Valve: The Movie Coming To A Steam Near You In March

At some point, we’re just going to have to accept the fact that Valve is all. Where once it was merely a humble game developer, it now has a synonymous-with-PC-gaming storefront, its own series of console-ish boxes, a mini-convention, a virtual reality department, the largest collection of virtual hats on Earth, and every number in human history all the way up to 2. Oh, and now it’s got its own movie too, because why not? Free To Play: The Movie is a high-budget Valve production about three DOTA 2 pros. Color me intrigued. And also purple. I am feeling very purple right now.

The movie was created internally by Valve, and it’s coming to Steam on March 19th. There will also be a legitimate theater premier at the Castro Theater in San Francisco on the 18th, presumably for GDC attendees to meander over to and fall into a drunken slumber during.

Here’s what Free To Play – a film not at all about what its name would suggest – is about:

“Free To Play is a feature-length documentary that follows three professional gamers from around the world as they compete for a million dollar prize in the first Dota 2 International Tournament. In recent years, E Sports has surged in popularity to become one of the most widely-practiced forms of competitive sport today. A million dollar tournament changed the landscape of the gaming world and for those elite players at the top of their craft, nothing would ever be the same again. Produced by Valve, the film documents the challenges and sacrifices required of players to compete at the highest level.”

I’ve heard good things about it from folks who’ve seen pre-screenings, so it might be worth watching. Glossy gaming documentaries are something I’d like to see more of in this world, whether hyper-dramatized (hello, Indie Game: The Movie) or not.

Who’s gonna check this one out? I think I will, if only to prepare myself for the inevitable future in which Half-Life 3 is a meta-documentary about what Valve did instead of making Half-Life 3.


  1. staberas says:

    Ok, Lets do it boys :

    Free To Play => 3 words


    • MichaelGC says:

      And the film follows THREE professional gamers. THREE.

      So … Half-Life 3 will be free-to-play, then? I can imagine that design decision causing a few internet conniptions.

      • Loyal_Viggo says:

        Also, there is at least THREE, that’s right THREE, terrible haircuts in that picture.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      Every number in human history all the way up to 2? Every number in human history all the way up to 2….

      Oh! Hey guys we’ve been doing it wrong, we’re not meant to be waiting for Half-Life 3, we’re meant to be waiting for Half-Life ½…and they’ve apparently already made it?

    • Rustofski says:

      To Be fair, there are 4 counter strike games.

  2. Horg says:

    I’ve been really impressed with the way Valve has handled The Internationals. They have clearly set the bar for e-sports events in terms of production values, and more importantly, audience participation. I’d be interested in this film just to get some insight into how they run things.

    • Cinek says:

      Yep. Completely agreed. The International, especially last one, was a first e-sports event that really got me into it to the point where I was sitting watching games till 4am. I seen few other tournaments in other games (including LoL, Star Craft and CoD) and none of them was as interesting and well-made as TI. Looking forward to see the movie.

    • bstard says:

      I don’t play Moba’s but that international was indeed fun to watch. The teamplay makes moba’s interesting to me where the solo Starcraft gets boring very quickly.

  3. Lars Westergren says:

    > I am feeling very purple right now.

    That mood indigo.

    Cool trailer by the way.

  4. Crainey says:

    Interesting times indeed. From what I am hearing this documentary may be the first to truly realize what eSports is and bring it to the real world.

    The difference between the Valve and the Riot approach is very interesting. Riot bring all of the production for their League Championship Series (LCS) in-house, including Commentators, it’s all very centrally-controlled. Valve is the opposite in that they community farmed

    The International, they bring community content creators to the event to meet the players and teams so they can partner up on future in-game team merchandise. Valve also helps build the respectable $50k-$100k prized community tournaments into $250k tournaments through community contributions, as they did with The International to make it into a $2.9m tournament.

    I don’t think either is the wrong approach to take. Riot has the money and commitment to create a massive league and control it all. They are really defining eSports at the moment. Valve’s approach is probably better for the longevity of the sport as it supports the teams and players, more needs to be done in countries like China though.

  5. Pazguato says:

    Not interested at all in e-sports or documentaries about e-sports. Just look the picture above. Testosterone, teenagers and bullshit ¬¬

    • Lars Westergren says:

      > Testosterone, teenagers and bullshit ¬¬

      Testosterone and teenagers maybe, but bullshit, I’m not so sure. As the trailers show, for some people, this may be a chance to earn big bucks and fame. But despite being “Free to Play”, it takes an enormous amount of time and sacrifice, to the worry of themselves and parents.

      • Horg says:

        ”Testosterone and teenagers maybe”

        Every player in that picture was at least 20 when it was taken, so that basically leaves testosterone, which is pretty much inseparable from any competitive event involving men.

        • waltC says:

          When you reach a certain age, people in their 20’s look like adolescent teenagers. Get a bit older, and they look like they’re 10 years old and you start looking for traces of peach fuzz on male faces to discern if they’re actually any older than that…;)

          To me, though, the people in this picture look to be about 20, going on 15.

    • puppybeard says:

      In spirit, I agree with you, but it appears as though they’ve quite deliberately chosen some sympathetic protagonists, rather than the screaming shits that would spring to mind when you hear the words “cyberathlete”.

      Is it representative? I dunno, but it could be a good yarn.

      • Stupoider says:

        The players at The International have usually been well behaved. I haven’t seen or heard of any diva stuff.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      e-Sports are like a worse version of regular sports. I’m playing videogames because I don’t care what foot-to-baller has kicked a ball into what goal.

      • HadToLogin says:

        Any reason “why” it’s worse?

        I can get why someone might say it’s bad – “stop watching, start playing either of them” – but why “worse”?

        • dE says:

          The people involved in it aren’t yet big enough to know to not engage in Drama. Thus they engage in Drama. Ergo they’re worse.

          • Pathetic Phallacy says:

            Yes, athletes are big enough to know to never engage in drama. Totally.

          • shaydeeadi says:

            Just ask Richard Sherman

          • Pamplemousse says:

            Yeah look at real sports with players like Michael Vick. He’s an upstanding member of the community and a real role model for the kids:

            link to

            Oh wait no he was involved in dog fights.

            He’s probably just an exception right? What about Stevie Gerrard? Probably no drama there right: link to


            So far as I know no pro dota player at the international has staged dog fights or beaten a man unconscious so their probably not doing too badly on that front at least. SO MUCH DRAMA

      • dmoe says:

        These dudes can clear up to 6 figures playing this “sport”.
        link to

        The top 3 Dota players which are from Navi especially. Stay mad, homie.

    • Cinek says:

      Let me guess: You’re one of these guys that think “gamer” is a synonym with unemployed fat American sitting in his mother’s basement playing games all day long?

    • C0llic says:

      DOTA actually isnt as bad as a lot of esports. Notably starcraft 2 ( im not sure if the same is true of LoL pros). There is some bad mannered behaviour and drama, but it has nothing on starcraft. I think the fact its a team game does help massively. It isn’t so much about two teen egos duking it out.

      • Cinek says:


        If it’s league can be called “esports” at all (I would argue it can’t). But they seriously got some teenager-level issues in there.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        DOTA 2 players can definitely get as bad as other esports. Overall they’re probably not any better than other esport communities, especially other games of its genre.

        However, the immature idiots tend to not be the really good players who make tournaments and I think you are correct in that it’s the team aspect. Most teams are not going to tolerate a complete jerk for two reasons: 1. they’re simply not fun to play alongside. 2. Their egos will cause them to make stupid mistakes in the pursuit of being a glory hog.

        Basically the organized teams will usually have more mature players (though you will also find teams full of egotistical, ultracompetitive types as well but they don’t get as far.) The asshats tend to be stuck in the middle/lower leagues in most esport games, which means the majority of the game’s population has to deal with them. It’s no wonder such reputations like the one the DOTA-like community has become so well known.

    • dmoe says:

      And there it is. Another uninformed RPS poster post about Dota 2.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        If people had to get informed before posting there’s be hardly a comment left!

  6. puppybeard says:

    “10 years ago, competitive gaming wasn’t even a thing..”

    …go to the back of the class.

    I might actually watch this though, sure it might be a big ad for DotA, but as someone who finds “e-sports” a big turn off, it looks like it might be a fairly honest look into the mindset of the actual players.

    • warthog2k says:

      Indeed – Dennis ‘Thresh’ Fong RETIRED from pro-gaming in 2001 after a 6 year career.

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      particlese says:

      I find myself in a vaguely similar mindset: I don’t get the eSports thing at all, but I’m interested in this movie partly because it appears to resonate well with the IGTM vibe (which I’ve been watching lately), but mostly due to a genuine curiosity to the tune of “why do people care about eSports at all?”

      My bookmark in Sir Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life sits patiently in the “propagandists” section, and the book provided some of that insight, if I remember correctly. But when I found myself watching some gaming TV in Seoul a year or so ago, and I found it precisely as dull and uncaptivatingly silly as any traditional athletic team sport I’ve seen on TV. Maybe a shiny two-hour-ish (I assume) documentary will be more illuminating…

      Then there’s the third and final season (which has two days left on Indiegogo) of the thoroughly ridiculous and amazing Video Game High School. One could say it’s a documentary from a future when eSports are already a Thing…

  7. Tom Walker says:

    It should bother me that Valve is all. It bothers me that in the desktop OS market, Microsoft is all. I am aware that for one company to be all in any given market can only be a bad thing in the long term.

    It’s just…. I really *like* Valve.

  8. fencenswitschen says:

    [..] whether hyper-dramatized (hello, Indie Game: The Movie) or not.

    Dramatic – yes, a little bit. But very beautifully photographed and well composed. There is not even a handful of game movies/documentaries out there which are made equally good as Indie Game – The Movie. If you know of some that are, please feel free to tell me.

    • C0llic says:

      Indie Game: The Movie was great, but the description does pretty much sum it up. Not that it’s a bad thing; it’s a stylistic choice more than anything, and is a big part of why the documentary is so engaging.

  9. Runty McTall says:

    Fingers crossed this is also a tentative step towards Steam being used to distribute TV shows and movies in a non-bullshit way and at non-bullshit prices.

    • Diggles says:

      They do have Indie Game: The Movie on Steam, so hopefully this means they’ll add more in the future.

  10. LunyAlex says:

    1. Misleading movie title. You’d assume it’s a movie about … well… you know…

    2. Personally I’ve found that more often than not emotional “will and determination” movies about sports fall flat on their face because of a forced execution.

    When I watch this trailer I get the impulse to say “Dude, it’s just a game”, even though otherwise I actually don’t think that at all. I understand the value games can have in someone’s life and I fully appreciate the effort, determination and strength needed to rise competitively within a sport, but portraying all that in an “underdog / shiny stadium aspiration” light on film feels somewhat cheap to me.

  11. Monkeh says:

    Argh, of course it had to be about the one game Valve made that I don’t care about.

    • Rovac says:

      well, there is Half Life 2 : Raising The Bar if you like those things.

  12. SpecialSoup says:

    These comment sections are a goldmine for people who just love to complain.

    If you don’t like e-sports or Dota, don’t watch it. Valve are hardly making it compulsory or shoving it in your face.

    If you really feel the need to put down people who are doing what they love and making a honest living out of it, go ahead, but I really fail to see the point.

  13. Squirrelfanatic says:

    Alt-text for that picture should be: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.

  14. rcguitarist says:

    Nerd movie! Sorry, the truth had to be said. I’m glad for them that they won 1 million bucks, so they can now be rich nerds.

  15. Turkey says:

    I used to be an E-sports champion until i sprained my virtual ankle. I saved up some Linden Dollars for an early retirement, though, and now I’m free to spend my time with my hobbies: like playing Cabela’s Big Game Hunter III and Bass Masters Classic: Pro Edition.

  16. Tei says:

    Joy is how you lose and laught at yourself.

    The only people you must one up every day is yourself.

    I think sports are born when people fail to understand games, and what is the point of games.

  17. Bahlof says:

    I just want Team Fortress: The Movie.