Whether you catch the official broadcast or wait for highlight videos later, we’re all watching the same games, so does it matter?
The ideal way to watch: in person! Photo of crowd at MDL Changsha Major, courtesy of Mars Media
With the Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) racing to an exciting finish through ESL One Birmingham and the China Dota 2 Supermajor, I wanted to consider how we consume professional Dota 2. I’m setting aside the highly desirable in-person option because realistically, most of us are watching Dota 2 online. At a basic level, this could mean watching the games live through the Dota 2 client or on a stream. It could mean watching videos or restreams of completed games or highlight clips. And beyond that, I’m also interested in how much attention we give each game; are we fully focused, using games as background noise, or somewhere in between?
When I started watching professional Dota 2, I binged tournaments that featured specific teams I’d decided to follow. I established my viewing habits then: always the official broadcast, and if there were simultaneous streams, I’d always try to follow a handful of teams through the tournament rather than trying to sample them all. I might focus on the games if I could catch them live, but if I was watching restreams or videos? I’d do something else at the same time: work or chores, usually.
I’ve got the official broadcast of a live game open right now while I’m drafting this article.
One benefit of watching the official broadcast, whether it’s on Twitch, Facebook, Smashcast, or somewhere else, is that I can view all of the content rather than just the games themselves. The panels, interviews, and whatever extra videos the tournament talent have created aren’t accessible through unofficial streaming coverage nor through the Dota 2 client. And I think this content is a critical component of each tournament, contributing to the overall character of the event.
Highlight clips are great for determining which games need to be rewatched when they’ve been missed, but they rarely provide enough insight to understand how the game unfolded. And, of course, they completely miss the flavor of the event as they’re focused purely on amazing or ridiculous gameplay.
Aside from the services we use to watch Dota, there’s also my question of how we watch it.
As I wrote above, I often have games on in the background while I go about my day. I like having the noise to keep me company. I asked on Twitter about what else people do when they watch Dota 2. There were quite a few responses that suggested multi-tasking was common during early games in a tournament, but that the semi-finals and finals were full-attention affairs. This seems reasonable, especially given the significance of top-four finishes in the DPC. Focusing on the last few series in a tournament is also a great way to avoid viewer fatigue!
Why are so many of us content to put Dota 2 on in the background?
Maybe part of the reason is the number of games we can watch. We’ve had back-to-back DPC events most of the season, with overlapping qualifiers to fill the gaps between tournaments. There’s a lot of Dota 2 to watch, but we also all have to live! By necessity, most of us need to work, attend school, and take care of the day-to-day tasks that keep our lives in order. Something has to give, and this means not giving every single Dota 2 game our full attention.
Also, Dota 2 games have traditionally had phases, some of which are more quickly paced than others. The draft, laning phases, and even the mid-game can all be slow. Of course, some of this depends on which heroes are drafted and whether or not the current meta calls for a more disruptive or fast early game. But quite often, for games that are not critical, missing the first twenty minutes or so might mean you’re still able to watch the majority of the action. Play-by-play casting is often sufficient for understanding the early game. And, of course, when the caster starts shouting, you know it’s time to turn your attention back to Dota.
Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to watch Dota 2. Some people watch games as replays with the speed turned up, others might watch some of a game, pause it, come back to it later. Some of us—ahem, certainly not me—may put a game on, wander off to take care of a chore, and then completely forget about Dota, now and again. While I think you need to catch the official broadcast, live or videos after the fact, to get the complete experience, I don’t think it’s wrong to enjoy the games a different way.
However you watch it, I want to hear about it in the comments below! Do you binge games in the client? Do you catch up later? Is it live or nothing? Do you do homework or chores with Dota on in the background or do the games demand your complete attention? Do you have viewing parties? Tell me your favorite way to watch!
I love talking about esports and books. I think compassion and curiosity are really important and that a balance between serious and silly keeps life interesting. You can follow me on Twitter @writingdaeja