Three Lane Highway: exploring the expensive e-sports hype trailers of tomorrow

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

Today I watched a very dramatic and slick and expensive-looking trailer for League of Legends' Worlds 2014 tournament. I thought about it in relation to the game of my own preference, and how I spent part of July in a basketball stadium getting really worked up about international wizard conflict more or less because a man with a deep voice told me to. I've written about the narratives that surround the rise of e-sports before . Today, for these reasons and despite many others, I felt compelled to do so in the form of a science fiction press release.

Here you go and I am sorry.


The International 150 began in earnest today as Valve Software unveiled its latest demonstration of the ever-growing reach and relevance of digital sports. In a spectacle timed to coincide with both the 150th anniversary of the terrestrial Dota 2 tournament and the 45th anniversary of the first Lunar International, Valve's array of antique Overwatch satellites were fitted with high-yield nuclear weapons and explosively decommissioned at strategic points across the Mare Cognitum.

"Today, as it has ever been, e-sports are a vibrant and fast-expanding way to create value for our audience" said Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, speaking via the company's proprietary Steam Afterlife digital consciousness storage service. "Today, we create value for our audience by nuking the moon."

As glittering dust settled across scattered lunar colonies, the extent of Valve's explosive remodeling operation revealed itself: a vast plain of dark glass extending across much of the Moon's Earth-facing side. This, then, was the answer to weeks of speculation about hidden files uncovered in the game's latest update: a set of classic lunar spacesuit cosmetics for Techies; a new 'Nuclear Supernova' kinetic gem for Phoenix; a pre-emptive letter of apology to the people of Earth.

Then, the first images flickered to life across that blasted surface as beams of light converged from a ring of orbital projectors. Their lines traced the Dota 2 logo, along with all that it has come to mean since the great E-Sports Marketing Escalation Wars of the early 21st Century: wizards, competition, community, vast expense.

"Welcome to The International" boomed the voice of Robot John Patrick Lowrie as a hyper-accelerated montage of a century and a half of competitive wizard-clicking flashed before the eyes of every man woman and child on planet Earth. "Please stand for the national anthem."

Vi sitter här i venten och spelar lite DotA

Synthesisers in the darkness. Then, from that bright blue world below, the traditional call-and-response.

I hear you, man!

Vi sitter här i venten och spelar lite DotA

I feel you, man!

Great-grandparents wept as strains of familiar eurodance transported them back to their childhoods. They remembered days of innocence, when e-sports tournaments took place in football stadiums and not specially-constructed orbital thunderdomes; when prize pools capped out at a few million dollars and did not exceed the gross domestic product of the United States of America. A time when there was a United States of America, or indeed nations at all. Before civilization became a game played between supercorporations, before war became a battle to see who could produce the fanciest trailer for their digital sport. Before a video depicting teenage pro-gamers as magical lasers; before that first disastrous attempt to turn teenage pro-gamers into actual lasers.

Before the rise of the League Hierarchy and its on-again, off-again conflict with the people of the Dota Core. Before the Secession of the Storm and the exile of the Federation of Other MOBAs. Earth remembered, and listened to Basshunter.

"We really think that digital sport is only going to get bigger from here" said a masked and anonymous spokesperson for Valve, taking questions shortly after the event. "I mean, it's really big, isn't it. And it's only going to get better, isn't it? It's very, very, very important, and big, and good, and growing. That what everybody always says at these things, isn't it? Is this going well? Did I do it right? Please do not incinerate me."

This year's prize pool includes a gift from every extant human being, with the exact value of each gift to be determined via Compendium vote. Analysts are divided in their choice of favourite, but Earth Prime Team DK, Robo-Alliance and The Zephyr Memorial Medibears are all expected to do well. Na'Vi, most analysts agree, will come second.

The International 150 will conclude on August 21, 2161. In the weeks to follow the Earth will hold its traditional How Big Are E-Sports Really Festival, a celebration of traditional arts and crafts with headline events including 'Early 21st Century Gaming Op-Eds: A Guide' and 'Inside The Comments Thread: But Is It Really Sport?'

Riot are expected to respond by engraving the League logo into the surface of Mars or something later in the year.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here .

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.