Never played Dota 2 before? Well, that might change once you watch pro gamers battle it out at a ginormous competition known as The International. At least that's how I got hooked.
With more than 10 million active users a month, Valve's Dota 2 is one of the most popular video games on the planet. And The International is a worldwide esports tournament devoted to the title. The tourney boasts one of the largest prize pools around, says E-sports Earnings's data, with this year's winning team expected to take home -- you might want to sit down for this -- nearly $11 million.
The contest's Main Event kicks off Monday and runs through next Saturday at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada. The Group Stage wraps up today.
Dota 2 is gorgeous, in this writer's humble opinion, and the battles are grand and exciting. I downloaded Dota 2 after watching footage of last year's International and thinking maybe I could become that good too. The reality, though, is far from what I imagined. To become better at the game, I invited a Dota 2 coach to guide me through (check out the video to see how I did).
This year's tournament has an intriguing wrinkle. Besides pro players, a new type of team is competing: OpenAI Five, a crew of bots created by OpenAI, the Elon Musk-founded research company devoted to artificial intelligence.
Individual bots have beaten top players in single-player matches before, but until recently they didn't have a multibot team. In June, though, the company's five-bot crew beat amateur human teams at Dota 2.as "a huge milestone in advancing artificial intelligence."
Then earlier this month, the bots team took on semiprofessional players ranked in the 99.95th percentile in the world. Open AI Five defeated the humans two games to one, and the Open AI team has since made small tweaks to the bots' neural network in preparation for taking on the pros at The International.
If you can't make it to Canada to join the hordes doting on Dota 2 at this year's International, never fear: You can watch live from home.
First published Aug. 18, 2018 at 5 a.m. PT and updated throughout the tournament.