Gamers Storm Benaroya for Championship Tournament

Aug 9, 2013

How to describe your typical Benaroya Hall crowd? Folks attending the Seattle Symphony. Folks who sip white wine and wear pants—long ones. 

But this week, it's mostly guys—a lot of guys—downing energy drinks and walking around with felted toy collectibles that are packing Benaroya. through the weekend. These are serious gamers, and they're here through the weekend.

"It’s sort of like the Beatles coming to Prince Albert Hall," said Doug Lombardi with Valve, the Bellevue company that built a computer game called Dota 2. Valve, to be sure, is having a really good couple of days.

This is the third year of The International, a global Dota 2 gaming competition. There are 16 teams from all over the world that are facing off, two by two, on stage in soundproof booths. A huge computer screen broadcasts each match live to an audience of 2,500. An online audience of millions from around the world is also streaming the matches live.

There are Dota-watching events in 40 countries, Lombardi says. The tournament lasts five days, culminating in a championship round Sunday. The winning team walks away with $1.4 million.

"You know 10, 15 years ago you’d look at kids skateboarding and everyone would say, 'What’s with these kids with skateboards?' Well, five or 10 years from now, The X Games or the next new thing on ESPN might look something like this," Lombardi said.