Reactions and Reflections on True Sight – The International 2018
On January 15, Gillian Linscott and Chelsea Jack sat down together to watch Valve’s “True Sight – The International 2018.” Chelsea had watched the episode live earlier in the day. Gillian came into this viewing fresh. These are some of their reactions and reflections on the show.
Discussing watching the Grand Finals for the International 8 the first time, on August 25, 2018
Gillian: We had never really seen an underdog like this before, in a sense. Every time I think of underdog stories, I think of Ad Finem at the Boston Major as the pinnacle in my mind….[Ad Finem came into the Boston Major 2016 as underdogs, barely escaping the group stage. They ran through the single elimination playoff to take second place versus OG who won the tournament.]
G: I couldn’t understand how [OG] could break this curse that in my mind was firmly cemented in the blood of Dota…Every game I was like, it’s going to end. This dream that I wanted to almost grab on to, I didn’t want to attach myself to because we’ve never had an underdog win like this.
Chelsea: I had interviewed NoTail and Topson, in person, in July and had spent an hour and a half talking with their coach….So I had this emotional attachment to them going into TI, I was rooting for them….. But then the teams I root for never win, ever. I was prepared for them to lose every step of the way. By the time we got to the Grand Finals, I think I was in such a state of disbelief, I wanted them to win….The whole Grand Finals, every time they were down, I was like, okay it’s over. That sucks, but you know, they had a really good run. And then they’d come back, and it was like, oh, it’s not over.
G: That was what was inspiring afterward, to kind of take that giant breath and be like. Holy shit. They did it.
True Sight begins
Regarding the single hallway entrance to the arena
C: So, this seems odd to me that, they—
G: That they walk right past each other.
C: Yeah. It’s surprising to me that they didn’t use opposite sides of the stadium. It’s a hockey arena, there should be—
G: They should be able to.
Teams entering the arena
G: I have goosebumps.
C: It takes you right back.
G: I know this is not a huge deal, but I think it’s really important to point out the differences in how they’re drafting and point out that their mentalities are completely opposite…. OG is prepared to the nines but is relaxed and basically walked into this [saying], “we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do up to this point so whatever happens, happens.” Whereas LGD is serious, paying attention, stressing about it, but then, like “oh shit they have papers, oh shit they’re prepared for this.” The attitudes are not reflective of how they are approaching the situation.
C: ….What I found interesting, I think that the difference is that LGD seems more concerned about OG… OG doesn’t seem to be even noticing what’s happening in the other booth, while LGD is like, this is what we’re doing, we have a plan, but clearly, they’re also like, oh look they’ve got papers.
G: It’s probably a lot to do with editing.
C: Also, the LGD coach [QQQ] is the one who is doing the actual drafting. Whereas NoTail is the one actually clicking on the buttons in the OG.
G: I’m starting to see a bias here that I don’t like.
C: What do you mean?
G: I don’t like how it’s cutting to LGD and every time they’re cutting to LGD they’re like “they’re dumbasses, they don’t know what they doing, they’re messy, they’ve brought papers.” A lot of these cuts to LGD are very negative about LGD.
C: I think they have to make a narrative choice when they’re cutting this together. We know OG wins. So what is the story that you’re going to tell about OG, what’s the story you’re going to tell about why LGD lost. They have to find a way to frame those scenarios. I think part of it is they’re going to make the choice to contrast them as much as possible….
G: Yeah, I guess.
C: I do have questions about it. I don’t trust this presentation of the teams….But is it still compelling?
G: Yeah. I just don’t like how it’s being portrayed… I’m concerned because it’s 26 minutes in. If it gets worse, what is it going to get to?
After Game 1
C: See this is interesting. OG is crowing over their win. LGD is down to business. How do we deal with Spectre? But that could be an editing choice.
G: This is hard to watch.
C: (laughter) It was a rough game.
G: It was a rough game. It was a very rough game.
After Game 2, NoTail tells Topson they lost all three lanes
C: Reassuring. Not your fault, Topson.
G: No. Kunkka-Invoker is a hard match-up to start with.
Before game 3, in booths
G: [regarding QQQ] “I pick this and this happens, do this and this happens.” So where’s the confidence?
After the animated sequence in game 3
G: Oh yes! God, I love these animations. So good! Why can’t I have a Dota 2 movie? I just want a match fully done like that. I don’t even care who it is, I just want it done.
LGD pushing OG’s base in game 3
G: Objective gaming, boys.
C: The little reminders in game are interesting, like that comment, “focus on the towers.” Seeing who it is who pulls them back to this is what we need to actually do.
OG leaving the booth after losing game 3
G: But they’re still so carefree!
C: Ana, you’ve grown so much, you’re the one saying it doesn’t matter! Now, someone go get Topias and tell him that it’s okay!
Before game four
C: It’s also intriguing that they have the screens back there so they can watch the analyst desk if they want.
G: Seems kind of demoralizing to have it there.
C: Yeah, given what the desk sometimes says, it was so-and-so’s fault, it was whatever. You don’t want to hear that.
Near the end of game 4
C: This game. Phew.
G: I know.
C: Even just watching it, this is the second time I’m watching it today, and oh my gosh, it’s still so much stress.
G: Yup. My stomach’s in knots.
C: I know what’s going to happen, but I still feel like…how is it possible that they’re going to?
G: I love how touchy [OG] are… Here’s an interesting contrast. Do you think that having a coach pick for you takes away responsibility from the players? Because [LGD] are not talking about how they played in game, they’re talking about, “can we not have those picks?” instead of, “we didn’t execute properly” or “we threw when we were leading” or whatever it is.
C: I think it’s an interesting choice because it means they’re not arguing with each other, but they’re also not thinking about what they were doing and they can pass the blame off onto the draft.
What I found interesting is the way that [the show] downplays [ppasarel]’s role as coach [with OG]. Ceb does all the motivational speaking, and very much Ceb and Johan are more talky. You kinda get Jerax occasionally throwing in comments. But I think they play down the involvement of [ppasarel] as opposed to [QQQ]. But I also wonder, because when I talked with [ppasarel] at the Red Bull event, he talked about how he developed a system for drafting. And I wonder if it was more about him giving them tools to draft, and then being there for, like, he always fist bumps Ana when they pick his hero. If he’s there more for reinforcement?
G: Probably, yeah. The point about how LGD does focus on making sure their star players perform whereas OG is more willing to shift the focus in certain games so that certain players are highlighted. I think that’s ultimately LGD’s downfall, that when you focus on that star mentality or star player, you lose because you don’t recognize that other players can shine in different moments. And that reflects in their drafting as well, whereas OG is like, “Yeah? You want to fucking take it with Axe? Run with it!” Whereas LGD is like, “No, no, no. He has to have his hero to perform well.”
G: I think that’s understated a lot of the time when we look at tournaments and…teams. When we look at top teams like VP or OG and LGD in certain respects, we too often focus on the star players. We focus on if a team wins or loses, it’s because of the Carrys, it’s because of this, it’s because of this player. Whereas OG in this demonstrated it’s exactly what you said. It’s the adaptability, the ability to recognize that in certain games certain players are better suited to be taking a stronger leading role.
LGD is kind of focusing on because we have these star players, we will do well. And if they have the right heroes, they’ll carry us to victory.
C: Yeah. I wish that we had gotten something…more about LGD’s recovery. We did in the early game, after game 1, them talking about how to deal with the Spectre. I want to know, and it’s not really possible for them to do this because they can’t just show us all the footage in between every game. But, how did [LGD] handle when they lost game four? … OG is so team-oriented and so positive and so” we’re coming together, this is the last game, we love the game.” We didn’t get that from LGD and is it because it didn’t happen or is it because that made it a stronger contrast…to make the storyline stronger? I don’t know. I wish we’d seen that.
Ana asks about late game timing versus LGD in game five
C: When I heard it the first time around, I thought it was dismissive. And I get it, you have to be. Don’t even think about it. But it was interesting insight into Ana….I liked it as a moment of showing vulnerability.
The end of game 5, shots of LGD fans
C: See, it’s heartbreaking!
G: It is actually heartbreaking!
C: That’s the way I felt as every team got knocked out at this TI. For every team, I just felt so bad for them. Although I think everyone took their losses a lot better this year, they didn’t take them as hard as they did last year.
Shot of OG in the booth after winning, “Ceb, it’s real!”
G: Oh my god, I’m going to cry.
C: I know!
Shot of LGD in booth after losing
C: Disappointed, but not devastated. Think about Newbee the year before.
G: That’s true….I’m still crying. It’s really emotional.
G: I just feel really bad that there is no recognition for [LGD] at this point. I get that it’s all about the Aegis, but they just walk off stage, there’s nothing.
True Sight ends
G: This is why I love esports. This is the reason behind it. This is everything….My overwhelming thought is this is why esports.
C: Those last two games were incredible. And then, so emotional.
G: And I think that part, I’m not going to say is for everyone. I very infrequently talk about the real reasons that I got into esports, and this was why. It wasn’t about the technical parts of Dota, which are amazing. It’s those moments when you see Johan sitting on the stage in disbelief or him giggling like a little girl realizing he just won TI or those moments when you watch the…realization that LGD lost…across their faces. Those moments are what drive me to do this, and it’s just—
C: The human moments.
G: Exactly! Those human moments are what’s so important.
On the portrayal of the teams
G: It got better, I do like that they kind of moved away from the name-calling, I just didn’t like that part, I think was my problem, I just didn’t like that part with LGD. I didn’t like that being highlighted.
C: It’s interesting. We saw it with Ceb, where he said (paraphrased), “they’re probably over there really confused, I feel sorry for them. No, I don’t, fuck ‘em.” You kind of see [OG]…trying to have that aggression toward the other team, talk down the other team.
G: Yeah, but I think the difference was, and maybe this is the translation, but…OG never took that moment to minimize or downplay the significance of LGD or their talent or anything, which was something that was almost always translation or said through translation by LGD. And I’m not sure if that’s an actual thing or a translation issue.
C:…I always go back to [True Sight: The Kiev Major Grand Finals]. [Being negative about their opponent] is how Virtus.pro is portrayed too….That’s why I wonder if it’s a choice Valve is making in how they’re framing their narratives or if it’s a real—
G: But there’s different narratives to pick from.
C: There are only so many that your material gives you. But there are definitely different–
G: But there are different ones! …There are lots of different ways to portray teams. I just feel that it’s a bit repetitive to do what they did with the Kiev Major and then also do it this way. The team that loses isn’t always necessarily the one that are demeaning the other team…or are overly confident. Those are editing choices. Cause if you look at, OG has lost a lot. They have lost tournaments. They had their run where they won three Majors, but they had a period where they didn’t really win anything. Do you think that they completely shifted their mentality from then to here or do you think it’s a characteristic that they’ve always had throughout their games?
Do you think it was all of a sudden the Grand Finals, they suddenly developed this or was it something that—
C: I think it was legitimately is part of how they operate as a team.
G: So, then you have to question if they had lost, how would they have edited it differently? Where those moments would have come from?
C: Or if they had lost, would that have been, would the cracks have shown? Don’t know.
G: Yeah, exactly. It’s an interesting question.
On the audience for True Sight
C: When I started watching Dota 2, it was just after Free to Play had gone public, just before TI4. So, it’s what hooked me in because it gave me players to root for. It gave you Dendi’s story, it gave you Fear’s story, it gave me players who I felt like I “knew” now….And it gave me a way to enter into it as a person who didn’t know the history of the teams going in. Watching TI4 at least I had an idea now of where Navi had come from. I could root for them. Unfortunately, TI4 is when Navi’s downhill slide really came to fruition…
So! One of the things that’s interesting to me about True Sight is that they focus on these Grand Finals and there isn’t that same kind of grounding….I wonder how, people coming to it, who aren’t… I’m thinking about the audience for this episode. The audience for this episode is going to be clearly someone who is already familiar with—
G: An OG fan.
C: Yeah, an OG fan. But someone who is already familiar with Dota 2 because you’re not getting the [full] context of the journey to the Grand Finals….it didn’t give us a sense of what it meant to get here….There is apparently going to be a director’s cut, so I’m curious to see whether that’s going to add that extra context and that introduction to this is the journey that OG took to get to this point…the journey that LGD took to get to this point. Or if it’s going to give us more of the behind-the-scenes type stuff we commented earlier that was kind of lacking, like that question mark around LGD pumping themselves up after game 4.
G: I think you’re 100% correct. I think one of the biggest storylines of TI, not [just] because I’m an EG fan, but because it was, literally two months beforehand…Fly and S4 left.
[Tal “Fly” Aizik and Gustav “s4” Magnusson left OG on May 28, only a couple weeks before the Open Qualifiers for The International 8]
G: That was the biggest news of the time….Every second, it was “Are OG and EG going to face each?”, “What’s going to happen?”, “How intense is it going to be?”, “How has OG recovered?”, “Are these players going to be good enough?”… That, in itself, was a storyline that I think everyone was either rooting for or hated, but they were interested in.… And I think that’s the problem that, we, going into [True Sight] knew what it meant. We understood the Grand Finals…we got the context, we knew what it meant to OG, we knew why they were the underdogs. All of that was already explained to us….
C: Yeah. Now I think there’s lots in here that would be entertaining without that. Watching that game four footage, honestly, my heart was pounding….
G: You’re like, I know they do, but how they go there?
C: How do they pull it off?
G: Yup!… And I think there’s nothing wrong with the True Sight episode, besides obviously there’s some translation things and obviously there’s a little bit of painting of LGD in a somewhat negative light. And that’s a narrative choice, obviously. But there’s no context, there’s no “why” this matters. And I think…other True Sight episodes, they did add in context.
There’s this dichotomy between building a fanbase and just showing the finals, and…I think that they’re losing out by not adding that context. It’s already an hour long, what is it to add a few clips here and there and make it an hour and twenty minutes?
I still love it!
C: I feel like…[t]he audience for it would be broader if they’d added [more] context to the beginning to frame what this meant to the players.
G: Even those introductions when you watch a tournament and you get to the semi-finals or quarter-finals or the actual Grand Finals. A lot of the time tournament organizers will have those little clips leading up to it: this is the road thus far. …You get the backstory of each team, and what it lead to…. That’s what I think they needed for this….
C: Yeah, yeah. I’m wondering because the only thing that they added that wasn’t footage filmed from either in game or from the teams, was NoTail’s piece at the end, which was from Manila [Major 2016] and the CGI… There was nothing added that wasn’t taken from the event. So I’m wondering too about that….Whether they wanted the footage speak for itself, let the players speak for themselves.
G: But then you have to ask yourself, what’s the purpose of this then?
C: …A celebration of the Grand Finals?
G: If the goal is just to celebrate the Grand Finals with your fanbase that already loves it, great. But then… when are we going to get stuff like Free to Play or when are we going to get those insights into the teams and the players? Because that drove a huge crowd of people to Dota. Being able to connect with the players, being able to understand their struggles and where they came from…. I liked [True Sight].
C: We do get some of that kind of content. We’ve seen the biographies of players and such. There’s more of that since Free to Play came out. We’re getting there. I liked this and I will watch again.
G: Oh yeah, 100%. And I will cry again.