Hello everyone and welcome to my first blog post. Without any further delay lets get into the meat of the matter, my review of Free To Play.
Free To Play is a documentary made about The International 2011, the largest e-sports tournament to be held until that time. The total prize purse was 1.6 million USD. It has since been surpassed by The International tournaments in 2012, and 2013. The International is the world championship for DOTA 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2) a game made by Valve Software and available for free on Steam. DOTA 2 is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) style game that pits two teams of five players against one another with the purpose of destroying the opposing team’s “Ancient”; a large well defended building in the base of each team. Enough about the game and the tournament itself on to the review!
I have to say I was unsure what this documentary would bring to the table. It is produced by Valve, who also makes DOTA 2 and is the host of The International. It could have easily been an uninteresting product promotion, but I’m glad to say it wasn’t. The production team did an excellent job of making sure that the players they followed for the documentary, Fear, Dendi, and Hyhy were the stars of the show and not DOTA 2. This was important for me because while I play (nowhere near as good as these guys) and understand DOTA 2, I can play and watch matches without the documentary format. Additionally, the documentary can be interesting to anyone, not just DOTA 2 players.
The players followed during the course of the run up to and through The International gave three different lenses into what it takes to be a professional gamer. Fear is from Oregon, USA, Dendi is from the Ukraine, and Hyhy is from Singapore. As is noted in Free To Play people have no reference to compare competitive gaming too. There is no established history like other sports (football, football, baseball, basketball, etc) now have that shows that a living can be made by being a professional gamer. Fear’s mother, a lawyer by trade, wonders if her son can accomplish his dream, not because she doesn’t believe in him but because she has nothing to compare his dream to. Dendi’s family wants the best for him and while they may not understand his passion for gaming they support him. Hyhy’s family are pushing him to give up gaming and dive back into his school work and become an “A” student again, this causes him conflict with his dream but he makes the sacrifice of leaving Singapore during his exam period to compete in the tournament, which causes him to have to repeat a year of school.
All of these players are on different teams, Fear is captain of Online Kingdom, an international team that has never played together in the same room until the first day of the tournament. Dendi is captain of Na’Vi (Natus Vincere) an all Ukrainian team. Hyhy is the captain of Scythe Gaming from Singapore. All of these teams talked about how they were somewhat afraid of the Chinese teams. The Chinese teams were favored heavily to win The International due to having dominated previous DOTA tournaments around the world. While I won’t give away who wins I will say that the Chinese teams didn’t do as well as expected.
Overall I really enjoyed Free To Play it is an engaging documentary that shows a world that many people do not see or really understand. It helps show this world to a wider audience by not trying to be a (overt) commercial or placing too much emphasis on showing game play footage. I would give Free To Play a good rating if I was going to give things ratings in these reviews, but I’m not going to give ratings because of the often subjective nature of works that are reviewed and using a rating system falsely conveys a sense of objectivity to the subjective.
You can find Free To Play on Steam or watch it on Youtube below.
To those about to nerd I salute you!
~Mason “khy0te” Ireland