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City Native a Legend in E-Sports World


Photo credit: Communicator archive

Written by: Communicator StaffDecember 11, 2015

Written by Muhamed Sulejmanagic

Some may find the sound of hundreds of rapid and repeated mouse clicks and the springy rebounding vigor of a mechanical keyboard as entertaining and vibrant as watching a wet towel dry.

Others find immense pleasure in the world that exists within the monitor in front of their eyes and within the headphones tightly hugging their ears as they close themselves off from the real world.

For Peter Dager, a 23-year-old Fort Wayne native known in the electronic sports world as “ppd,” the latter is only part of the appeal of Dota 2, a video game which pits two teams against one another in a fast paced and tactical deathmatch in which the goal is to destroy the opposing team’s base, or ancient.

Dager uses Dota, a more common moniker for the game, as an escape, but unlike many of its players, he plays Dota professionally. He plays for California-based Evil Geniuses, which is a premier team in the U.S. Dota scene.

Last summer the team played in The International 5. This year’s tournament had the largest prize pool in e-sports history, which according to the Dota 2 TI5 website was $18.4 million. EG, captained by Dager, won the first place prize of $6.6 million.

“For TI5 we did a two week boot camp,” Dager said. “We did the first week in Boston, and we came back to the San Francisco area to do another week at the Twitch office. We could practice on the West Coast because a lot of teams showed up early so they could get over jet lag and get used to the food — really just to adjust before the tournament started.”

During the tournament preparation in Boston, Dager’s team (EG) set up in a small LAN cafe, one which they visited before a tournament in Shanghai, China. However, prior to leaving for Boston, Dager was in San Francisco celebrating Independence Day, which ended in a possible TI5-ending injury. His hand was cut open, but instead of getting immediate medical attention and much-needed stitches, according to Dager, he opted to leave for Boston, which resulted in a brief stint in an emergency room, he said.

After flying back to San Francisco for the second week of boot camp, Dager was healing up. His team was also beginning to smooth out kinks in their TI5 game plan. In order to decompress, the team took two days off before the tournament, he said.

EG jumped into their first game, which Dager thought of as the most stressful match of the tournament.

“It’s your first match on this big stage in front of a ton of people,” he said. “You practice all year for The International. It’s an $18 million tournament. Getting past the first match means that no matter what happens afterward, you’ve had a good year.”

His first match also happened to be against a team of former colleagues. “There are obviously reasons why we don’t play together anymore,” he said. “There was a little bit of tension — a little bit of drama. But it was very relieving to win that match.”

In the summer of 2014, Evil Geniuses, still captained by Dager, finished in third place. According to a story written by Nick Wingfield in August 2014 for The New York Times after TI4, Dager’s income two years ago was a “meager $20,000,” but Dager’s income last year was “more than $200,000.” After TI5, and through 2015, Dager is set to make over $1 million, according to e-sportsearnings.com, which he has previously stated as an accurate assessment of his gross income. The website currently places him as second all-time at $1.9 million, just behind his teammate Saahil Arora “UNiVeRsE” by less than $3 thousand.

During the final match — a match that stood between EG and international infamy and a heavy purse — the team was set up across a stage in Seattle’s Key Area from their opposition. The crowd was chanting “U.S.A.” and tension was in the air. However, Dager cancels out all of the distractions and his keyboard and mouse just become part of his arms, he said. Since it isn’t his first experience at the professional level, Dager tries his best to “live it up” by feeding off of the crowd’s energy, which is different from his anxiety-ridden tournaments in which nerves would nearly get the best of him.

The end of the match came suddenly and swiftly as EG overtook the opposing ancient and cemented their names in history.

“I’ve played a lot of sports,” he said. “People are going crazy and jumping all over each other, but it’s different when you’re playing a computer game. When you win, it’s awesome. There is that sense of accomplishment, but it’s not like you’re bouncing off the walls and going crazy with your teammates. It’s more of a work environment for us. How much can you really celebrate with your co-workers? We are extremely close, though. We never show a lot of emotion when we win. Maybe we just don’t know how to. But I always worry, especially on a stage that big, because you could make a fool of yourself.”

Dager briefly mentioned the scrutiny he was under after the win. The celebration was deemed “too tame” by many on Twitter, he said. He also pointed out his dislike for every word he said and every movement he made being examined underneath a microscope.

“I think it is incredible that Peter is playing professionally,” said Statton Geary, a former high school friend and teammate of Dager’s on Carroll High School’s football team. “We all knew him as the kicker. He was small, goofy, but always dependable. It’s not a surprise that he is leading a team, in anything, at the professional level.”
Geary watched the post-match celebration and thought it was typical of Dager.

“He was always a humble guy,” he said. “Even on the football team he wouldn’t take credit for his accomplishments. He really knew how to make the team work together around him. We respected him because he respected us. It’s nice to see he didn’t outgrow that.”

With the $6.6 million prize secured, the team went to dinner and held an after party in their hotel. Dager, who had set his mind on using the money to move to downtown San Francisco for a year, went to bed early. He woke up in the morning and went to breakfast alone before heading to the airport to catch a flight back to Fort Wayne.
“It was the most peaceful moment I had in three weeks,” he said.