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Professional gaming may still be something of an oddity in mainstream American culture, but at the rate it's growing, it can't remain that way for long. The Valve-produced "Free to Play" shows why: The world of e-sports and the people in it are interesting, likable and incredibly dedicated.
"Free to Play" follows three top-tier players in their quest to take home the first million-dollar purse in pro gaming history by winning "The International," Valve's worldwide "Dota 2" tournament.
"Dota 2," for those unaware, is the sequel to the original "multiplayer online battle arena," in which teams of five square off against each other, each player choosing a unique character and battling for control over a virtual landscape.
Haven't heard of it? It might surprise you to hear that more than 600,000 people are playing it at this very moment, according to Valve's real-time metrics. Even pro basketball's Jeremy Lin finds time to play, explaining in the film that for him, "'Dota' is a way of life."
Each player has his or her own motivation and style. Singapore's Benedict "Hyhy" Lim found it an escape from the pressure put on him by his parents to excel in school. Danil "Dendi" Ishutin's family was among the first to get a computer in Lviv, Ukraine, and he found his passion early. And Clinton "Fear" Loomis of Medford, Ore., finds that the game simply fulfills the competitive part of his nature.
The tournament occurred in 2011, so the results are there if you want to look for them — we won't spoil it for you, but let's just say at least one of the players goes home quite a bit richer than when he arrived.
"Free to Play" is also free to watch, and subtitled in 25 other languages; pro gaming, and "Dota 2" in particular, is a very international affair — hence the name of the tournament. Watch it on YouTube, with others on Twitch, or on Steam.