ESL One Hamburg
I’m on a roll tonight so why not hammer this out too, eh?
Perhaps some might find this overly normalised or whatever but I personally think that I might as well just commemorate attending my first ever esports event with a blog on my experiences, expectations, and hopes for the future. I know I’m rather long-winded, especially when writing but I will try to keep this short.
Going back a few months, I had already been contemplating attending the event but for a long while, I’d say that I was the only one among the LiquidDota staff that seriously wanted to go. I wouldn’t blame anyone considering the rather less than ideal tournament format but I felt determined to go nonetheless. LiquidDota aside, I had many other friends with whom I had formed good friendships over the last few months that were also attending and obviously, I felt rather excited about being able to meet them. After all, they were pretty nice and cool people as far as I was concerned. This was also the first event that I could realistically go to, ever. That said, it’s quite apparent that I was really hyped up for ESL One Hamburg.
It was only a couple of months ago, I think, that we actually ended up having a few staff members decide that they would attend too and we ultimately ended up with three of us attending, renting an Airbnb together. Of course, being the most determined and arguably vocal one about going to Hamburg, I was promptly told, when requesting press passes, that real work had to be done and that I’d have to be responsible for the site’s coverage of the entire event and so I looked to do just that.
So I’ve never been to continental Europe before and I’ve never been to an esports event before. Many have told me, “Why bother going to an event to watch when you can just watch it on stream at home? It’s so much more expensive” and, I won’t deny that those things are very true. Hence, I went in with a bit of that sorta mentality, I wasn’t too sure what to expect in Hamburg but I just wanted to have a good time.
I won’t lie, I expected to have a superb event where I could probably make contacts and get to know people in the scene better, I had a press pass, after all. I expected to have free time to go explore Hamburg and what not and I expected to have various sorts of exclusive access.
Reality and Experiences
Directly addressing the above section, I have never felt so lost before. I think it’s fair to say that plenty of people online understand that German can have some absolutely mind-boggling words and I was utterly intimidated the first time I saw Sengelmannstraße on the public transport network. I arrived around 6pm CEST on the Thursday, Day 1 of the Group Stages, and I had agreed to make my way to Scandi Emporio Hamburg directly from the airport, the hotel where the players were staying and where the Group Stages were being played. To do so, I needed to take a train from the airport to a station called Ohlsdorf and then another train to another station called Stephansplatz, after which I’d have to walk a mile or so to reach the hotel. Putting Sengelmannstraße into context, it was the first station after Ohlsdorf but was simply one of the long words on the network as far as I was concerned. Thus, I’d say that I essentially had a brand new experience upon setting foot in Germany. I’ve only ever been on holiday to countries where I’m arguably fluent in the local language save Thailand and Cambodia so it was a very new experience to me to be feeling lost even where public transport was concerned.
Moving forward, “Why bother going to an event to watch?”, I’d also read that LAN flu was a very real possibility in the aftermath of this but I didn’t contract it for what it’s worth. Anyway, why indeed? Well, there’s just something about watching a game you love with other people that love it and all being able to cheer and appreciate the most insane moments of the tournament. While Julmust slightly lost his voice to smoking, I lost mine to screaming. I never really thought that I’d scream during an event in such a manner but watching the Grand Finals live, watching as FATA pulled off an insane RP and an then an even more insane counter-initiation from 9pasha with Sand King, my eyes didn’t know what to follow anymore, it was just sensational. The atmosphere, I think, was quite unique and the feelings absolutely exhilarating.
So, did I have a good time? I think that I damn well did have a good time. It’s probably fair to give a couple of shoutouts to Hexhaven, Julmust, ShiaoPi, and Bluemoon, all of whom I met at the event and certainly had a part in my enjoyment of the event. I hadn’t paid for a single drink of my own during the entire weekend. Granted, I’m a poor student who’s been looking for a part-time job for ages, and not being the most experienced when it comes to drinking, I think these people really helped me learn to enjoy drinking and even more so when they decided to pay for it. I didn’t have a whole lot, just a pint as far as I can remember but it was really enjoyable. Aside from them, I got to meet a bunch of other people who were also there as press, we never really got to know each other and introduce ourselves but we simply knew which organisations we were with and we just got along, had banter and whatnot and it was all really swell.
A couple of weeks before Hamburg, I was already nervously thinking of questions I wanted to ask players in interviews. Being one of pretty much only two Chinese translators working with LiquidDota, and probably one of the only press people at the event capable of conversing fluently in Chinese, I was confident we had an edge as far as interviews go. I’d thought to myself, “What if I can get an interview with Sccc, the Western community would probably go nuts for that” and so I’d thought of things I wanted to ask him, thinking about how to translate those questions into Chinese. Alas, this opportunity never came, we were offered kpii and only kpii to interview from Newbee when it was the team’s dedicated slot for interviews in the press room. Fair enough, he was fluent in English and Kelly was the only translator at the event who was also unavailable at the time as Liquid vs Keen was taking place, meaning there’d be no one else to help translate interviews with the rest of the team.
Anyway, I got to interview Rong, the captain of Keen Gaming as well as Ohaiyo from Fnatic in Chinese which made them slightly more comfortable. I also learned then that I would have to put in a lot more effort for interviews with the Chinese teams as they had their own Dota terminology which didn’t align with official Valve Dota terminology nor translations from our own Dota terminology. As a Malaysian, I think that I helped Ohaiyo have a very open and comfortable interview where he could freely talk as if he was at home, and that was honestly one of my personal highlights throughout the tournament.
I personally think that the key aim of interviews with these players at the top is to remind everyone that they’re human too. They may be much better than us at Dota but that doesn’t make them anymore godlike nor less human. After all, they too, have emotions and feelings and I think that that’s something that Hotbid did very well for all his acclaim as one of the best interviewers ever to have graced the Dota scene, he portrayed them in a human light where they would pretty much be like any of us, relatively awkward people who really are just “boys wanting to play some Dotes”. Of course, he was always more comical and all that but I think that it’s really humbling to actually talk these players and realise how humble they really are regardless of how good they are at the game.
So, the next thing I wanted to address as far as expectations vs reality went, contacts. Let’s be real, first event, press, making contacts seems pretty far-fetched. I didn’t even have the guts to ask for photos or selfies and the like because I didn’t want to make the players feel awkward so forget talking to people in the scene to any measurable degree that would get you remembered. I was excited at the prospect but it seemed that I missed my chance to meet and get to know Mohamed, the manager of Team Liquid, as well as KuroKy. Similarly, I briefly introduced myself to Blitz and vice versa after the games on Day Two when he happened to be looking at us and casually said hello but I knew that he probably wouldn’t remember me the next time we meet anyway and that was, in all honesty, fine with me. I think that I’m a pretty big fan of Blitz but sometimes reality is just there so maybe I’ll actually connect with people some other time in the future.
I also got to meet Nazgul, owner and co-CEO of Team Liquid for the first time irl and he was, as expected, a pretty nice guy open to ideas and quite conversational. Beyond these personalities in the scene, as previously mentioned, I basically got to know some of the various press people that were at the event, those from joinDota, Red Bull, and various other forms of press and media. Ultimately, did I really get to know people in the scene better? When I think about it, I did. I barely knew anyone before and now I know some people, people with whom there can be banter, memes, jokes etc if ever I meet them again, maybe at another event.
Having spoken of press and having a press pass, I honestly wanna throw out a very special shoutout to both Marie (@ESL_Marie) and Christopher (@ESL_Flato), the PR team who I think took superb care of press. Not just taking care of press but also taking care of us, in my opinion. We pretty much got priority for almost any interview we did with the teams during their dedicated slots meaning we more or less had our pick of which player we wanted to interview each time. Beyond the work-related things, we basically had free food and drinks in the Press Rooms, kinda guaranteeing our well-being and I can only feel grateful to them.
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Just some free stuff in the Press Room
Just some free stuff in the Press Room
Moving on ahead, exploration in Hamburg and having free time pretty much became a pipe dream. The Barclaycard Arena was huge. There was great Dota to be watched, interviews to be done, and interviews to be transcribed, I basically didn’t get to explore Hamburg at all except when looking out the taxi window and my last day in Hamburg, which was the Monday immediately after the event ended. I took some time out during the event to meet up with the friends I mentioned earlier and they were pretty cool people, all things considered. I only regret that I couldn’t spend a little more time with them or say goodbye etc because of commitments to working at the event but we did take a group photo after which I ran back up to the Press Room for the interview with Ohaiyo.
Anyway, as far as tourism activities went, my last day there was pretty much spent walking to the harbour and along it with Hexhaven and Julmust as they also had evening flights. Before that though, I had my first döner kebab in Europe and second ever in my life as far as I could remember. My two friends were hungover from the night before whereas I hadn’t partaken in drinks but had this desire to experience the infamous döner kebab in Germany and so we had lunch in a casual corner kebab shop. After our lunch was when we decided to just oddly admire architecture and walk over to the harbour and it was pretty enjoyable and relaxed all things considered.
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Apparently Odd Architecture
Pretty fascinating building in my opinion
Apparently Odd Architecture
Pretty fascinating building in my opinion
It had been a very long time since I’d taken a leisurely walk anywhere and it was honestly just one of the most relaxing experiences I’d had in years. We sat down for some coffee and dessert, or beer in Hexhaven’s case while the sun was out and shining along the harbour, providing a rather pristine experience as we proceeded to casually chat about esports and our pasts. That pretty much covered all the tourism that I was able to fit in while I was in Hamburg and I honestly feel that I’d been quite lucky to go to Hamburg.
Coffee and Dessert
Hopes for the Future
So I kinda said that I’d write about my hopes for the future and, after this event, I’m looking forward to my next. That said, I think my love for esports has been reaffirmed, considering my recent drift away due to a painfully busy schedule as a law student while fitting in a few pubs a day with friends at least. I pretty much leave those who have read up to this point here with my gratitude and the knowledge that I hope to attend ESL One Katowice and further expand my horizons.
The tournament hasn’t been the best but it’s been far from the worst and I’d like to personally reason the constant advertisement that ESL were running. It’s not very often that you plan a tournament several months in advance only to casually add $250,000 to the prizepool to turn it into a Major 2 months before the event itself is set to happen. Arguably unfair, sellout-ish deals are bound to happen, resulting in lots of sponsors and advertisements. Regardless, I reiterate that this was an amazing first experience, almost as amazing as the new Mercedes-Benz E-class Sedan… (finish the rest of the meme yourself if you desire)
I hope that you’ve all had an enjoyable read and look forward to my next blog.
Coverage of ESL One Hamburg
Interview with VP.No[o]ne
Interview with Secret.MidOne
Interview with Newbee.kpii
Interview with Keen.Rong
Interview with SG.Costabile
Interview with Fnatic.Ohaiyo
Interview with Liquid`Heen