The Dota 2 Shanghai Major is well underway and it’s been a circus of technical issues, drama, and incredibly great Dota. Like many large esports events, each team was given a chance to record an intro video for the event. While the average team promo interlaces interviews, gameplay, and action shots, the Shanghai Major player introductions went for something totally off the rails. I have no idea what many of these videos have to do with individual players, their organizations, the game they play, or really anything at all. Suffice to say, they’re amazing.
The Team Secret Time Wizards. The Virtus.Pro Masquarade. The CDEC… big foot steppers? This is the wonderful world of esports presented by the Shanghai Major. It’s not just weird shots and presentation: even the editing is off-beat with random color inversions, sudden music cuts, and odd screen transitions. Some of these introductions feel like players were asked to improvise 'esports' with a random prop, while others try to take an experimental film approach, but only half-heartedly.
These intro videos represent the Shanghai Major in a nutshell. While there are clearly good intentions at work, they veer into comedy through absurdity. As someone watching the Shanghai Major from home, there’s been enough major problems that when something goes wrong it just adds to the comedy of errors instead of becoming a depressing blemish. Between hours of delay from organizers losing a keyboard, a booth that stings EternalEnvy, and whatever the hell was happening here, the Shanghai Dota Major can easily be summed up as a comedic calamity.
There is a very distinct positive to these goofy intros, though, and it’s how far they deviate from some of the normal esports cliches. Esports has had a long-running identity crisis when it comes to promotional material. Players are often painted as dark, serious, and brooding when reality tells a totally different story. How many team pictures exist where all team members cross their arms and stare down the camera with as much ferocity as they can muster? While esports events are serious competitive environments, most players aren’t perpetually on edge outside of the booth. That’s why a thirty second video that shows off Team Archon as the world’s least believable archaeologists is so much fun to watch.
Save the dark, brooding edginess for keyboard packaging, and let live events capture some realism and clowniness. There’s something about watching Fnatic’s players pretend to play Dota after meditating that makes me want to root for them.
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