teams Evil Geniuses, Na'vi, DK or Cloud 9 were in the booths, the place would be packed to the rafters and the stadium would be rocking with crazy chants. On the other hand, if it was the China teams facing off - LGD Gaming, Invictus Gaming, Vici Gaming or eventual winners Newbee - the crowd was noticeably more subdued.

Language barriers apart, the Chinese style of play, while efficient, wins few hearts. In previous tournaments, Chinese match-ups were infamous for being hour-long games, with few clashes and extremely defensive line-ups.

This time, they were anything but. Runners-up Vici Gaming tore through the bracket with extremely aggressive heroes. Its strategy was good for the first 10 minutes; if the game lasted longer, it most likely lost. While ruthlessly efficient, Vici's style and limited hero choice was one-dimensional.

All the same, there were some truly amazing games, such as the third game in a best of three between crowd favourites Cloud 9 and Na'vi. This was an elimination match and many in the crowd were wearing their teams' jerseys.

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