We’ve wanted to go to Canada for a while and always figured we’d do the West coast and see the mountains and take in the landscapes and wildlife. Last year I had the idea of combining that with another of my hobbies, esports. I’ve been into gaming for years and competitive gaming (as a viewer) for at least 6-7 years. 4 years ago Valve, the company behind Steam, released Dota 2. They did so by organising a tournament for $1.6m to attract attention and they called it The International. The production wasn’t great, it was buggy and there were so many pauses but it was interesting. I’ve since been into Dota 2 as a player and a fan and this year The International 5 has 16 teams competing for $18m, the single biggest prize in gaming. We got tickets for the event and so planned a trip to Seattle to see the last half of it and then go on to Canada for some regular stuff!
We had an uneventful afternoon flight out from Heathrow to Seattle. For some reason we thought it was going to be about 12 hours and then it turned out to be 9.5 which is so much nicer. Watched Frozen at least but there weren’t too many tempting movies. We were feeling awake enough for public transport and hopped on the light rail to take us into downtown Seattle and near to our hotel, the Mayflower Park.
First impressions of the hotel were decent but not amazing for the money, but I think we’ll have that feeling a few times. Travelling during August is pretty punishing on the cost and not something we’re used to. I guess we’ve also been spoiled on some previous trips. We headed out for some Korean fusion food at Cha:n nearby which was a really tasty choice. Some spicy chicken wings, bibimbap and little bulgogi burgers started off our food journey in style.
I don’t sleep much at all during the first few days of a trip. Each time I hope it’ll be different and it never is. No change here. We got up early as we wanted to walk to the venue and grab breakfast on the way. Almost none of the hotels on this trip came with breakfast included, so it’ll be a good chance to find some bakeries. Dahlia bakery was top 10 on tripadvisor and oh god did it deserve it. Amazing hot breakfast muffins full of bacon, egg and aioli. They also had little coconut and cream pies (TARTS!) so I had one whilst I waited for the muffin and it was gorgeous.
We walked through downtown to the area with the space needle and Key Arena, where The International was taking place. We were pretty early so we grabbed our tickets, some merchandise and then found some really good seats in time for Day 4 of the competition. Unfortunately several of the teams I was supporting had been knocked out by this point and it wasn’t looking great for the others. Thankfully the standard of play was incredibly high and it was very enjoyable, regardless of who I was rooting for.
We grabbed some Vietnamese bahn-mi at Red Papaya just round the corner from the venue and it was well worth the money. We then returned to see some more games and then attend a virtual reality demo we’d signed up for. Valve are partnered with HTC to make a VR headset called the Vive. It uses positional tracking so you can walk around in a room with the headset on and explore the space. We got to enjoy demos where we explored a kitchen and one where we got to do some 3d painting and move around our art. There was an incredible underwater one set on a wrecked ship where a whale turns up and makes you feel incredibly tiny and vulnerable. Finally there was a Dota 2 themed one inside a shack full of items and creatures from the game. I had the biggest grin on my face the entire time through the demo and I can’t wait for this stuff to become part of our normal lives. Gaming simply won’t be the same anymore.
After the VR we watched a 10 vs 10 all-star match on the main stage which featured some of the crowd and some of the fan favourites playing together. Then we headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night.
Even less sleep going into day 3 and I’m not sure what I did to deserve that! Having skipped dinner on day 2 I grabbed 2 of the breakfast muffins as we walked over to the venue for more Dota. We found some decent seats again and watched the pre-show.
“Sheever”, one of the personalities who acts as a pundit and presenter at big events is someone I regularly watch online. I’d ended up trying to help her sister Ri out with a ticket as they’d been hard to get hold of. I’d not met Ri before the event but we’d talked a bunch on skype in the run up. We met up for a while during the first game whilst she was running a few errands for her sister. I recognized a lot of personalities at the event but it was cool to chat to Ri as she was the only person I’d actually talked to before. We ended up chatting on twitter a fair bit during the games and it was really cool.
Above: Me (jetlagged!) with Jorien “Sheever” van der Heijden.
We skipped out after the first couple of matches to grab some thai food and the phad thai didn’t disappoint. I really shouldn’t have asked for it spicy though.. I am apparently a very, very slow learner. We then watched the remainder of the last game before heading back to the hotel. I may have grabbed a big coconut pie at the bakery on the way back with the intention of eating a small amount of it. As I write this.. there isn’t much of it left. I ended up being so tired that I fell asleep at 9pm but I did get some solid sleep and then decided that 5am is a good time for blogging! In a few hours we’ll head off for the penultimate match and then the final and then on Sunday we’ll be hopping on a boat to Vancouver Island.