It’s been a long standing dream of mine to be able to attend an in-person Dota 2 tournament ever since I semi-regularly followed the SEA region’s development. It’s always been too far, too expensive, or too late: KL Major, Manila Major, Singapore Major all slipped past me for a variety of reasons.
It was different this time, as cable car doors opened to an incredibly foggy morning on 26 August 2022, a few hours off from the doors opening. A long snake of people queued up, prepared to be dazzled by the display awaiting them in the Arena of Stars. The atmosphere is palpable even in the empty arena as they do the soundchecks.
ESL ONE Malaysia 2022 at Genting Highlands was about to begin the first day of playoffs in the arena, and I was there.
I was already pretty hyped for The International 11 seeing as it’s in Singapore. Even if I wasn’t going to be able to get tickets to the event, I was determined to be at least near the vicinity and see the decor at the very least. Maybe even try to sneak to the Secret Shop and not think about the impending wallet damage that was to come.
🇲🇾 WE'RE BACK 🇲🇾
It's been 4 long years, but we're returning to the Arena of Stars at Resorts World Genting with #ESLOne Malaysia 2022!
📅 23-28 August
⚔️ 12 teams
🎟️ Friday 10th 3pm MYThttps://t.co/gti0wpICAl pic.twitter.com/d1xwni7ZQq
— ESL Dota2 (@ESLDota2) June 8, 2022
How could I miss out?
And so I arrived, on the first day of the stage playoffs. I had no idea what to expect, this being my first proper LAN event. The event was sold out, so all I knew was to expect People.
We're officially SOLD OUT of #ESLOne Malaysia tickets 😱
We can't wait to see you all at the Arena of Stars next week 🤗 pic.twitter.com/KWknkXBUjY
— ESL Dota2 (@ESLDota2) August 17, 2022
I didn’t walk around all that much on the first day since I needed a place to put down my luggage. Besides, FNATIC was scheduled to play later that night and I wanted to save my energy to cheer on the SEA hope. This was another given: we’re in SEA, of course I had to cheer on SEA. Most importantly, though, I just really wanted to see some good games.
I got the chance to speak to johnxfire and MLPDotA too! Note to self: bring your own marker for autographs to avoid getting torn up between running out of the arena during games and ducking into the fan meet areas.
In the arena itself, I made myself comfortable on a seat and waited with bated breath for the games to begin. Over yonder, I could see the panel, the casters on the other side, the players filing out from the backstage, and the mass of fans around.
I was definitely not well-prepared to cheer and yell but I’d be damned if that was going to stop me. I contributed my voice to the rising crescendo coming from the stands as The Plays were made. I saw DJ cast those Impales in person. I heard everyone calling out his name like all our hopes were pinned on him in those plays, as though we could blow the roof off the Arena of Stars.
It wasn’t just for DJ, of course. As long as The Plays happened, we were all going to go crazy.
THE FAN EXPERIENCE
Making my way over to the Expo area, I incinerated some cash to get some merchandise. Even the fog and heavy rain wasn’t about to dampen any spirits, as everyone stood around checking out the booths, queueing for fan signings or AMAs. There were screens around so that you can watch the game as well, though it doesn’t beat being in the arena, mostly because you can’t really hear them.
If you really want to get some autographs, please come around 30 minutes earlier at least. There will always be queues and swarms of people around, and you don’t want to miss out. This is what I’d say is the entire point of LAN events: there’s such a stark difference between cheering in front of your screen, versus hundreds, thousands of other people around you.
Turn around, and there could be someone you could chat with about the current or upcoming games. Maybe start putting your two analyst braincells together and discuss the drafts. Maybe just even talk about being at other events, past or hopeful present. We’re all here because either we, or someone who dragged us there, love the game. That’s a feeling you can’t replicate with Twitch chat.
TILL NEXT TIME
Admittedly, a 3-0 Best-of-Five was a little disappointing, but I can’t say it was a complete dud. As I’ve said time and again, the sheer energy of the crowd is what propelled me. It wasn’t like Team Aster folded that easily, with several moments of hope for turnarounds.
People like to say how “anything” is possible on LAN for Dota 2, so we keep hoping on. Maybe a Kyle curse would help too. (It did not happen.)
game 5 pls @keepingitKyle #ESLOne pic.twitter.com/y2ZtlbUzYE
— ESL Dota2 (@ESLDota2) August 28, 2022
Waking up the following morning with the Finals done and dusted, there’s a certain emptiness. Even trying to gather my thoughts after the fact is hard, because it’s hard to describe the atmosphere you get by being around people. It’s like the end of a dream, back down the mountain to reality. From the cable car back, I could see the expo area, already mostly cleared out and empty.
— ESL Dota2 (@ESLDota2) August 28, 2022
The International 11 qualifiers, and the event itself, is also right on the horizon. Time just flies, doesn’t it?
I want to be at more events, get more signatures to show that I’ve been there. It’s a one of a kind experience, and I’m looking forward to more. Who will be the rising stars? What storylines will we get to see with the coming qualifiers in the lead up to the finals weekend?
I just can’t wait to find out.
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