This week, Chinese Dota 2 players unionized in order to promote a healthy esports scene after several Covid-19-related tournament cancellations stood to potentially damage the legitimacy of the professional season.
On DPC and tournament integrity
Dota 2’s The International (TI) is definitively the world’s largest esports tournament. Because of the unparalleled scale of TI and its prize pool, Valve created the DPC system to ensure legitimacy when deciding “the twelve direct invites to The International.” Since its implementation in 2017, the DPC system has been supported by the Dota community. However, bans on travel and large gatherings due to COVID-19 potentially threaten the legitimacy of the professional season.
ESL One LA and ESL Moscow both offered DPC points to competitors before their rightful cancellation for health and safety. TI champion and captain of Ninjas in Pyjamas, Peter “ppd” Dager, discussed the affect travel bans and tournament cancellations would have on the competitive season during a recent podcast with Mason “mason” Venne and Grant “GranDGranT” Harris. Players and organizations suffer when events are cancelled because they lose opportunities to earn DPC points and to compete with their competition in a tournament setting.
Prior to the influence of a global pandemic, Dota’s competitive infrastructure ensured a fair season for every region. Teams that achieved a spot in a tournament could distinguish themselves amongst teams that did not because tournaments offered contenders exclusive opportunities to play in a tournament setting and earn DPC points.
How COVID-19 changed things
At the beginning of our pandemic, China’s travel ban raised questions to the legitimacy of the DPC system. In theory, the Chinese region would suffer if every other region earned points at a tournament Chinese teams could not attend. Furthermore, if the tournament spots that were intended to go to Chinese teams are given to teams from other regions that narrowly failed to qualify, those regions would be flooded with DPC points, altering the balance of distribution.
The current state of COVID-19 has potentially compromised the fairness of the DPC system. Travel bans and tournament cancellations severely reduced opportunities for teams to practice in a tournament setting and earn DPC points. In addition to the current issues with the season, the pandemic may cause more in the future. Assuming our pandemic ends before the Dota season does, invites to play at TI would be decided with incomplete information because players would not have had as many opportunities to earn DPC points as advertised at the start of the competitive season.
China leading the professionalization response
Chinese Dota players were the first to face challenges caused by COVID-19 and are now the first to pursue solutions. The Chinese Dota2 Professional Association (CDA), recently founded by 8 Chinese Dota 2 teams, plans to host online Dota tournaments to maintain the health of Chinese Dota during the pandemic and for years to come.
The CDA’s tournaments will benefit their scene by creating opportunities for teams to compete and practice in a tournament setting throughout the drought of international competition. This in turn creates opportunities for players and sponsors to gain attention that would normally be given to cancelled tournaments.
History of unionization in esports
Talk of unionization has accompanied esports since its inception. ppd recently commented on the difficulties of unionizing in extremely competitive games like Dota 2. His analysis came down to two points. 1) unionization in competitive games is difficult because of the attention and resources a union demands of its participants. And 2) unionizing is potentially detrimental to a player’s career because it requires them to commit their attention to endeavors outside of the game which risks the player falling behind others who focus solely on their ability to play.
If the CDA is able to maintain a healthy esports scene and protect its players, other regions will likely follow. The success of the CDA has the potential to set a proper example of how to care for a scene and players, allowing the players to focus solely on their ability and disregard concerning themselves with the stability of their well being.
Everyone is eagerly awaiting to hear of the development of COVID-19, while Dota players inside and outside of China are eager to hear of how the CDA will affect the scene. Follow us on Twitter to stay in the know on any developments and for more esports entertainment during the quarantine.