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DotA 2's Jimmy 'DeMoN' Ho Explains How The International Draws New Fans

Team Liquid pro gamer Jimmy 'DeMoN' Ho has seen League of Legends players migrate to Dota 2 because of The International.

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As a member of Team Liquid, Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho is making history Valve’s The International 2014 at KeyArena in Seattle. The Dota 2 pro gamer will be competing on ESPN3 along with other top teams in the hopes of taking home a piece of the record $10 million in prize money.

Ho, one of the original members of the EG.DotA team, is a veteran Dota gamer with a strong global fan base and the sponsorship of Red Bull. Ho has been a master of Dota over the years, capable of fulfilling multiple roles on his teams. He talks about the rise of eSports and what impact The International has had on attracting new Dota 2 players.

GS: How did you become a pro gamer?

DeMoN:I worked really hard. When I was playing as a hobby, I never really had any expectations to go pro, I just wanted to be really good at the game, be able to compete against the best.  There was a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice – I sacrificed my social life at the time, didn’t really talk with my friends or hang out, I just wanted to game. You need a lot of hours with this game to be good at it. One day I was good enough and got invited on a team – and that team got sponsored. And from there, I just kept moving up.

GS: What's the competition like out there today compared to when you first started?

Back then no one really cared, they wanted the games to be played. 

DeMoN: Back then it was very unprofessional, how people or organizations ran their tournaments. When people would break the rules, or something would happen – the referees would kind of make up the rules as things happened, on occasion; because it wasn’t even in the rule book at that time. Because the scene was so underdeveloped. Today, there’s no real complications. The tournaments are run much more smoothly. Back then – people would be able to be late, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour – and not get penalized. Now if you’re 15 minutes late there’s a small penalty. If you’re an hour late, you get disqualified and get a heavy penalty from the tournament – you could be banned from next season.  Back then no one really cared, they wanted the games to be played. Today, you have streaming platforms where people worldwide are capable of watching the games on livestream. Back then you could only watch the games if you had the client or had the game.

GS: What impact has The International had in attracting new players and teams?

DeMoN: Seeing how big the audience is, the prize money, and seeing this game that’s still out there and growing – eventually it’s going to hit League of Legends numbers in terms of audience. League of Legends has multiple tournaments and it’s always going to have sold out stadiums.  When it comes to Dota 2, we generally have a sold out stadium when The International comes around. But what’s really attracting them is they see how big this prize pool is – and automatically, they don’t even have to be gamers – they’re like “Oh wow, I heard there’s a $10 million prize pool for this gaming tournament.” That grabs their attention. 

How have you seen Dota 2 take off in recent years?

I’ve seen some players from League of Legends wanting to transfer to Dota 2 because they see there’s much more potential in the game, and better opportunities.

What's your favorite memory thus far in your career?

I’ll give you three. The first is getting 4th place at the first International with team Meet Your Makers. We took home $80,000.  My 2nd would be winning a championship in Korea. It was my first championship ever, and we took home first place.  My 3rd was signing with Red Bull. That’s a really precious memory of mine. It was a long process.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to go pro?

It’s a lot of hard work and determination.  You can’t have the mindset of “Hey, I’m just going to be a pro.” It doesn’t work like that. You work hard to build yourself, try to be the best player you could ever potentially be. How I did it was very different. I looked up to someone, and said, “I hope to play with this guy one day.” Or “I wish I can be as good as him one day.” I continued working hard toward that goal.  It’s not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of sacrifices that need to be done, prioritizing and focusing on being the best you can be.

Originally Published Jul. 19th 2014

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John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN.... more »

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