No news is rarely news, but in the context of Dota 2 there is a significant lack of headlines this year that we should be very pleased about. For years now, every time The International has been on the horizon, stories about teams struggling to get visas to travel to the USA have accompanied the other news, but a tweet from Matthew Baily, AKA Team Secret’s Cyborgmatt, suggests that for some reason that is not the case for TI8, due to be held in Canada from August 15.
There are a number of reasons this change could have occurred, and the most obvious assumption might not be the correct one. Anyone who has travelled to both the US and Canada is aware of the challenge getting into the Land of the Free can present, especially if you want to pursue your (non-American) dream, but for the small number of esports pros who have to navigate the tricky pass between being a competitor and an athlete it has been a source of much woe.
Equally, with this being the eighth iteration of The International, and teams having come so far in terms of their ability to navigate the more grown-up aspects of the world, it could just as well come down to people getting their ducks in a row. When you’re playing for a share of $25m, with an audience that rivals many major sports events, it’s worth having someone on hand to sort out logistical matters, or at least advise on them.
It might amaze non-esports folk to realise, but in recent years teams that have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on salary have then left the paperwork to their very expensive assets, rather than hiring assistants, or otherwise slept on this issue. Believe it or not, the likes of Ronaldo and Messi don’t book their own flights, and with the money in esports there is no real reason a Snax, s1mple or coldzera should either.
It’s great news for the fans, too, as they are going to actually get to see the players who qualified, and could win. That may have been the most baffling part of the situation in the past, that Valve were willing to let their flagship events suffer because the potential stars of the show were stuck in their homeland, having failed to fill in some forms. Sure, Valve aren’t supposed to parent the players, but other than those same competitors it is the publisher who loses the most if TI8 is missing half the stars used to advertise it.
Still, whether it comes down to helpful Canadians, an absence of the notoriously obtuse and thick-headed American immigration operatives, or teams getting their acts together, this is another sign of progress. Professionalism is slowly coming, much to the chagrin of those people who want to maintain their right to say childish things, or control the scene, and this is a great example of why that is desirable.
Image credit: Daisuke Matsumura