So first, I think the Dota casting scene is amazing. I think it’d be very easy for a casting group to become jaded and swarmy and try to bring each other down to look better, but I think the thing I respect the most about the casting scene is that it is full of people who will go out of their way to help others succeed. I want to give some additional shoutouts, but I will do that later in the blog. I can honestly say that I enjoyed working with literally everyone in the talent crew, and I think that atmosphere makes the events better.
I think what I’ve learned throughout my short journey as Dota talent is how to add value to a product. I think a lot of the value added from a talent perspective comes from the synergy and connections between the people working. I think I came into my first LAN at the AniMajor with a good understanding of the technical side of things (Dota knowledge, thinking processes for understanding the game, etc.), but I got incredibly lucky that the rest of the talent team taught me how to use that technical side to produce a good show. I learned a lot about how helping others look good will lead to a better result. It’s like in Dota, where sometimes even the carry has to go in and bait that perfect epicentre to secure the teamfight.
This made me think a lot about who I consider the original GOATs of Esports casting: Tastosis. I think from a technical standpoint, this casting pair did not have the highest game knowledge or the highest MMR or whatever quantifiable attributes people tend to look at. However, they were the best casters because of their synergy, experience, and entertainment value. I still watch a lot of Brood War games casted by Tastosis to this day because of that. I see them as a sort of golden standard for what you want to achieve in a panel or broadcast. Of course, a lot of this comes from their years of experience together, but it’s still something to aspire towards.
I think it’s so unfortunate that TI was hit so hard by Covid because on top of not having the same crowd energy, the talent group also didn’t get to form the same level of connections amongst themselves. I think something that I’ve mentally disrespected is the hours necessary to develop good talent synergy and what that requires at events. I think the hours for talent work are far less compared to playing or coaching, but they can still be demanding at events. I also think there’s room for talent work to develop more in the future. For example, I think a lot of Dota teams are mimicking some of the team aspects of sports teams with sports psychologists and team-building outside of the game as well as within. Talent sort of does this, but I think it’s very beneficial to maximize interactions outside of and leading up to events. I also didn’t get the normal talent experience, as I only worked events during Covid, and I hope in the future I’ll be able to do an event without any restrictions.
Now to talk about the Dota 2 scene. I genuinely think Dota 2 is the best video game ever made. I think Dota 2 has the highest highs, an incredible skill ceiling with infinite things to improve on, and a level of complexity that makes it feel like a self-moderating ecosystem. I think watching teams and even just pubs approach and develop the metagame with their ideas is amazing and inspiring. However, I also think that a lot of the aspects that make Dota such a great game often lead to the bad parts too: the complexity is jarring and the competitive nature of the game can lead to toxicity in the community. Oftentimes, I feel like people playing the game have lost sight of having fun in the game. Maybe it’s the desire to improve or to climb MMR, or frustration at being unable to climb towards Dota’s insane skill ceiling, but I think it brings out the worst in people. It’s sad because I think the Dota community also has some of the kindest and most passionate people I’ve met, but there’s some weird toxic gatekeeping barrier you need to get past first.
For me, a lot of it comes down to the difference in expressing emotions. I think it’s natural to get frustrated and to build up emotions in Dota. However, I think there’s a difference in how people deal with said emotions. I think what it comes down to is whether people are able to express their emotions without pushing other people down. I think the emotions that come from Dota being such a captivating game can be channelled into a positive force as well. Some of my closest bonds have been made through Dota because you’re basically going through an army boot camp together, whether it's struggling together in an almost lost game or attending a LAN where you have to cuddle each other for warmth on the bus in Northern China (lol). I also feel like Dota is a game best played with a group of friends rather than grinding solo queue ranked because you can experience it together. The thing that makes me sad is that I don’t think the complexity of Dota is inherently that big a turnoff until you combine it with the bad parts of the community.
So this brings me to Torontotokyo’s all chat of “ez game” against OG. I’ve always seen all chat as pretty BM, and while admittedly committing some slippery slope fallacy, my mind jumped to future players straight flaming on the TI stage. So I tweeted about the sportsmanship of it, but I think it wasn’t a great tweet for a few reasons. The first reason is because I think the tweet comes off as being offended for OG, which simply isn’t true. I just thought that all chatting in a TI elimination game was not what I wanted to see. Having experienced losing at TI multiple times, it just felt off that people were all chatting in those circumstances. That being said, TTY has never lost at TI, but that wasn’t something I considered at all. The second is that I love the Dota competitive scene having more personality because I think it adds value to the scene. I don’t want an Overwatch or Kespa BW scene where I think the moderators detract from the game. I think Valve does a pretty good job at reading the community emotional line and moderating off that line. Personally, I don’t like offensive tips, and I think a lot of the chat wheels and tipping features are done with the understanding that there is nothing pure enough on the internet that cannot be turned negative. You can have a chat wheel saying “I love you”, and it would be used negatively. I think having this moderating voice (Valve-added features) is better than all chatting, but to be honest, I think the community does most of the moderating with their feedback. I don’t really have some super well-thought-out idea on this topic, but I’m just writing about how I feel about it.
I found the “ez game” distasteful because it was all chat while eliminating a team from TI. That doesn’t mean I’m correct, and people will form their own opinion of it. I also didn’t like when N0tail wrote a “?” and really didn't like when Hector wrote “ctm gaa” in all chat (didn’t see live so didn’t tweet). I did like when Emo wrote “?” after being stomped for two games then having a comeback after a rough Game 3, and I didn’t mind when N0tail wrote out Avo+’s voiceline. So maybe that’s hypocritical? I don’t really know. What I have thought about and talked to a few community members about is that change is generally inspired from the top. I don’t think players and streamers have a direct responsibility to inspire and be positive, but I think it would make the scene better. Honestly, half of what I think about people at the top causing change is because the entire NA Dota scene talks the same way, and I see it bleed down into pubs. Or when talent or a pro refers to some game mechanic a certain way, I see it quickly propagate throughout the scene. To me, it’s weird because I don’t think any streamer or pro should be forced to behave fake-positive, but I wish they wanted to, and I think the positivity would be beneficial for them personally as well as for the scene.
In a similar vein of thought, I think it’s a joke that pro players and streamers are allowed to break items and run down mid without any penalties, or flame in insane ways (generally things that push marginalized groups down to me). I think this is something that absolutely needs moderation. Sometimes these things even seem to be celebrated or admired by the community, which is also crazy to me. For example, I saw VP tweet something about GPK using shadow amulet in pubs, which is insane to me. I think in regards to people imitating these behaviors, you’ll always have an irredeemable group who is hellbent on game-ruining, but even the few current restrictions do affect behavior. I’ve had people in pubs tell others to abandon because they already abandoned their last game and don’t want low priority. Then they have to play because no one abandons and we end up winning the game. I hope that there will be demand for additional systems to deal with game-ruiners and toxicity, and that public-facing individuals will be held to a higher standard.
Anyways, as so eloquently and rightfully described by Slacks as an emotionally-stunted gamer, I’m aware that I’ve lashed out because of Dota games in the past. I like to think not to the same degree of game-ruining or racism, etc, but I think it’s something that most Dota players should work on. I think one of the things I’ve appreciated most about working as a talent is the time and role models available for self-development. I want to express myself with more empathy and kindness in general and approach things with more of a Ted Lasso “be curious, not judgemental” approach. I think it’s important to acknowledge that I’ve lived in some weird esports bubble pretty much all of my adult life, and while I wouldn’t trade it for anything, I should acknowledge the blindspots that it gave me.
Speaking of kindness and empathy, I’d also like to address how the community treated the three new hosts of this TI: Frankie, Sumi, and Avo+. I think there’s a huge difference between giving feedback and lashing out to push people down, and I think the vast majority of what I saw was the latter. It’s doubly unfortunate because I think it was so much so that it became impossible to differentiate feedback from indiscriminate hate, so any semblance of useful criticism got lost. I think the community can and should do better than that. I don’t think the new hosts did a perfect job because that would be insane to expect, but I do think they provided a lot of value to the event. In particular, my gf who doesn’t play dota but watches me sometimes (i.e. she knows what QQE does for Invoker but can’t recognize all the heroes and spells), said that she really liked Sumichu’s questions because they helped her understand what we were talking about. I think that’s extremely valuable. I think people oftentimes misconstrue the job of a host, especially at an event like TI where there are a lot of people with mixed experience levels watching, and especially on a multi-panel setup intended to give general coverage of all the games. It’s perfectly acceptable to not like someone or something that they’re doing, but how people express that distaste should be done better. Reading some of the comments at some point, I felt like people were just channeling their most distasteful selves and throwing it at the hosts.
Something that I think a lot about is how the availability heuristic applies to Dota and talent work. I think it’s why people at the same MMR think all their teammates suck. Because Dota is such a complicated game, people can often understand different aspects of the game better than others, and have a bias against people who aren’t as good as them in that particular facet. For example, one 4k player might be better at laning whereas another is better at spell-casting in teamfights. They are both 4k because MMR is a measure of how good you are at winning games overall (and they’re both awful), but not how good you are at specific things in Dota. But when they watch each other play, they will both probably think the other is a weaker player. Honestly, I copium it up with this when I think about my kick from EG because I think I had a pretty different skill set in that team compared to the other players, and it made us good (map control/creep waves/micro things). I’ve always said that given the information they had, I would have made the same decision, but of course I’m biased and also think it was the wrong call.
Anyways, apart from my copium, the application here is that I think it’s easy to look at a broadcast and not understand why it isn’t perfectly tailored to you. I don’t know if TI should have been aimed differently (I mean, the grand finals had a very different vibe on the draft panel with Ceb, N0tail, and myself, so the target demographic was clearly more widespread than just lower experience people), but I do think it's valuable to take the time to be curious about why something is, and to want to offer something of value instead of just pushing people down. Hitting multiple demographics sounds long term beneficial and honestly, the quality of games this TI were so high and entertaining regardless of the panel being tailored to any individual.
Finally, I want to take the time to thank everyone who was involved in TI for making it a good experience for me. Honestly, I really enjoyed working with everyone. My favourite moment was when Jenkins did whatever he was doing on his minute segments and people were able to understand that Valve was using him to reference the new hero. Because Marci had blood on her hands in the trailer and is mute, just like how Jenkins had ink on his hands and was almost fully mute for a segment. Of course, I’m kidding, and it was completely unrelated because Valve wouldn’t be sociopathic enough to entrust a hero hint to an unscripted 1-minute with Jenkins, but that was really funny to read and watch.
I also really appreciated Sheever, Sumichu, and Slacks because I felt like these three went out of their way to help and fix things if anything was off for the talent group. Also I wanted to give a shoutout to Lacoste, who made the best flat earth joke I’ve ever heard on a broadcast. Finally, even though they will probably never read it, I really wanted to thank the tent production and makeup staff. I think they did a terrific job, and the makeup staff always made everyone's days infinitely better by starting us out right.
To conclude, I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with so many talented people. I want this game to thrive forever because it’s the best game, and I hope everyone reading this feels the same way. Don’t lose sight of why everyone plays Dota, and look to be kind and thoughtful.