Ah, the Dota 2 roster shuffle season. Full disclosure: I used to write for team Evil Geniuses. StarCraft legend Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong has confided his deepest secrets to me (“It’s getting cold and I still don’t have a girlfriend; I always feel that professional gaming is a lonely profession”). Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg once told me that Artour “Arteezy” Babaev “has no remorse.” As a vitally important behind-the-scenes figure, I typically get The Scoop™ far in advance of everyone else. Unfortunately, this time around, as the Dota 2 scene tears itself apart anew, nobody’s telling me shit. Which means I’m right there with the masses, wringing my hands and wondering where players are going to wind up.
Nobody’s telling me shit.
Let’s start with what we know. Alliance exploded. Zai, Sumail and Fear left EG. Bulba, Arteezy, and EternalEnvy left Team Secret, which promptly transformed into a Southeast Asian team with a couple of Europeans. OG is down to Fly and NoTail and we still don’t know what it stands for. Digital Chaos traded Moo for Moon. CEO Alex Garfield left GoodGame, the shadowy esports cabal that owns EG and Alliance and probably a whole bunch of other stuff too. TNC Pro Team, fresh off an impressive run at The International 6, disintegrated. Out of all the top-tier teams, only Na’Vi and Wings escaped the shuffle-scourge.
I want to know what’s going to happen. The fact that it will all be resolved in a few short days does not make me any less desperate. From what I can tell, the Dota 2 community shares the sentiment; Twitter and Reddit are bursting with wild speculation that grows more ludicrous by the hour. Where does the overpowering urge to know the new rosters come from, when we won’t actually get to see them in action for weeks? Why is it so hard, as ex-EG manager Charlie Yang suggests, to “just fucking wait?”
Consider the supermarket checkout aisle. The fascination Dota 2 fans have for the movement of their favorite players is really no different from the average US Weekly reader’s slobbering over juicy celebrity gossip. Loda and Akke or Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris—which breakup was more shocking? Is Arteezy’s friendship with Jacky Mao over? You won’t believe the photographs posted on Zai’s Instagram!
Esports have always been much more intimate than traditional sports.
Esports have always been much more intimate than traditional sports. When players stream, we see them at their most vulnerable, witness their mental breakdowns, and share at least some of their quotidian triumphs. Increasingly, we also parse their every word for rumors and gossip, as if they are always speaking in code. We latch onto things they say in passing and turn them into memes that may never die. Even before Arteezy left Twitch for the land of Panda.tv, it was clear that he was getting tired of his audience. Would he like his viewers more if there were twice as many of them? Or would the weight of twice as many sycophants and detractors smother him, drive him away, and make him even less accessible?
There’s a reason LeBron James doesn’t stream his practice sessions or talk to fans on Twitter. If we want esports celebrities to remain accessible, maybe we should tone it down a couple notches, remember that these are normal people, and keep our noses out of their personal business. If we were in their shoes, wouldn’t we want the same?
Nah, that’s stupid. I bet if we keep asking, they’ll tell us their new teams right now!