There is a $30,000,000 Prize for Playing a Video Game You Never Heard of

Every year, a bunch of the best gather to instantly become multi-millionaires

Anthony Andranik Moumjian
4 min readAug 7, 2020


Source: Dota 2 International 2019 Twitter. This is what the venue for the tournament looks like each year.

I’ve played DoTa for almost two decades now. It’s the most difficult, elegant, misery-inducing, and gratifying experience I have ever known.

A million iterations of this game have existed — with each change, a birth and re-birth have occurred.

Defense of the Ancients didn’t start as a standalone game — it started in the idea lab of Blizzard’s Starcraft engine. It was a modification of the actual game. That game was eventually known as DoTa when the concept was ported over into Warcraft 3.

The best analog for DoTa is a chess game on steroids where your moves, instead of sequential and turn-based, are in real-time and split-second.

DoTa stayed as a modification on the Warcraft 3 engine for many years before Valve began to develop Dota 2, a standalone version which became the popular entity it is today.

Dota 2 is heavily complex.

The game involves ten heroes chosen between two teams. Two sides will fight along a map that looks like this for resources, gold, kills on enemy players, and objectives.

Source: Devilesk. Dota 2 map (a bit outdated).

All these things involved create a metagame. This is the part of the game where your item build-up is developed, your gameplay choices are scrutinized, your strategies with your team are dynamic, and your ability to problem solve in real-time is placed under pressure.

Between 119 heroes to choose from, hundreds of items to buy, more items that are dropped by monsters around the map, the degrees of freedom the game offers makes its solvability equivalent to that of chess — if not worse.

All of this peaks at a tournament that Valve puts on called The International.

Source: Dota 2 prize pool trackers for each International. Last year, the prize pool ended at almost $35,000,000.



Anthony Andranik Moumjian

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: