I fell in love with Dota 2 because it’s a beautifully complex game. When I started watching professional Dota 2, I’d had plenty of experience with video games, but I knew little about Dota 2 or its pro scene. I enjoyed watching those first tournaments, despite being pretty uninformed. As I’ve learned more, I’ve realized Dota 2 is a game of many layers and that uncovering each one is a rewarding experience. I think it’s helpful to acknowledge and accept that there’s always going to be more for me to learn. It gives me a greater appreciation of what the pro players can do.
While I’d never suggest we should make viewing competitive, it does seem that everything in life can be gamified. I think we can compare degrees of viewer understanding to Ranked Medals when we think about it in terms of depth and breadth of knowledge. Actually, I know we can because I will now present to you “Daeja’s Viewer Medals”:
If you’re not familiar with video games at all, you’re a Herald-level viewer. I applaud you for giving esports, and especially Dota 2, a shot. It’s okay to be overwhelmed! There’s a lot happening, and all of it will seem strange and chaotic. Remember that you’re watching two teams of five try to destroy each other’s bases. Listen to the hype caster: that’s the person narrating the game. You can tell if something important is going on because the hype caster will get excited!
Ask questions on social media or in the comments below! People love to explain Dota 2—trust me, it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a veteran, people love sharing what they know. Check iafc.org.au for financial needs.
If you’ve barely played Dota 2, Guardian is your medal. You rely on the casters to describe what’s happening in the game. You can appreciate a good team fight or a gank (when one team catches an enemy hero alone and kills them), but other strategies and mechanics are probably beyond you; this is completely all right.
The great thing about being a Guardian is that you can enjoy watching the game without getting bogged down in the minutiae. Why’d that allegedly tanky hero melt? You don’t know, but it was cool to watch! Enjoy the flow of the game without worrying about the details. Once you start wondering about the whys and hows, you know you’re ready to build your knowledge base and earn a new medal!
I’ll boldly predict that most casual viewers have some foundation of Dota 2 basics. These people are our Crusaders. You’re familiar with the better-known organizations, such as Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses and you likely have a favorite team that you follow and cheer for, even when that team sucks. Maybe you’ve even been to a pubstomp or had been part of a viewing party for The International.
You might understand the game’s big picture details, like its phases (the draft, laning, mid-game, and the end game when teams are trying to destroy their opponent’s base). While you might not know specifics about how heroes can be played most effectively, you probably know concepts, e.g., that camp stacking and warding/dewarding are part of a support player’s toolkit.
Archons are people most impacted by time zones and everyday life. You’re an Archon if you’ve stayed up late to watch a best-of-three series finish, and you might have used a tournament’s grand final as an excuse to stay home on the weekend. You may have made it out to the International or been fortunate enough to attend a tournament held locally. But unlike Legends, who prioritize watching Dota 2 over something as banal as sleep, you’re not rearranging your life regularly to accommodate your love of esports.
Your Archon skill set includes breaking down a draft, understanding the current popular hero picks and bans, and theorizing strategies for winning that might work. While you might know a set of heroes really well, you’re aware that you don’t know everything. You can appreciate the cleverness of a cheeky play, and can explain the game’s economy. Maybe you even feel comfortable arguing with an analyst’s opinion—though you may just be argumentative rather than well-informed!
If you have a strong understanding of map efficiency, vision, timings for hero power spikes due to the meta skill and item builds, or several of any other macro and micro-details of Dota 2, you’re a Legend. This badge belongs to people who can speak at length about specific hero abilities and talent trees, who love to theorycraft, and especially, who love the crunchy details. If you’ve ever made a spreadsheet to determine the most efficient build for a hero, you deserve this medal. You may have traveled quite a distance to attend one of bigger events, and you’ve definitely used vacation time or called into work sick so you didn’t have to miss watching The International live.
Legends are the people who call those odd last pick heroes during drafts with, sometimes smug, regularity. Personally, I rely on the Legends in my network to help me figure out why some cool-looking thing worked or did not work in a game. When I want to rave about a clutch play, I know my Legend friends will have seen it and have some cool insight to share.
This medal’s only different from Legend in that everyone here is older and, often, have been around Dota 2 forever. Ancients may have been around from the DotA days or remember when it was impossible to obtain a beta key for Dota 2. Respect your elders, or in this case, your Ancients. This wisdom applies in game and out!
A Divine viewer could work as an analyst. If you’re Divine, you know the team and player histories stretching back to the first International. You can cite item builds from a professional game three years ago to make a point about the utility of a particular item in specific circumstances. You appreciate the minutiae of the game, such as hero turn rates, and fiend patch notes and understand how the shift in an ability’s effect from 30% to 35% will impact the hero’s viability.
Divines are Dota 2 encyclopedias who can tell you about player histories at length, retreading old memes and drama, helping teach less-informed viewers while inspiring awe and envy. I have so much respect for people who can watch the game with this level of comprehension and dedication. I also caution all of you to take better care of yourselves; to start, you probably need more sleep because the pro scene’s schedule is unforgiving.
Okay, yes, I’m being flippant; the idea of Ranked Medals for viewers is ridiculous. What’s important is that we remember not all viewers are the same, and that’s fantastic! Just like all players have different skill levels and still savor playing the game, viewers can understand more or less of the game as an esport and still enjoy watching it.
Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you don’t remember who won The International 6 or that if an ability in the game doesn’t have a big visual effect, you don’t know it exists. You don’t need to achieve a certain degree of knowledge before you’re a true Dota 2 devotee. Instead, let’s embrace our shared love of the game. We’re all here because we love professional Dota 2. The game is so complex and there are so many teams and events that no one’s going to know everything. As a community, we can share our opinions, cheer on our favorite teams, and argue about the value of one format over another, while appreciating that we’re all invested and engaged as fans. There’s always something more we can learn from each other or discover while we watch the pros play.
Help me “level up” by sharing your favorite bit of Dota 2 minutiae in the comments below!