My experience of the Cape Town Nu Metro Dota 2 TI8 PUBSTOMP event

My experience of the Cape Town Nu Metro Dota 2 TI8 PUBSTOMP event

Dota 2 fans were treated to an opportunity to watch the International 2018 on the big screen, score some “Mid or Feed” swag, and enjoy tasty treats at the “Pubstomp” event hosted by PlayEZ Esports at Nu Metro. While steeped in excitement, the event was not without a couple of mishaps.

Something you need to know about me is that whenever I go to events that are held in a venue that aren’t strictly intended to house a swarm of gaming enthusiasts, I enjoy trying to identify my brethren. Because I arrived a little early to the event, and I got a chance to relish in a bit of spot-the-gamer. There were a few easy cases: for example, the familiar “The International” t-shirts floating in and out of crowds. Slightly less obvious, but still within the “easy-mode” bracket, were the onesie-clad people.

They seemed, with a bit of healthy assumption, ready to settle in to a long night of revelling. For me, it’s identifying the more elusive candidates that is the most fun. They are the men and women with a gleam of excitement in their eyes that only true zealots (which, let’s be honest, many Dota 2 players and fans are) possess. Unfortunately, on Saturday, the thrill for some of those fans was muted slightly by some admin hiccups and streaming problems.

Not all that glitters is an Aegis

Once the time came to meander to the cinema, I slipped quite easily into the current of people wandering around the food court at Canal Walk. Some were rattling off stats to justify their predictions to their companions. Others were lamenting their team’s expulsion from the tournament. Though our choices for the tournament champions may have varied, the commonality between us was the almost choreographed scanning for a big Dota 2 TI8 sign. While we didn’t find a flashing board adorned with a massive, glittering Aegis, it was very satisfying to see a TI8 poster framed before the cinema doors – coaxing us inside.

By the time I made it through the hordes of popcorn munching movie-goers, the line for the Dota 2 International armband collection was short. It was lucky too, because, by the time I reached the front of the queue, I found that my name wasn’t on the list. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one. After a small wait, and plenty of apologetic smiles, I was referred to a representative who was managing the event. Unfortunately, I had caught him as the merchandise and snack table was being set up and required his assistance.

Nevertheless, pleased to have been attended to so quickly, and with the promise that the issue with my ticket would be resolved as fast as possible, I settled into the comfy lounge chairs in the Nu Metro foyer. The refreshment table was being stocked up with rows and rows of Monster Energy drinks. The organisers were obviously well-versed in the fuelling needed for the TI8 spectators to make it through the night. Slowly but surely, event-goers rocking the official “Mid or Feed” caps and t-shirts started appearing out of the woodwork and the TI8 hype started becoming palpable.

Player two has entered the game

During my wait I was reunited with a teammate from a Dota 2 pick-up match we played at the Electronic and Gaming Expo (EGE 2018) last month. After sharing our predictions around who would win the tournament, and what kind of Dota we were hoping to watch in the upcoming matches, I realised that his plus-one had completely zoned out. It got me thinking about how many of the faces that I didn’t recognise from the likes of EGE, and gaming groups were also plus ones. Did those poor men and women have any idea about what exactly they signed up for when they said “yes” to Dota 2 TI8 tickets?

After receiving my armband, and arming myself with the first round of snacks, I settled into the theatre in time to watch the picking phase of PSG.LGD and EG’s first match. I had progressed from spot-the-gamer into my new favourite game: spot-the-plus-one. I watched as pairs and groups huddled together after each pick and ban. While some were definitely Dota 2 gamers; entering into impassioned debates around the choices the teams were making; other huddles were calmer. These were fairly easy to identify, as fans and plus-ones engaged in a hushed crash course on the ins and outs of the game. Half-way through the picking phase those who had splurged a little more on a ticket started receiving a delicious-looking delivery by the Nu Metro staff at the ticket-holder’s convenience during the match.

Round one: PSG.LGS vs. EG vs. Steam TV

Once the game was underway, both hardcore Dota 2 fans and plus-ones alike were swept up by what ended up being a rather thrilling match. With the vast majority of the theatre rooting for EG, there was an almost constant fluctuation between cheers and boos (which was uncannily close to what you’d imagine a Dota 2 studio audience prompt track would sound like). The match started heating up and, unfortunately, as the team fights got more epic, the Steam TV stream started to falter.

Intermingled with joy and disappointment as the match swung in and out of EG’s favour, a tension was mounting. Before every gank and countergank, the question hanging in the air was not around who would have the advantage after this play, but rather whether we would be able to watch this team fight? Despite the fairly frequent breaks in immersion, the crowd seemed inclined to grin and bear it. The eagerness to get the most out of the experience seemed to bring out a kind of tenuous tolerance in the community. I wasn’t convinced it would last.

Eventually, as the sounds of the storm grew louder, and the screening lag got worse, I decided to head home to watch the finals. All in all, the event seemed to be enjoyed by many – even as I was leaving the stash of energy drinks was dwindling – and I imagine this year’s swag will make spotting my fellow Dota 2 fans even easier next time. While the weather and streaming choice may have made viewing a tad difficult, I’m sure next year, after learning the Steam TV lesson this year, will be far smoother.


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