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Celebration at Dota 2 Championship Grand Final Win

Wings Gaming just minutes after clinching the deciding match in their best of five grand finals against Digital Chaos.

Earlier this month, I visited Seattle for the Dota 2 International Championship, the largest esport tournament of all time with a prize pool exceeding $20 million.

As the generation that grew up on video games mature, they seek competition in their childhood pastimes.

Most, if not all, of these Dota athletes compete over the annual season as their full-time jobs. Their managers close sponsorship deals to provide salaries, and the players compete in various tournaments and leagues over the season. And like most athletes, they don’t do it for money; they do it to win the biggest tournament of the year - to be the best.

Though being able to compete in the championship in Seattle is unrealistic for most gamers, the competitive spirit thrives across the world, including in Montana.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Blake Mickatavage, the former president of Hivemind Gaming, a competitive esport student club at Montana State University. The club started around 2004 as a place for fellow gamers to enjoy a shared hobby. In 2011, the club, along with the esport scene, began to expand rapidly as esports entered mainstream culture.

Hivemind Gaming hosts tournaments year round, with its largest competition boasting 250 participants. Coming this fall, Mickatavage, in partnership with MSU Hivemind, will host Fall Brawl 2016, projected to be Montana’s largest video game tournament to date. Next month, the club will host tryouts for the Montana State University League of Legends team for the 2016-2017 collegiate season.

Many still hold on to the sentiment that video games aren’t a real sport, but when athletes train year round to be the best, the line between sports and games begins to blur.

One such competitor is David Hull, the 20-year-old American whose team, Digital Chaos, placed second at The International.

During an interview at the tournament, Hull’s mother expressed her sentiments about her son’s decision. 

“First I was like ‘uh…’, but he had a plan, and we gave him a timeline. And he far exceeded his timeline, and he’s here less than a year later.”

“I’m very proud of him, he’s doing what he wants to do," Hull's mother said after her son won a critical match in the tournament. "He had a dream and a plan, and he’s achieving it.”

Though the majority of gamers play for entertainment, there are always a few that strive to be the best. So during the next collegiate season, be proud of the Montana State team. To many, these kids are wasting time with meaningless activities, but to the athletes, they are representing the great state of Montana.

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Jason Zeng is an online specialist for The Montana Standard. He was the former editor of SF Tech Beat, a San Franciscan technology weekly, and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Berkeley. He can be reached at Jason.Zeng@mtstandard.com.

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