Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be telling you why she's preferring pro League to pro Dota and what any of that has to do with medical soap operas:
I've been away from my own PC for big chunks of the last couple of weeks. It's mainly been for work reasons so in addition to not being able to play any Dota or League I've also been able to watch very little. The semi-absence has been irritating, in that I've missed gaming but it's allowed some nebulous inklings and ideas to form into actual thoughts and opinions.
The most interesting was that while I prefer playing Dota to League, I prefer watching League to Dota.
I found myself in a hotel room in Iceland on Sunday night knowing I'd set my alarm for just after 4am in order to make my flight and still watching match after match of North American LCS. Some I paid close attention to, others I had on in the background as I worked or packed, glancing over when there was a swell in urgency from the commentators or when a play caught my eye.
I do this when I'm at home working on my regular articles and features too. My second monitor is often set to the main Riot Twitch channel, either with matches playing out softly in the background or dormant, awaiting a later stream. The latter has led to weird yelps of surprise because it will sometimes burst into life unexpectedly and loudly with me having forgotten the tab was open.
The thing about League's pro scene which I prefer to Dota's is its regularity. Dota has some great tournaments and eSports companies put on fantastic events. ESL One's Frankfurt event last year brought some of the best Dota I've seen this side of the TI3 finals. But there are complications when it comes to the scheduling of tournaments and the teams who are able to participate. Evil Geniuses declined an invite to Red Bull's Battlegrounds event because the finals for both that event and The Summit 3 take place around the same time. EG want to focus on winning The Summit 3. It's not surprising because, after a boost by the community, the prize pool is about twice as much.
EG will not be participating in the upcoming Redbull tournament. As much as we love a tourny in our own backyard, our focus is winning TS3.
— Peter Dager (@ppdDota) March 20, 2015
It's a pro scene which runs off third-party involvements and tourneys because Valve isn't interested in setting up a centrally-run league system or competition rota. They run The International every year to crown a best team from those cherry picked for invites or who go through the qualifying system, but for the rest of the year they take a back seat in terms of organised competition.
The tournaments themselves can be great fun to watch and if you keep an eye on enough of them you start to pick out broader narratives. You follow the interpersonal team dramas or the rise and fall of lineups. You'll build an understanding of how the teams sit in relation to one another.
But I've always had a preference for longer narratives that I can dip back into. League's pro scenes play out over two several-month stretches called the spring and summer splits. The current format for the EU LCS spring split is a nine week regular spring season then a couple of weeks of playoffs. There's also a promotion/relegation element. The bottom team from the LCS will get pushed down to the Challenger series (the next competitive league down) and the top Challenger team will join the LCS. The 8th and 9th placed LCS teams then duke it out with the 2nd and 3rd placed Challenger teams to occupy the remaining two spots in the LCS for the summer split.
All of this means that I can watch the competitive narratives and team dramas play out over a single backdrop. It moves it closer to a soap opera – I watch Holby City and Casualty in a similar way. I know the characters and I watch the shows when I can or when there's a particular event but if I miss a week or a few matches I can dip back in far more easily because a lot of the context remains the same. There's a sense of stability and familiarity with variation within.
There's another aspect to which game I prefer to watch that I hadn't realised until I took a break. It's that I currently prefer League's map, aesthetically. They've reworked it, making changes to the neutral monsters, the landscape and the colour palettes. I enjoy how the results appear on my screen – the world is bright and interesting for the most part. The bits I'm still not keen on are the red and blue bases which just feel so boring and empty. It's like the teams have moved house and not bothered unpacking yet. There's just a nexus and some defensive structures, like a widescreen TV and some boxes to sit on. No wonder they spend most of their time in the lanes and woods.
The Dota map is beautiful and I really enjoy being on it myself as I play, but there's an intensity of colour which it lacks in comparison to League. When I'm watching a match rather than playing, that slightly more muted quality starts to translate into a visual dullness. I get a kind of aesthetic restlessness. It's only low level and it doesn't stop me from actually watching matches but it does help to create a very basic sense of preference.
There are other aspects of each game which affect how I watch and why I enjoy one match and not another but those are two which came into focus after some time away. If you've watched both I'd be interested in whether you've gravitated to one, particularly if it's not the one you play more often.