‘Dota 2’: Big crowds, high stakes and plenty of KeyArena drama

Esports have drawn interest from heavyweights in traditional media, including Turner Sports, which has a camera crew in Seattle to wrap up their four-episode documentary series “Road to the International.”

Ben Winter positioned his two camera crews strategically.

One took up a position high in the concourse of KeyArena to get an angle on the team’s entrance, the reaction from the crowd of several thousand fans and the scene on stage.

The other, close to the floor, would try to get close-ups of players at their bank of computers.

OG, the European team that Winter’s crews had been filming, faced a sudden-death game Monday night and the prospect that it would be knocked out of competitive video-gaming’s biggest tournament on its first day.

“We were expecting this to be a march to the finals,” Winter said. “If they lose today, it’s going to be rough.”

Following two teams

Winter, a producer for cable-television’s Turner Sports, came to Seattle to wrap up a documentary series.

His eight-person crew, backed by more than 30 people in Atlanta, had spent weeks following two esports squads who had their sights on The International, the “Dota 2” tournament taking place this week at KeyArena. In the game, each player on the two five-person teams selects a fantasy-world hero character, and the teams face off in a battle for control of the game world’s map.

The tournament — hosted by Bellevue-based Valve, which created “Dota 2” — pits 16 teams against each other for $24 million (and counting) in prize money. That pool is a record for esports, part of the $696 million in revenue that researcher Newzoo expects competitive video gaming to generate globally this year.

Growth in esports has boosted game developer Valve and created its own juggernauts, like Amazon-owned streaming service Twitch. It’s also drawn interest from heavyweights in traditional media.

Turner, the Time Warner company that owns CNN, TNT, TBS and other cable channels, dived into esports in 2016 with ELeague, a series of its own competitive tournaments, broadcast on TBS, and streamed online through Twitch and YouTube.

Benjamin Winter, interactive coordinating producer with Turner Sports, left, talks with video crews during the first day of the International Dota 2 Championships at KeyArena. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle…

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