FREE TO PLAY is a feature-length documentary that follows three professional gamers from around the world as they compete for a million dollar prize in the first Dota 2 International Tournament. In recent years, E Sports has surged in popularity to become one of the most widely-practiced forms of competitive sport today. A million dollar tournament changed the landscape of the gaming world and for those elite players at the top of their craft, nothing would ever be the same again. Produced by Valve, the film documents the challenges and sacrifices required of players to compete at the highest level. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3203290/)
Singaporean team Scythe Gaming is led by Benedict “Hyhy” Lim. Parts of the film explore his life in Singapore, where he lives with his mother, aunt, and father. His father works long hours for a shipping company at the nearby port to support the family, and his mother and aunt disapprove of the time he spends on video games, which has led his grades to suffer. In order to attend The International, Hyhy must skip his final exams at school, and he feels that only winning the $1 million grand prize will demonstrate to his family that his gaming career is worthy of respect. He also admits that he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend, and hopes that a win at the International will impress her enough for her to give him a second chance.
Meanwhile, Clinton “Fear” Loomis, an American player from Medford, Oregon, is older than the other contestants, but he leads multinational team Online Kingdom in the hopes that he can finally prove that his life is going somewhere. Fear grew up under the care of his single mother, who eventually came to respect his skill at video games. As a young man in his 20s, Fear has found it difficult to support himself financially as a full-time gamer, being forced to play his matches on an old, secondhand CRT monitor.
Finally, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin of Ukrainian team Na’Vi uses Dota 2 to cope with the tragic death of his father. Dendi’s mother reveals that Dendi and his father were very close and would often go fishing together. Since his father’s unexpected death from cancer, Dendi has never again gone fishing and has instead thrown himself into his gaming career.
During the first stage of the competition, Online Kingdom, considered to be an underdog team, surprises onlookers by placing first in their group. Another group includes both Na`Vi and Scythe Gaming, who place first and third, respectively. In the playoffs, Online Kingdom end their run with losses to Chinese team Invictus Gaming and Russian team Moscow Five, and take home $25,000 as the 7th place team.
The strongest teams remaining are Scythe, Na’Vi, and EHome, a well-disciplined Chinese team. Scythe manages to defeat EHome, but loses to Na`Vi and is then eliminated in the lower bracket finals in a rematch with EHome. In the best-of-five championship series between EHome and Na`Vi, EHome manage to hand Na`Vi their first loss of the tournament, but in the end Dendi, an unpredictable but highly skilled playmaker, leads his team to victory and Na`Vi takes home the grand prize of $1 million.
Hyhy’s team, Scythe Gaming, takes home $150,000 as the third-place finisher. Despite not winning the first place prize, Hyhy is ultimately successful in convincing his girlfriend to get back together with him. Fear finally buys a new computer with his share of the prize and moves in with his teammates. Dendi, with newfound peace of mind, goes fishing for the first time since the death of his father.