WELL PLAYED & WELL WATCHED

Multiplayer and competitive games, such as Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs), require players to master complex systems, sophisticated mechanics, and collaborative play. In this paper, I outline Dota 2, a MOBA known for its steep learning curve and an extended commitment of its players toward mastery, to illustrate how play and participatory spectatorship are integral to not only mastery but also perseverance in learning to play a game. And yet, how might an investigation of Dota 2 in its notable role as an “eSport” also necessitate a rethinking of what we consider relevant in understanding a game? How appropriate is the framing of a “game” for understanding this kind of social and technical space? How does a look at Dota 2
help to clarify the differences between “games” and “eSports” and the potential implications of both? Dota 2 presents a complexity that begs further study as a space for play and learning in the one of the most socially-negotiated and economically significant game genres. Here, I will discuss how the emergence of live streaming and the new framing of these games as “eSports” work in partnership with play, providing new opportunities for engagement with Dota 2 and similar communities of media engagement.

DOTA 2, SPECTATORSHIP, AND ESPORTS
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