The finals of the Kiev Major concluded on April 30, bringing to a close one of Dota 2 developer and publisher Valve’s few official competitive events of the year for the game. It’s typical for these events to wind down from exciting, tense final match-ups with a video recap. These are tournaments’ way of saying goodbye — after an incredible show from production company PGL and tournament organizers, a recap to match the levels of hype is a high point to go out on, right?
The Kiev Major ended with a video. But it was … women. And more women. No context, no title — nothing. It was called “Girls of Kiev.” PGL provided no description when the video was uploaded to YouTube. It has since been removed. If other uploads of the video are deleted, you’re not missing much; it was just a montage of women who happened to be at the event.
This final video package of the Kiev Major has caused quite a bit of controversy.
Sometimes people call attention to women at games to joke about the male dominated scene, and sometimes it’s in appreciation that they came out to support the game. But pointing out women for being women can be common at this sort of event, if often alienating. The video was mostly awkward and strange, especially lacking context indicating what the event organizers were trying to achieve.
Fans usually come into the capstone video expecting a recap of the hard-fought battles, the heartbreaking moments (our tears are all still drying from Black^’s video profile) or shots of excited fans mixed in with funny or interesting moments from the games. Hell, I’d even take infamous comedy content creator SirActionSlacks for one last segment. And I swear this isn’t bias from being in his Christmas Carol in Boston; he’s had fabulous feedback throughout the Kiev Major.
The ultimate goal of a tournament’s final video is to bring the community together. It should, ideally, underline our shared experience at the event. Instead, we were treated to this odd video that noted, over and over, that women were there too.
The fans in the Twitch broadcast’s chat were as confused as the rest of us, which may mark rare common ground between annoyed feminists and the Twitch commenters at large. PGL has already removed the video from the Twitch archive, but I wish they would have kept it as a record of a few special seconds of baffled unity.
There needed to be some kind of explanation
It’s hard to judge the clip because there was no indication of why it was there, nor what it was trying to achieve. The general consensus across Twitter and Reddit seemed to be that even basic context would have improved the situation. Without knowing the intentions behind the clip, watching a series of women flash across the screen makes little sense, while also encouraging arguments over what the event’s organizers were trying to communicate to the audience. “Look at women, do you see they are women?” is a strange thesis statement to close a show.
The presentation itself was uncomfortable. Leafypeachy, a leader from the women’s Dota 2 community Desoladies, did a great job explaining the discomfort:
The video included a lot of women who looked like they weren't aware they were being filmed. Yes, at public events with media coverage you will be on camera or seen by others, that is a given. But the fact that PGL specifically went around getting footage of women watching the games, eating, or just chilling in their seat without any indication that they were okay with being the main subject of filming or being aware of this was extremely creepy and objectifying of these ladies.
It’s all a little too similar to creepshots. The cameras were to the side and above, capturing unengaged women with little active consent, as if PGL expected everyone spectating to share the same degree of ... praise, perhaps, for the subjects in question.
There is an expectation that we might be filmed at public events, but this felt voyeuristic, more intrusive than supportive. It’s easy to get someone to smile and wave for the camera, and doing so at least implies a certain level of comfort, and again, consent, in being filmed. No one wants to show up at future events and have to worry about whether they’re being filmed eating a hot dog because they’re a woman.
The real issue lies in the cultural blindness shown by the event organizers in putting together the montage. It almost feels like an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: “The Gang Makes Esports Content.” They may not have meant to be offensive and they may have had good intentions, but those were lost in the awkwardness of the situation, and compounded by the inability of anyone involved to explain why the video was there to begin with.
We’re all left guessing at the video’s intentions. Were women being objectified, or being celebrated (awkwardly)? Everyone is criticizing it for different reasons. Next to no one is defending it. Just about everyone agrees it was odd and out of place.
How to do better
I know plenty of women who love getting group shots with each other at Dota 2 events, including a massive Desoladies meetup at The International 6.
In a game with low visibility of women in the scene, it can be refreshing to see others who are actively supporting the scene and each other. Women have fun at these events, and they’re not always there just for the assumed boyfriend or husband! Competitions are a great way to spend time with your friends, make new ones and support your favorite players and teams.
This could have been fixed by using group shots of women, or including supportive text to explain why the video was happening at all. A proper tribute to women and the support they give could have helped normalize the idea that women enjoy esports on their own terms, and don’t deserve to be cut from the group and shown on their own as if the film crew were stalking rare animals in the forest.
But the damage can’t be reversed at this point. The video has gone viral in the greater esports community, despite PGL’s quiet attempts to erase it from the YouTube and Twitch channels. Women now have to deal with the fear they’re being filmed at any moment, or even targeted because they didn’t notice the camera, in order to single them out for being women.
Silence was a bad play
The video might have been created on a whim when someone in production noticed they had a variety of clips of women they could edit together quickly, but the reaction proves that these things need to be given thought before they’re put in front of an audience this large. Intentions are going to be assigned to you if you don’t make the goals of this sort of video clear, and you may not like them.
Worse, at the time of writing, PGL hasn’t provided an official statement or explanation. There has been no apology — just attempts to pretend it didn’t happen and a removal of the video from YouTube. This situation will be a stain on Dota 2’s reputation for a while, and it’s likely that other esports organizers are taking notes about what not to do in these situations.
Some of the community has expressed good will for the possible intent of the video. But if you forgot to turn off your auto-hits and accidentally steal your carry’s last hit, you didn’t intend that either. It’s the execution and impact that matters, and this situation certainly could have been handled with more grace.
Amidst all of this coverage and controversy, the game and event are getting lost. And that’s the last thing anyone wants. After all, we’re just here to watch some good Dota.
Victoria Rose is a Dota 2-focused esports writer with bylines at PC Gamer and Esports Insider, among other publications past, present and future. Despite well over four years of playing and following Dota 2, she's still absolute, undisputed trash at last-hitting.