Bagging $1.4 million through Dota 2

Adam Shah

November 24, 2016
Interview by

Adam Shah is a man of little words yet people are familiar with his name. Otherwise known as his in-game alias 343, Adam started playing Dota professionally two years ago and is one of the game’s most valuable players. It started off as something to do with friends, as all other guys did in their teens. However, it soon evolved into something more than just a phase when he and his team began participating and winning Dota tournaments.

His reputation grew and eventually he was invited to join a well respected and admired team called Fnatic. They are made out of players from all around the world who make a living through competing in online gaming tournaments. Many Malaysians still can’t fathom the idea of a career in the gaming industry; but for Adam, it’s all he can picture himself doing.

What was it like getting started on Dota?

When I first started playing competitive Dota, it was simply for fun. However after playing for a few years, it became a massive game when they introduced the first TI (The International) with the prize pool of $1 million dollars - it was such a big deal. It started attracting more people to esports and eventually over the next 2 years, the prize pool grew to $10 million dollars. Organisations started to join the picture, and today we even have NBA teams sponsoring Dota teams, with telecommunication companies in the mix as well. There is a huge viewership and it’s a big deal if you’re the company who sponsors the best Dota team in the world.

Why did you want to play competitively?

It just happened. I was playing competitively for fun and I heard about TI along the way. I continued to try my best in all my tournaments while maintaining good results at university. It came to a point where I had to tell my mum that I really wanted to do this as it can help us financially because I’d be earning a stable salary. I asked if I could defer my studies, and I finally got my mum’s blessing. My family was in debt because of my studies - we had to take a loan for me to go to school. The plan was to sell off our house and move into a smaller house, but we had trouble selling because it had less than 10 years on its lease. My mum was struggling in her business and she was just breaking even every month which means there wasn’t really any income. I explained to my mum that pursuing gaming might be a risk, but it’s something worth taking. Even if she has a really bad year, I’ll still be getting a really good income, maybe even 100k a year whether I win or lose a game.

“My family was in debt because of my studies - we had to take a loan for me to go to school.”
What makes you a professional gamer?

Honestly, gaming is a lifestyle. To be the best at something, you can’t put anything less than your best. A basketball player would be thinking about and playing basketball all the time, not just when he needs to. I think it’s the same for gamers. We have to discuss Dota with our teammates on a daily basis, we have to practice and do our own homework, and we even have to live together. You have to have the determination to repeat the same routine everyday. To some, that might cause you to lose the love for the game, but you need to have the discipline to look at it as a profession than as a hobby.

What are some of the challenges you have to face as a gamer?

This year in particular, we had to go overseas for about three and a half months. It’s not easy being away from home for that long, and it’s not as though we were on holiday or anything. We spent almost everyday in our hotel room playing Dota and after that we’d change to a different hotel and repeat the same thing. As a team, we spend all our time together and sometimes when problems arise within the group, you can’t get your own space.

How do you deal with criticisms?

I really don’t pay attention to what people say. I think the problem with our Internet community is that when you win, everyone keeps quiet, but the moment you lose everyone has something to say about it. There aren’t really very genuine supporters and you have those that just want to take it out on you because they’ve betted on the game. I tend to filter what I accept and what I turn a deaf ear to. What people have to say is not important, I feel it’s how your teammates view you that really matters in the end.

What are the common misconceptions people have about esports gamers?

I don’t think many people realise how stable esports is. They might be thinking what else can I do after my gaming days are over? I feel this question also applies to any other professional sporting careers, not just gamers. I could go into casting for new talents, become a coach, an analyst, or even an investor. People don’t see it yet because the numbers are hidden and esports is a much newer profession compared to others.

What advice would you give to upcoming players?

For those of you who wish to defer your studies to pursue gaming, just make sure you give it your all. At the same time, you should also be realistic and set a deadline for yourself; so let’s say if in two years you’ve not achieved what you set out to do, then you should go back to your studies. Gaming is not something you can still be doing five to ten years from now, the average retirement age is between 30 to 35. You don’t want to be constantly deferring the rest of your life just to chase this dream.

“You have to have the determination to repeat the same routine everyday.”

In our conversation with Adam, it was as though we were revealed a secret world we never knew existed. Yet amidst all the winnings, travels, and fame, lies a very simple person whose main priorities are his family and their welfare. For many of us, the idea of being a gamer sounds like easy money with little to no pressure at all, but Adam has showed us that there’s more to gaming than just sitting in front of a computer all day. It entails hard work and relational sacrifices not everyone is willing to make. However despite all that, Adam is loyal to the game and committed to being an asset to his team. It’ll be interesting to see where this takes him!

“What people have to say is not important, I feel it’s how your teammates view you that really matters in the end.”