I reached at the Seattle International Airport at around 4’o clock in the morning and it felt bliss. Tired I was, excited even more. I relieved all the pain while entering into the Airport of the city I dreamed of coming. Precisely about DotA 2 – The International.

I took a flight to the U.S. from Ahmedabad, which had a scheduled halt of 2 hours at Dubai, the excitement level was unmatchable and you’d understand by even reading if you are a DotA fan. From watching the games from desktop to witnessing it live through the naked eye at the arena, it was invincible. My journey, though, wasn’t elementary. I had to go through a lot of unplanned and circumstantial struggles which were uninvited when I first planned this voyage.

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I landed in Dubai on 2nd of August, unknowingly that a major accident has postponed all the flights at the Dubai International for an unannounced period. Furthermore, I was stuck at Dubai International Airport for over a day, which was duly unplanned and spontaneous. I did get myself accompanied by a couple of fellow passengers which were pretty nice to interact with, but you see, 24 hours at the airport waiting for a flight is completely unwarranted. But thanks to the classy gesture by the airport authorities as they took care of their attendants and passengers pretty well, offering every bearer of a boarding pass with a free meal and unlimited WiFi!

Finally, after a tedious mid-air journey and jet-lag – to which I am allergic – I landed safely at the RDU International Airport, North Carolina and travelled to my sister’s place. After spending a couple of days there, we – me and my sister – took flights to Seattle and successfully arrived there a day before the event, 7th of August. I’ll warn you again of the length of this article at the very beginning :P. But if you are a patient reader, you’ll be glad to share the experience with me! <3

On day one, my journey to the International was halted due to the traffic. Fortunate to my fate, I entered into the venue just-in-time during the opening ceremony where Lindsey Stirling with her violin on stage, looked beautiful! The venue was over-loaded. Omni-red was the colour scheme and everything around looked bloody gorgeous!! (no punn intended). The climax of the ceremony was when voids ultimate would pop the bands and everything would glow purple. The feeling was unconventional, I haven’t had such an experience before. It was something else, hearing the crowd cheer and being a part of it was joyful, indeed. I spotted more of Chinese and the Filipinos than Indians, and the energy was outclassed!

After Lindsey’s performance, OG and MVP were invited on stage. At that moment I realised the huge difference of watching the game on the monitor screen and actually being a part of the screamy crowd live from the arena! IT WAS WILD!!

I was in the place which I have been dreaming of being, past 3 years.

After the teams were greeted, the games started to begin. Just before the picks and the bans of heroes, The International presented an incredible way of implementing Augmented Reality (AR). The 3D model of the heroes appeared on stage!

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After the first 2 games, the loser bracket games were gonna start, so I went out to pick up my goodie bag!! There was a chain of people queued to claim their’s and it was worth the wait. You get some really cool stuff in the bag (will send you an image of the stuff in it) they also gave us this

Stuff inside the goodie bag

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You get some really cool stuff in the bag. A DotA branded personal notebook which I think will be with my till I travel to the grave. Also these pretty magnets that were emojis from the game.

I then went to the will-call line, where I picked up my final day pass since I didn’t have one, but Akshat (my friend from NODWIN) was kind enough to present it to me. I really appreciate his hospitality all throughout the days till I was there. He let me sit in the front rows of the press so I could observe the players from a closer angle, that was something so contended to me .

As the day went by, I made a lot of new friends from all over the world. Generally, I am an introverted personality. But when you’re in between the people who share same emotions, interests, excitement and what not! You feel like you’re home. It’s so easy to initiate conversations, you can understand the emotions when there’s an interesting play. The cheering is not coordinated but associated much!

It was absurd for most of the viewers to see OG and Secret get eliminated so early in the event. The majority of the crowd (including me) was rooting out of them, and since Puppey is my favourite, it was disheartening to see him get eliminated so early in the game which was unlikely.

This year’s instalment of The International was so different, the teams that were in the juncture were well deserved. The level, the gameplay and the skillset of the players were so much improved that their hard work was visible. It was quite obvious even, as they were fighting for such a huge prize pool. A life changing event for each one of those.

When DC lost on the first day, I was walking by the participant’s area when I spotted Misery focusing and he looked tensed. It wasn’t the right time to intervene so I dipped my thoughts of having an autograph and left him alone with his me-time.

The structure of the attendees was utterly standard, you could view the games even from the outside of the main arena without the passes. It was good for the people who didn’t follow the professional scene so thoroughly and they could yet enjoy the games. Seattle has a lovely weather, the mixture of sunny and cloudy with absolutely no humidity, so you are less irritated even when things don’t go as you expect them to be! It was similar to what Bangalore and Pune offers.

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After I finished checking out the arena from outside, I went back in and bumped into Sheever durated near the autograph section, she looked stunning as always. I went up to her and asked her to sign my canvas, she smiled and we spoke for awhile, I told her I had come from India and she remembered that we had spoken before, she has become so huge in the industry and it felt good to know that she even then was so humble. The first thing came to my mind that time was to be in touch with her after I was back.

Next, I met Capitilist (another caster) I have always admired casters cause I love shoutcasting myself and these people have always been an inspiration to me, he was a great guy too, they don’t really sit in their chambers all day long, I liked how they are so open and free to talk too. Bruno too was great fun to meet, I was on the 9th cloud sharing the same venue as these community veterans which I admire most often. After day one, I headed back to my room, caught some sleep and was quick to reach arena the next day. The games were on, Wings Gaming was showing off some indifferent doto. They realized me how quickly we terminate our playstyle and start following other professionals without knowing that even we could discover new ways to play the game. They went with the picks they felt were good for them. They showcased some insane dota!

Moo’s mother was definitely a treat to watch. The way she was excited to see her son play on a stage as big as this, that was commendable! She used to sit in the front row everytime and when DO won, she would run up the aisle towards the players room to greet them. It was so heartwarming to see her sharing his son’s dream. The crowd would chant moo every time dc walked out, and mama moo would smile, we need bunch of more cool mamas like her !

Everyday,  before each games they would show us one player story, and even though it was just a story, it always was a beautiful one. Their stories of agony, hardwork, the true sacrifices they have made to make their way to the top. It’s always hard to give up on an early stage, but to keep pushing and to be standing where they were standing. that is a victory of its own, they were all winners to me.

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Kaci and slacks were always around the place, doing their fun stuff, making people get more involved with the event,
One evening while I was walking through the hall of heroes, I saw slacks talking to nothing xD and I was wondering why?! I later saw the edited part of the video where he was actually talking to oracle, I love how they keep adding new elements to the event, and to watch the real version and how they convert it into something so magical is very commendable.

Had this huge juggs statue near the fountain of the arena, he looked so mAgistic omg xx. Next year I hope they do an invoker. There were people clicking pictures around him all the time.

When you walk around the arena you see an aridity of DotA things all around. You see all the different flags of all the teams playing, they look so kickass just hung from the ceiling. You see the radiant and dire hero walls, with all the heroes there. You even have beer named after different hero spells. I tried the alacrity and poison strike (invoker and queen of pain) they were pretty neat xD a must try for people above the age of 21. :p

The cosplayers were just brilliant.

I met a girl on day 2, and we spoke about gaming for awhile, since we were both standing and charging our phones, she told me about her friends who play and how she loves DotA, it was a different feeling for me, cause I only talk about the game with the boys back home. To have a conversation with a girl about DotA was very new to me, I know I sound crazy now.

We even exchanged ID’s, so we could play sometime . Ofcouce she plays on the U.S. server so I don’t think I can play with 300 ping, but to just connect with her was cool :$ we spoke about the support problems we have, hahah and were gossiping about different heroes and how sometimes we get mocked in games. But overall it was a great conversation for me. I felt better knowing that maybe it’s just I don’t fit into the normal crowd of the world, but when I am with the people who understand my thoughts and what I love to do!  I could have an endless conversation with the people whom with I share interests. She was a cosplayer, and the days to follow we kept meeting and taking pictures with her amazing cosplays. She did a Miranananaaaaa and crystal maiden, She had come for the event before, so she knew her stuff well :), Hope we get to play a bit too when I head back to India.

I wanted to go night gaming, but I couldn’t find an open cafe, Seattle things get slow around the arena by the time it’s 10pm late evening.

My neighbour from the hotel was also there for the event, I knew that cause on day 3 I saw him near the rest room and he had worn the dota 2 tee, so I just screamed and was shocked to know that he plays DotA as well. But we started talking and he told me how he had come from California with his brother, they were heading to the arena by bus, I normally took the Uber to the arena but decided to take the bus, and give it a try.

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It’s always nice to travel in different transports when you’re in a different country, you get to see a lot of different things that you normally wouldn’t notice. We had our breakfast and we left. The bus ride was fun, we spoke more about how they play back home and how was only 2.5k and his brother was 4.5k and how he keeps losing cause of their team and the normal DotA discussions like I have with my people, I am sitting outside a cafe and talking to my friends. Even though we all come from so many different places, we somehow had such similar stories, it didn’t feel like I didn’t know them, DotA made things easy for my overseas. <3 \m/

I had already made a few friends in the past few days, and my lovely sister had also decided to make this trip with me which I will love her for till dota dies xx.

On day 2 while we were chilling and watching the games, we started talking to the viewers sitting next to us, and we all decided to sit together during the course of the event since it’s very hard to get good seats , so whoever arrived first would hold seats for everyone else. I walked in on day one with just my sister and me, and by day 4 , we were 10 people sitting in a line. ?

We kept growing in numbers, gamers can connect so quick to other gamers, and when you have an arena full of them, omg.

In the evenings once the games used to get over, my sister and I would walk down to eat, and no matter where we went, there were only DotA players everywhere. OMGGGGGGG heaven!

We got theses cool dota tee shirts in our goodie bags and everyone used to wear them daily , so you could always tell when you saw a player, and the tags were always around them 🙂

The most amazing day for me was EG vs EHome. I watched EG walk into the arena, Sumail was calm as ever, I was so proud to see him. He has come so far from nothing and had his way built up. As the game started, that one game had us all sit up straight. The crowd was only two sides USA vs China .

The arena felt divided into two sections . It was full of people and was the most brilliant match I have ever watched. The sick plays made our bands shine golden and blue, and the crowd would scream and go wild when EG was on top.

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The chants of USA, and when EHome would fight back the Chinese would go nuts! It became a whole new level of level of excitement in the arena, the smallest mistakes would make us jump. The game went so neck to neck, and the chants just went louder,we got goosebumps screaming.

And when EG emerged victorious after the base run fight, the arena went wild, the home country had won, and no matter where you sat and who was next to you, we all just jumped and hugged, we all celebrated the win at that moment. It felt like everything that has happened till then in dota was all for that one moment . There was something magical about it. To be in a place where everyone understood everyone else . The joys were felt the same, no matter where you came from EHome played brilliant, EG played better. And in the end, it didn’t matter who won, because the game was played so well .

I wish I could explain those feelings, but you just gotta be there once in your lifetime to know how it felt!

After that brilliant game, we went to have some dinner to this Thai place close to the arena, and the whole restaurant had only dota players, it was like a dota village, and I couldn’t help but smile thinking that what if life was just like that back home.

Where as you walk by you hear people discussing dota, discussing players and strats . Some were even drawing on the table and explaining stuff in dept about the game . I think that Thai place was kept open specially for the arena crowd for that night, since the games got over pretty late, they knew everyone would be hungry. All the places down that road had long lines till outside! But no one really bothered about the waiting as all of them were lost in conversation about the game.

The all-star game was pretty neat this year, Kaci and slacks did a great job hosting it. They started giving out tee shirts from the morning itself. And you could go grab anyone you like or grab both also. Some people even wore their last year tees’.

I loved how the viewers got to choose which pro player they wanted in their team. My only regret to that would be they should have picked at least one female gamer, to make a statement to show a little more support to our female gamers, since most of the females in the arena picked team kaci to support ourselves. It would have been great if they had picked one girl, any girl to go on stage. Would have been awesome.

None the less, Pitlord came out, which was just perfect ! And the crowd loved it!

Slowly with time dc started defeating so many teams, and climbing back . The crowd had gotten a little less after og secret went out, soon liquid also went out. So dc kept things going for us , they in between felt like the only hope apart from EG.

The final 2days at the arena were great, the crowd was back in a full swing. They put up an extra screen outside, with a beer park, they had estimated the crowd to go up and it did. We were given new bands also, I picked up a lot since I loved the colours.

As I walked in the games had already begun, loser bracket games were going on, and EG couldn’t really come to the grand finals .

As the games were going on, I sat in the front row as close as I could to the aegis. I didn’t want to move even if it meant bending my neck at 90degrees for the next 4hours. It was a good decision because we experienced the orchestra come in while the games were going on and set up everything for the grand finals.

And when they began playing the anthem as I call it of dota, I could have cried, it was so emotional listening them play the number that had driven me to come here, it had been 6yrs from the time I had gotten into this whole thing, and it brought back memories just listening to them play. Every year I used to watch the ceremony from home and wonder how would it feel to be there. There was pin-drop silence as they played, I could see teary eyes around me, because I knew everyone who had played the game could have never seen this game become so big, it had impacted all of us in a way we couldn’t imagine and had become such a huge part of us.

Those 20 mins were pure bliss, the ageis had smoke coming out of it the whole floor had been smoked up like they were playing on the dota map, and I was sitting there holding my video camera, recording it and I never wanted it to stop. Totally worth the 90degree angle for the big screen.

I had watched the games from all different kinds of places in the arena. When you sit right on top, you can see the games on screen and watch the skills on the stage, since the map is designed on the stage. So it’s beautiful if you want the whole view of everything around!

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If you sit in the middle area you can see the screen well but the stage isn’t too clear because of the elevation. But the screen for the game is at a much better position and you can get lucky if they move the camera around the arena! Because it normally moves to the middle areas of seating. If you sit right in front, you will loose ur neck by day end xD but you can come on the twitch channel! And you can see the players up close which is also really great.

They had brought in these drummers I am unsure if they are called drummers, but they came to all the 4 sides of the stage and played the Ti6 Music, the tribal one which we have a music pack off, it was lovely to listen to them live, they would play it continue sly during the draft, just like we hear it in game. But they had some beautiful coordination and sync.

When monkey Kong was shown I was sitting on the top and the whole stage changed into the dota logo with the reddish background, and they did this fantastic dance, I couldn’t understand at first, but when they showed the trailer for the new hero. We all went wild!! Finally, the Kong is here, we got pitlordcame and money, King !! And I got to witness it live. â¤ï¸ Nothing could have been better.

DC put up a great fight against wings, but Wings were just outright playing better dota  which I loved about them.
From their pudge and techies pick up in the days before to them being calm and composed during the grand finals.
They deserved to win. When they finally finished playing they walked to the ageis and just grabbed it! The fireworks burst all around the stage and everything went shimmery, sitting in the front row it falls all around you. And it’s just so wonderful to witness a game so good being celebrated, the papers that flew out had the dota 2 logo on each of them, and I couldn’t stop smiling, I was celebrating gaming and it was way better than what I had imagined it to be.
To see them win and if you looked all around, even the player booths, everyone was happy and smiling.

Zerah

Overall I would summon up saying these 6 days were the best days of my life, cause I got to tick my bucket list of being at the best dota 2 event till date, and to learn and understand so much more about the game, and how if I feel I can make gaming my career and live my dream  I know this has become the biggest motivation for me. And I would do it again, even it is an expensive trip, it’s worth everything .

If you’re a dota 2 player, you have to come to The International to feel the game from within at least once 🙂

You will find cosplayers, workshop artists, shout casters, designers, players, event managers, team managers, gamers,

Everything under the sun that you can think of working on related to gaming, everybody is there. And they are All there, because they love doing what they are doing. 🙂

20million. I guess there is a reason dota has such a high prize pool, it’s more than just a game. 🙂