At the age of 25, I've already become an out-of-touch old man when it comes to staying current with video game culture. In some instances, like the vile, misogynistic, and thoroughly discredited "Gamergate" movement, it's nice to have some distance from it all. On the other hand, there are relatively benign cultures that have blossomed around a handful of incredibly popular PC games that I'd love to learn more about. With legions of devoted fans, games like Minecraft, League of Legends, and Dota 2 almost feel like they exist on their own planets.
Dota 2, a free-to-play competitive multiplayer game, is particularly unusual in that it's highly popular (both as a game and as a spectator "sport") while also being really dense and obtuse. Seriously, nothing about this madness feels accessible in the slightest. There are over 100 playable characters with unique abilities, quirks, and preferred equipment sets that all work together and hunt each other down in a dizzying array of combinations. It seems like it would be easier to pick up another undergraduate degree than it would be to become competent at this thing.
Watching an archived version of this year's "The International" tournament (with its mammoth prize pool) proved that I'm not even competent at watching this game be played. The game's field of play is rather large, and with 5 separate players running around for each team, I was never able to get a good handle on the general flow of a given game. The commentators seemed to assume that everyone tuning in had a solid grasp on all of the different items and abilities that exist in this game, and to their credit, that's likely a fair assumption to make. To me, most of it was gibberish.
The cadence of the commentary, at least, was familiar. The immediate comparison that came to mind was soccer commentary: low-key and relaxed most of the time, followed by sudden bursts of bombast in specific moments. Whenever the two teams of "hero" characters would coalesce and attempt to "gank" each other, both the commentators and in-person crowd would freak out, as the outcomes of these scuffles could weigh heavily on the rest of the game. I definitely got caught up in these moments as well, even if I had no genuine sense of what each character was even capable of doing.
Dota 2 probably won't work as a spectator sport for me, but then again, I'm an old man, so life's exciting things are probably all lost on me now.