A few weeks back, five young men won nearly $US7 million of an $US18 million prize pool for being the best “DOTA 2” players in the world. It remains — by far — the largest prize ever awarded in the world of eSports.
Even more remarkable is the team itself: “Evil Geniuses” has players as young as 16 and as old as 27. Here they are after winning the “DOTA 2” world championship, otherwise known as “The International 2015”:
These are not a bunch of hardened athletes, but a group of relatively young men.
Given the vast gap in age between the team’s youngest and oldest players — over 10 years! — we asked Syed Sumail Hassan (16) and Clinton Loomis (27) for their distinct perspectives on the big win, and what it means for their respective careers.
“I’m not sure, I’ve never really thought about it too much,” Hassan says when asked about his future after eSports. He’s the young one at just 16 years old, his family having moved to the United States from Pakistan in summer 2014. His handle in “DOTA 2,” like his middle name, is “SumaiL” (altered with a capital L).
Hassan’s career is just beginning, and it’s already a decorated one: a $US1.2 million dollar victory in the “DOTA 2” Asian championships this past February, and his team taking first place in the annual world championship held by the game’s publisher, Valve Software. Evil Geniuses won in the neighbourhood of $US6.6 million for winning The International 2015.
Here’s the game that won them notoriety and millions of dollars:
“I actually don’t think that there’s a hard age limit in ‘DOTA,'” Clinton Loomis tells Tech Insider. “In other games where reflexes are a much more important aspect, I think ageing out is more of a thing. But in ‘DOTA,’ experience is such a big factor that you can probably play this game at a much older age.”
We asked Loomis about the concept of “ageing out” — a real concern for eSports players. Due to the reaction time and twitch gameplay of many eSports games, players tend to lose their edge as they get older. This is especially true for shooters like “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Call of Duty.”
It’s not clear yet whether ageing out will impact the genre that games like “League of Legends” and “DOTA 2” are part of, so called “MOBAs” (multiplayer online battle arena games). MOBAs are more tactical and less dependent on instant reaction time.
One edge that older players have over younger ones, of course, is not having to attend school. This is how Hassan describes a normal day’s routine:
Usually I wake up and go to school around 8:00AM, and when I come back around 4:00PM we play scrimmages and official matches. During the summer when I didn’t have school we would start practice around 10:00 or 11:00AM and I would play for the rest of the day after that and watch movies at night.
The life of an older player is comparatively much more balanced. Here’s how Loomis describes a normal day for him:
During the season I usually start the day around 9:00AM for breakfast, and we’ll either start practice or official games an hour after. Depending on how long the matches take, I’ll play public games for a few more hours and spend a few more hours after that going over replays. Then I’ll go to the gym and play a couple of games after that.
Exercise! The luxury! More importantly, Loomis is able to practice “DOTA 2” far more than his younger counterpart. Both point to months of hard work as the only reason they were able to win this year’s The International tournament. “You don’t get better unless you put in the time,” Hassan says.
Though Loomis says this “probably” isn’t his last major competitive tournament, it’s clear that the sport is going to skew younger as time moves forward. The people in Hassan’s generation grew up with “DOTA” like others grew up with “Pac-Man,” or “Super Mario,” or “The Oregon Trail.”
As Loomis puts it, “There are a lot of younger players like Sumail now that are much better at a younger age than their older counterparts because they have started playing at a younger age.” Hassan himself started playing “DOTA” at a young age, and he graduated to “DOTA 2” after it was released in 2013.
Despite the difference in age, and despite their rigorous practice schedule, both Hassan and Loomis share a love of “DOTA 2.” And of video games in general — still! — even though they play games professionally for a living.
“I’ve played games almost all my life,” says Hassan. “I wouldn’t play this game if I didn’t like it.”
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