It’s The International week in Seattle, and lucky Dota 2 fans—the ones who managed to snag tickets—are camping out in Key Arena all day, watching their favorite teams. The esports tourney is a bit like other kinds of sports-elimination tournaments—think basketball’s Final Four, except with pro gamers instead of players.

What Is Dota 2?

It may seem strange to compare a computer game to a physical sport, but Dota 2 is two teams of five battling over territory, somewhat like basketball.

Even pro bastketball players see the similarities. Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets loves Dota 2. He said in the website Ongamers.com: “So I would say Dota and basketball are actually kind of similar in the fact that they’re 5 on 5 games. In basketball you have the point guard, the wings and forwards. In Dota you have three categories too; agility, strength, and magic/intel. You definitely have to understand the game and work on it, hone your skills.”

The game is a multiplayer online battle arena game, or MOBA. Two teams of five play one another. The teams start in strongholds in opposite corners of the map. The game is over when one team manages to destroy the other team’s “Ancient,” a tower within the team’s stronghold. Each player controls a Hero character. Players try to level up their characters and fighting other character to gain territory and win.

The International Dota 2

The map is at the bottom left. Strongholds are in the upper right and lower left corners.

What Is The International?

The International is the annual worldwide championship. It lasts six days and starts with 16 teams. There are eight teams in the upper bracket and eight teams in the lower bracket at the start. The first lower-bracket game is best of one. Grand Finals are best of five. And all the other eliminations are best of three. Games last about 30–40 minutes each.

With a prize pool of more than $18 million, there’s lots of prize money to go around. The bottom teams win around $50 thousand each, the next tier around $200,000, and so on up to more than $6 million for first prize. Second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth prizes are all more than $1 million each. Here’s a recap of one day of play that really shows how exciting the tournament can be:

Why Do People Love It?

The International Dota 2

The Key Arena hosting The International Dota 2 tournament. Team Secret vs. Ehome.

Like other pro sports, Dota 2 has no shortage of enthusiastic fans. The tournament sold out within half an hour of the tickets going on sale. Geekwire interviewed the fans today. They offer a variety of reasons for watching Dota 2 and The International. They love the game itself, they want to support particular players or teams, and they want learn to play better themselves.

Who Is Winning?

With only a day and a half remaining, there are five teams left: Evil Genuises, CDEC, Virtus Pro, LGD, and Vici Gaming. It looks like CDEC, which was not favored, has made it to the top three. Vici Gaming is also making a surprisingly great showing.

What Is It Like To Go?

I managed to snag some tickets and attended a couple of matches on Wednesday: Team Secret vs. Ehome. Ehome won that battle, only to be eliminated in the next round by Vici Gaming.

The excitement and joy experienced by fans is truly wonderful to watch. I predict that esports like Dota 2 tournaments will continue to get more popular. There’s lots more fun to be had—and money to be made—in this exciting new sports phenomenon.

Linda Breneman

Linda Breneman

Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.