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It was nearly noon on a Thursday. If I was going to make it to class on time, I’d have to head to campus soon. Luckily, I knew myself better than that and had already prepared for it.

I had sent an email to my professor the night before explaining I might be late. I used a standard excuse, pretending to have a job interview scheduled that might leak over, but to be honest I just couldn’t take my eyes off of Ukraine.

To be clear I’m not talking about international relations regarding Russia and Crimea, I’m talking about a video game tournament: Dota 2’s Kiev Major.

The Kiev Major 2017

No idea what I’m talking about? Here’s the crash course. DotA 2, the MOBA created by Valve, has four of what could be considered official LAN tournaments each year. Three are called majors and the big one for all the money that happens during the summer is The International.

The Kiev Major going on now is taking place in the National Palace of Arts in Kiev, Ukraine, has a prize pool of $3 million, and will crown its winner April 30th. Professional teams from all over the world have traveled to this eastern European nation to duke it out in front of a live audience, assuming they made it to the main stage.

Let the weird irony of that sink in for a moment.

Most recognize Ukraine as the location which news pundits have talked about from time to time as the possible site of the beginning of WWIII. To me, it’s the place where five guys from Finland, Jordan, Bulgaria, Lebanon, and Germany came together to knock four Chinese players and an Australian out of a video game tournament with a multi-million dollar prize pool.

This is just a taste of how professional gaming and DotA 2 in particular have become breeding grounds of a surprising amount of intercultural connectivity.

Toxicity and Hope in the DotA 2 Community

DotA 2

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not praising the DotA 2 community. I’ve played for years, and I know how much hatred and toxicity there is within the game. There are enough screenshots in my steam library of in-game conversations for that. I even stopped playing for a bit because I got sick of how much hatred there was.

There are enough screenshots in my steam library of in-game conversations for that. I even stopped playing for a bit because I got sick of how much hatred there was.

I was drawn back in though, and a lot of that was because I had played with people in another country. Last fall I was lucky enough to study abroad in Ireland and ended up joining a team. It was called team Spectre (fans of competitive Starcraft might recognize the name) and was a pretty diverse group.

I, an American in Ireland played offlane. A Latvian kid was our mid-laner. The carry was Estonian and our captain was from Germany. The fifth slot rotated a bit while I was there, but one of our longest lasting players was British.

I spent hours on voice chat with these guys just talking about whatever was on our minds. We all had vastly different backgrounds, but where we came from rarely came up.

In the end, we were just a group of people trying to play some video games. Unfortunately, the team would eventually fall apart because we were never able to get a steady fifth member.

Also, they were all way better than me and I was dragging them down (I’ll admit it). But the point is that we all ended on good terms.

So maybe I’m being naive and hopefully optimistic. Next time someone asks me about Ukraine however, I’m not going to talk about where the closest fallout shelter is. When they shake their heads and say, “Such a shame, what’s going on over there”, I’ll reply with, “yeah it’s not shaping up to be TI3 (arguably the most intense DotA 2 tournament of all time), but it’s still some good Dotes either way!” When they ask about Ukraine I’ll look at Kiev, not Crimea.

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I studied political science and physics, have a job in business intelligence, and write articles on video games. If anyone could tell me when my life is going to start making sense, that'd be great.