Perfect World 2016 Awards Ceremony Recap
(Our @KBBQDota blogs about a year end awards ceremony in Shanghai).
Some things have a way of just coming full circle…or at least, you can always choose to see it that way. That’s how I felt entering the grounds of Fudan University, making for the school’s stadium, site of Perfect World’s 2016 Year End Awards Ceremony. I spent the first few years of my life nearby, in Dorm No. 8, looked after by my mother’s classmates while she went ahead with my dad to the United States. Entrusting your infant kid almost entirely to classmates seems unthinkable for most people I know, but in China, the bonds people forge with their schools and schoolmates usually run deeper than most. Younger generations of students here are by all accounts spending more and more of their college years playing games as well, and the turnout for this ceremony was mostly loud and enthusiastic students.
While year-end awards selections have been around in Dota for some time, people told me that this was the first such live awards ceremony. It makes sense that China would be the first to hold one, given that most of the Dota (and esports) scene is conveniently concentrated in Shanghai, and that the biggest names in gaming here mostly have higher relative status, celebrity and wealth than their western counterparts. In the grand scheme of things this ceremony could be seen as another small step in esports reaching for recognition and legitimacy; at the very least it was a Dota organizer looking to try something fresh and end the year on a high note.
Not long before this ceremony, Wings had attended the Lareus China Sports Awards in Beijing, a national honor for which they had been nominated but ultimately did not win. In an eloquent Weibo post, renowned Chinese Dota caster Danche (better known to some as “sweatshirt”) talked about how important it was that Wings had even made it that far. Not since Warcraft 3 legend Sky a decade earlier had an esports participant become a finalist for that award, not even previous Chinese TI Champions IG and Newbee. Wings’ mere nomination was a huge step in the right direction for achieving official recognition for esports, and fans should be prepared to support any nominees from the gaming world at all, Danche argued, rather than lament and flame because Wings did not win, or continue to remain factionalized in their own gaming kingdoms. Highlighting the importance of the Oscars for entertainment industry legitimacy, recognition, and development, (using Jennifer Lawrence as his prime example) Danche also hoped esports could someday have its own equivalent.
During this, which could be called the first Chinese Dota Oscars, Danche was ready to show everyone what he wanted. After winning a Best Caster award, he immediately called for inseparable casting partner DC, with whom he forms the DC Boys duo (Chinese Dota’s Tasteless and Artosis) to come on stage with him and share in the achievement. To the roaring delight of fans who had packed the upper section of the stadium, the two bickered and bantered with the same chemistry and wit which made them stars. DC the unwavering sage philosopher and Danche the opinionated, sharp jinx, jokingly blamed even by Chinese players for their disastrous results at the major when he proved his caster’s curse credentials by predicting that “I think the Chinese teams should do pretty well in Boston”. Keenly able to meme himself, Danche was asked on stage which teams and players he thought highly of moving forward…and hesitated just long enough to scare the crowd, teams, and players in attendance before deciding not to answer.
There were plenty of memes to go around. Brought onstage to present the Coach of the Year Award, the also inseparable Xiao8 and Yao had some fun with Mikasa. “As for who’s winning this award, well, there’s only one coach on this list who also played and won a tournament this year,” Yao said. “I hear he also takes great interest in his teammates’ families,” he added, a reference to the “can’t play because of family issues” sgamer meme with an enraged looking Mikasa, already known for having an explosive temper in his playing past, giving that as VG.R’s reason for subbing out under-performing teammates.
Fy: Coach, please give me another chance.)
(Mikasa: If I was IG’s coach, I think you’d probably be having some family issues).
(Angry Sylar to teammates: You four scrubs, can’t you have some issues at home?)
(Note: Of course the memes are pictures taken out of context, especially the last one where Sylar is actually celebrating a win back in his LGD days, but the funniest one which I can’t find right now is Mikasa smiling warmly at Yang and telling him “hey bro, anyone could have family issues except you, your family’s definitely not having any problems”)
However, the best memeing at the ceremony probably goes to PIS (aka Yaphets), whose very showing up was grounds for a jab at himself. “I’d like to thank those of you who voted for me just because you don’t like me”, he said while holding a Best Streamer Award, “and as for seeing if I would ditch last minute, well, there’s always next year.” A Dota 1 legend (his Shadow Fiend video still lives) and living testament to the sentimental loyalty that Chinese Dota fans have for the favorite players they grew up with, Yaphets’ plunges into Dota 2 were consistently derailed. The most infamous case, as the legend goes, is that PIS once failed to show up for a tournament with a promising team, citing a broken hand. He posted a photograph of an x-rayed broken hand as evidence, but the ever astute, inquisitive, and resourceful people of the forums (shuiyou in Chinese, I guess they are the equivalent of redditors) quickly deduced that the hand was too small to be an adult’s and even found the original internet photograph. Though he remains an incredibly popular streamer and a high-MMR regular, PIS has never really committed to trying his hand at competitive Dota 2.
My favorite part of the ceremony, which I hope makes it to future ceremonies and tournaments, is that they actually got Maybe and PIS to play 1v1 mid for the audience to see. Though 1v1s could potentially drag or become boring, Maybe won the Monkey King 1v1 fairly quickly. The crowd, filled with PIS fans, was not satisfied and demanded a rematch with Shadow Fiend. The people got what they wanted, but I tried to imagine Maybe bellowing “are you not entertained?” in Chinese as started things off with a superior block, held equilibrium on his high ground, took first blood and grabbed another convincing GG.
Most of the ceremony was entertaining, with great improvisation and self-deprecating humor from the guest award presenters and great energy and interaction from the crowd. One famous Chinese caster’s wardrobe was the subject of much…discussion and attention. Four Wings players (except poor ‘veteran’ IceIce) were nominated for Newcomer of the Year; Wings took home three awards, and had to give recorded victory speeches because they were away in Shenzhen competing at ChinaTop. Vincent, their general manager, had to keep going onstage and at some point looked to be running out of original humble things to say.
Chuan lost a ton of weight (40+ pounds according to some), and joked about wanting to come back and play Dota but still being stuck in a “small black room”, the Chinese nickname for low priority, which Chuan was perpetually confined to once many players began reporting him on sight in retaliation for his own wanton reporting. This did not stop people from thinking that the Invoker cosplayer, a physically imposing man who was also an impressively good singer, was Chuan. Music played a large part of the ceremony with live orchestra performances of several familiar Dota themes and videos, and famous pianist Lang Lang brought in for two pieces as well.
The ceremony wasn’t perfect, but with several impending tournaments in Shanghai (including DAC) looming ahead, I’m eager to see what the year of the rooster brings for Dota in China.