Reflections of an old-school Dota pro: from 500 yuan to 1000000 dollars

Written by Quanquanquan, former Nebula member (team from early Chinese Dota), this is an amazing introspective, insightful, and emotional piece from an insider who watched and participated as Chinese Dota went from nothing to the world-beating juggernaut that it is today. It’s long but absolutely worth the read, so click through! Hope you enjoy, I did.


After seeing the images of iG celebrating their win, seeing DK’s pain after losing, something in my heart stirred, reminding me of the days when the flame of my youth fueled a passion for Dota — that Dota that we all loved!

Back then, 820 was still young, DC was still on team GL2, longDD was still our teammate; back then Nekomata was still our second team’s lead, Snoy was a member; back then GL. Yue taught us how to pull and manage creep lines, GL Chenlun teaching us what it meant to truly farm; Back then, 2009 was still a fan of some college team, Zhou, was still just a “miserable screwup” (some old player’s words)  in some IXXX team scene. Back then, my apprentice was still just a kid, and you never would have thought that he could make it professionally, do commentary, and train up a Pis (former high level player) too.
Back then, we paid for our own training while feasting on mantou (cheap bread-like bun) and pickled vegetables; back then, a 500 RMB prize pool was something that excited us beyond excitement; Back then, there were no player transfers, no real retirements, because if there was never any job, how can there be a retirement?

Those years were when, in the face of our parents’ disapproval, our rewards were far less than our dedication.

After iG won the Grand Finals, just as I got home from the shop (I believe the writer currently runs a shop for a living), the wife came to me with our kid in her arms and said, “Wow, each of iG’s players gets over 2 million RMB, did you guys even get 20000 RMB?” I said, “Over a year of competition, our entire team might get 20000…” and I suddenly wondered to myself, what were we so determined to accomplish then? Maybe glory? Maybe prize money? But really, it obviously wasn’t any of those things, it was because we loved Dota, simply because of this game that brings people together. In those times, all my teammates, opponents, they all chose to retire after either graduating or starting college, not because they didn’t love this game anymore, but because making Dota their lives was not a feasible choice. So, everyone chose to work, study, go abroad, start a business, and slowly drifted apart.

Sometimes I get a phone call, a text message, a ping on MSN, QQ, and we’re all still talking about Dota.

It’s not clear when it began, but as a pastime, this game has become something of an equivalent to the older generation’s hobbies of dancing, mahjong, chess, or card games, a major form of entertainment in people’s lives. In that way, is Dota our generation’s symbol?

Dota brought to us the firmest of friendships, maybe even stronger than the bonds formed between classmates and roommates in college. The friends we made playing Dota together in internet cafes back then, to this day we keep in touch, care about each other; this is an age of Dota.

Seeing Tongfu’s internal strife, factional rivalries, “100% focused on Dota2”, the amount of retirements, transfers, and inside stories; Years of grudges, ringers, cheating, back then there was none of this. We also argued, broke keyboards, threw things across the room, but we were still in it together, determined, focused on the big picture. We all respected each other, learned together, and bullshitted together. Once, DC and 820 took EHOME out to eat in Beijing. We talked of the past, DC said it was all something that these kids nowadays could not and would not understand, 820 said they didn’t appreciate their fortune now, all as we observed 357, 71, Dai sitting at the next table. The few years after that proved their words true, hence why DC is known as a wise ‘crusader’ for the scene.

Back then, those of us who were still in the scene, how we wished and hoped for a formal business model, one that could at least provide us with enough to get by with. Now, the kids who are playing in tournaments, what they can get is far more than that. Too bad a lot of people don’t treasure the chance, so this is probably why DC is always frustrated when potential is wasted.

All along my friends and I have been following Dota; for Dota commentators, streams, and videos, DC and BBC have been the ones we can most relate to. To say mechanics and raw skill are king is not wrong, but in modern society what we need more of is tolerance, wisdom, loyalty, morality; and use these good things to scrape away the impulsiveness and hostility that is present. For readers, with a bit of experience and morals you will eventually feel this too. Of course the focus of what we’re talking about is not in competition, ambition, greed, etc.

I still remember back at our first LAN event, us crying and laughing and crying while laughing after we won. The most moving was longDD, a real direct and simple kind of kid; too bad he hasn’t had much learning, he’s a bit too coarse and straightforward, but he really isn’t dishonest or bad.

I still remember Laowan, 820, Panda’s teary eyes and absolute silence after their team, GL, lost.

But life always goes on, and so the next day we were back at it, eating, joking, drinking… then we were parting ways, by plane, by train, to continue our lives. Some continued to compete, some returned to their old selves. It’s all the same, no?

Now I realize, victory or defeat, laughter or tears, they’re only the harvest of the effort, luck, and skill you have at that certain point in time. After that point in time, life continues, time continues. So some people mature, some people burn out, some people grow old, and then new victors, winners, are born, and the old ones fade away.

Winning or losing isn’t frightening, what’s frightening is losing yourself. So for the kids out there, find yourselves, make sure of your path before you walk down it. Don’t disappoint the hopes of those who support you, don’t pay attention to those who have nothing good to say. People’s hearts will know fairness, your heart will know fairness. Those with impure hearts are the ones that see the world as bleak and dirty, that’s why they speak ill and only in insults. These people are no more than a bit of dust in life. Dust off your shoulders and they’ll be gone.

As a bunch of “middle-aged” Dota lovers, we only hope to see amazing matches. If a team plays well, we’ll support them. If a team plays poorly, we can only wonder what if. So please, everyone, take this hard-won competitive scene and treasure it. Less abuse, more encouragement and support. As for all those backstage stories, internal issues, cheating, and maybe even worse… those things are not for normal people, so leave them far away. What should be yours is yours, what shouldn’t be yours will never be yours. Bad things come together, go too far and you will always get what’s coming.

I’ve got so much to say, but as a science major I’m not a writer, my thoughts are all over the place and my pen is not sharp. The ideas are here, so I’ll call it good.

Thank you to Dota for all the joy it has brought and will continue to  bring, thank you Dota for my wife and child, thank you Dota for the friends and teammates that I’ve come to know, thank you to Dota for the opponents from all walks of life that you’ve brought to me.

I bow to the achievement of Chinese teams at The International 2. I applaud every one of the kids out there who refuse to give in and continue to train and practice; win or lose is just a moment, life is about forging new beginnings.

I dedicate this to DK, iG, LGD, TongFu, EHOME, all the commentators, readers, users out there.

3 thoughts on “Reflections of an old-school Dota pro: from 500 yuan to 1000000 dollars

  1. I never really played in the competitive scene, only leagues like THR, but I can definitely relate…who would have thought that a team could win a million dollars just for playing DotA…a custom map within a “real” game. My friends and I would play every day we got out of High School and we were always coming up with the craziest strats (KotL + Techies midlane megapush). I’m still not the best but love watching the best and the crazy stuff they do (Dendi as Pudge in TI2 was amazing). Valve did a great job turning this into a spectator game and I’m sure there is more to come.

  2. Pingback: Best of 2012 posts, stories, and more « Dota 2 CN — Dotaland!

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