Barely an empty seat in the house.
The fact that the event was purely Dota meant you couldn’t sit anywhere without hearing people discuss the games on screen in great detail, or regaling their stories from pubs and laughing along with each other. During the break of one of the games, two people next to me are discussing their newbie mistakes, talking about running Chen mid and building multiple Orbs of Venom in the early game – as I join in the conversation, it turned out it wasn't two old friends, but that they had flown in from different parts of Europe and had met each other that day. It was a common thread throughout the weekend that another fan summed up perfectly – “I came here alone, but I’ve met enough people to run a five stack already!” With the exception of a couple isolated flamers in the crowd, everyone was positive and appreciative of each other, the players and the event all while banging the inflatable sticks and waving comedic signs. It doesn’t seem like much, but given that our community can sometimes be quite vitriolic, seeing the whole event be so friendly is a real triumph.
Fans were happy to support their teams with many witty and funny signs
The stadium setup with the massive screen, clear and well-defined picture, easy access to both food and beverages was a big benefit, but the best thing about the set-up was that the analysis and casting desk were right next to the fans, allowing people to get a chance to chat and take pictures with their favourite personalities. Players and personalities were happy to mill around the arena for the duration of the tournament and to their credit, I never came across a single one unwilling to talk with fans, or take a quick picture. Two that stick in mind are both Capitalist and TobiWan appearing on the stadium floor at different times and happily filling signing and picture requests until everybody was satisfied, as well as the players from Mouz taking time to actually stand and watch one of the games with the crowd, rather than staying in their team booth. ESL did a great job in keeping plenty of signing sessions and community events going – the cosplay competition was also well received, with one of the competitors, ‘Kittycricri’ remarking “At other conventions you can get a lot of nasty comments, but everybody here has been so nice.” ESL should be commended for the diverse range of events and excellent production value in the stadium.
Toby posing with a fan, as he would many times throughout the event
However, on a personal note it’s the Dota community as a whole that shines through. Thursday, I ended up spending the evening with two reddit users who I’ve never met before (Note: joinDOTA does not advocate meeting strangers from the internet, unless you are the fearless writer of this article) and ended up having a great evening discussing the event, the game and everything else with two new faces. Then on Friday it was meeting friends I usually play with at the pre-event party, finally putting faces to the names – but that was a common story throughout the weekend. A lot of people getting to know the people they play with, the casters they hear and the players they admire - loving every second of ESL. That’s the power of this game – it brings people together, even hundreds of miles away from our homelands. That’s why Dota in essence, is more than a game.
Regardless of whether it was the teams, fans, cosplayers or casters there is no doubt that the whole experience was incredible for all involved – and affirmation that Dota and its community is something very special. And we should all be proud of that.