Long time, no post. Yes, this is my first post of 2014.
Free to Play, Valve's documentary trailing the stories of various competitors from DOTA2's first global tournament dubbed "The International", is now available for viewing on Steam. I had a chance to watch it this weekend and wanted to share some thoughts.
From outside view one might mistake this as just advertainment for DOTA2, but just a few minutes into the film it is very apparent that this is much more a human interest story about eSports and the athletes that pursue them than it is anything about DOTA2. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything of interest from the actual game of DOTA2.
With the actual game out of the way we are left with a very well shot and edited documentary that follows several of the players through the trials and tribulations of competing in the first million+ dollar tournament. True to the name of the tournament, players from different countries are followed.
The film does an excellent job of giving watchers a glimpse not only into the lives of professional gamers, but also the culture surrounding those players in their home countries. It is every interesting to see how the gaming culture is perceived in Asian countries vs countries in the west. However, even with dramatically different cultural movements in regards to eSport gaming there was a consistent trend of doubting family members, specifically parents. Yes, even in the gaming obsessed China the athletes mothers and fathers were just as disappointed in their children's investment into professional gaming at the cost of traditional education as the parents from the USA.
The core message of the film seems to be sacrifice. The sacrifices are well documented throughout the film and whether its a lost girlfriend, a missed semester of school, or hard thoughts of a father no longer with a son they all hit home with the viewer. These are real people pursuing a dream and I think most people can identify with that rare opportunity so few of use get to take that we can't help but cheer on those being followed in the film.
Of course it all comes crashing down for most of the competitors. Most teams left The International with nothing more than expensive bills for plane tickets, hotels, and meals. Unlike traditional sports there is no salary being earned by most eSport athletes. If the team doesn't win, they don't get paid. This adds up to interesting and heartwarming realizations from the participants after the tournament has come and gone. There is in fact more to life than just games.
I can't recommend this documentary enough to gamers and nongamers alike.
Embedded copy below: