Welcome back to another edition of Dtoid Community Discusses, the C-blog series where Destructoid community members talk about a topic related to videogames. This series used to be weekly, but due to how busy I've been, and the fact that my internet was down, its been a while since the last edition. Anyway, this week, our panel consists of Tdiddy, Eternalplayer2345, Icarus and Madninja, and the topic was "competitive gaming". Here is the prompt I sent out to them:
Tactix Competitive Gaming. I had the chance to go to the SFIV National Tournament Finals that was hosted by EVO, Capcom and Gamestop. It was quite awesome to see people competing in a video game not only for bragging rights, but also for great prizes. This made want to ask you guys, what do you think of competitive gaming? Do you enjoy watching games being played competitively or is it just a "for fun" activity? What do you think of organizations such as EVO and WCG that are trying to bring this competitive nature of gaming to the forefront and arguably more mainstream. Will competitive gaming ever be mainstream? Why is Fatal1ty such a douche?
Read on to see what they thought!
Yes....that is Bearforce One Madninja
My first experience with competitive gaming was at 2007 Comic Con where they were having a SF2 tournament and this huge crowd was gathering to watch these two guys play a game. The crowd cheered, hooted and yelled for these two guys and showed me the energy that could be had at watching two good players battle each other out.
Point being, I think competitive gaming is fun to watch if it is the right game. Counterstrike works because the game is not difficult for an audience to get their heads around (basically point and shoot) but has enough depth that people who know about the game can enjoy the game being played by very skilled players.
I think one of the problems with making competitive gaming mainstream is the fact that games that are being played competitively change every few years. The audience at large is not gonna attach any interest if the "sport" gets an overhaul every couple of years. Even if you only change up the graphics, you run into the problem that a shooting game might not appeal to everyone same as with racing games. I think the closest we may get could quite ironically be sports video games.
If you want to get into non-sports games you run into the problem above. In South Korea, Starcraft is practically a national pastime, but this may be because the lack of availability with other types of games. I still need to see how the Starcraft II launch and adaptation pans out in South Korea before I can make any serious judgment about the adaptability of competitive games as a mainstream sport.
Well you can already judge that theory with Street Fighter- the latest version just came out and there are already big tournaments for the game. I think Starcraft 2 will do well because the time period between the two was so long that the game will sell and be used in competitions. Sports don't keep the same rules for years so if a game comes out after a long enough period then I see no problem with the game being used is a competitive fashion.
I think that another thing that is holding competitive gaming back from being mainstream is that regardless of how mainstream gaming is actually becoming, its the casual market that is becoming well known. And I don't know about you, but I doubt that people would be interested in watching a Wii Fit competition.
It seems like the organized events for competitive gaming focus alot on the hardcore group of games, like the Starcrafts and the Halo's which turn mainstream people away from watching gaming competitions. And without ratings and interest, gaming competitions won't be mainstream.
What do you guys think of this? Should there be more casual gaming competitions? (I think Peggle would be awesome competitively :P)
As I see it, having more casual gaming competitions would not work, in a large league or competition. There really arenít that many casual games that have that head to head element. These games multiplayer modes are more of watching one player for a round, followed by the next player trying to top that score until the end. One of the elements that drew me into the Championship Gaming Series, when it was on DirecTV's original content channel, was the head to elements of each game. For those who don't know, the CGS was run like sports franchises, not just a bunch of individuals in a row. There were leagues all around the world, with a few franchises in each league. 4 games were played, Dead or Alive 4 (male and female), Fifa 08, Counterstrike and Project Gotham Racing 4, with the scores of those games added up for a total team score. That drew me in, because it added layers to the competition, such as overall team strategy and rivalries, especially in DoA4. Its a shame that the CGS folded, because I really thought they were the closest to figuring out how to market competitive gaming.
A major problem has to be the inability to find a few marketable personalities to be the face of competitive gaming leagues. Every successful sports league has personable, as well as talented, players in them. Who exactly is the face of competitive gaming? Fatal1ty? I'm not discrediting his gaming abilities, his skill has been proven time and time again, but that guy is boring as hell. The only reason his name is out there has to do with him being the first person to win a million dollar prize and his "fame" after that. I believe his main game is Quake 3 (if I am not mistaken), which really isnít on many people's current playlists.
I think itís fine if you have individuals who can draw people in, but it seems like only gamers who really pay attention to competitive gaming in the first place are going to know about these individuals. I am sure most causal gamers and perhaps even some hardcore gamers donít know who Fatal1ty is. I think having marketable personalities can keep people interested in competitive gaming, but I doní think it will be initially draws them into it.
When you say Halo and Starcraft turns people away because they aren't mainstream I don't think you notice how many effing units both those games have sold. If those types of games turn people away I have no idea what will get them into watching competitive gaming.
Also why does this have to be accepted by the mainstream? Some sports do fine without being mainstream and if the gaming community at large cultivates the underground gaming leagues then they could thrive. Icarus is right, marketable personalities help, but it won't bring my uncle into watching MLG matches anytime soon.
That brings up an interesting point, if competitive gaming was to become mainstream, what exactly should we consider mainstream? Can we honestly expect gaming to join the likes of football and soccer, should it be on par with golf and tennis, or should we set the bar more towards competitive eating and bowling professionals? It is true we need personalities but competitive gaming has the potential to allow a lot more people to actually participate. People can have pick-up games of football but unless your atleast in college level no one takes you seriously. With gaming your scored would get posted right up there with everyone, making the barrier between pro and amateur at least in terms of partcipation blur.
This is of course assuming competitive gaming gets a good start in the mainstream market that captures people's attention. How exactly are we going to accomplish that? Can the appeal to the average joe only be made after the penetration of games finally captures most of the non-gaming pie. Does gaming need to finally be accepted as its own medium by the public before we can move into this serious competitive gaming? I think the MLG is still appealing to an incredibly niche market, even more so than competitive eating is. We may have our priorities a bit wrong here.
Yes....I was hoping some one would bring up Fatal1ty. I was discussing with a non-gamer about how Fatal1ty is probably the most well-known professional gamer, and yet, I think the majority of gamers think he is a giant douche. The fact that Penny Arcade sent a press statement out saying that not only was Fatal1ty NOT coming to PAX, but that "Seriously, if he even tries to come we'll kick him out." That doesn't bode well for finding a "face" of competitive gaming. And knowing the kind of personalities that are usually attracted to competitive gaming (read: douchenozzles) I think finding a spokesperson will be hard to come by.
It also doesnít help that with reality television being all important nowadays that recently that the show WCG Ultimate Gamer was created on Sci Fi. Have you guys seen this? Suff0cat twittered about how horrendous this show was and I was just wondering if you guys shared that sentiment.
WCG Ultimate Gamer: An attempt to bring competitive gaming to TV.....and fails. Icarus
As far as WCG Ultimate Gamer goes, I havenít seen it but I would imagine any combination of reality TV and gaming would be a bad mix. And what other sports have ever had reality TV shows? Conceptually, it sounds sort of silly and I doubt people would take competitive gaming seriously after watching something like that. But like I said I haven't watched it before, so perhaps I shouldn't judge. Perhaps you could you describe it a bit, for those of us who are unfamiliar with it.
Yes, WCG Ultimate Gamer is probably the best worst show on TV. By that, I mean it is the best at being the worst show on TV. Imagine if you could, a show that combined Survivor, the Real World and Video games. Take that and add a bunch of shit, then you get WCG Ultimate Gamer. The show does what are called "real life" challenges to start off an episode, like in the NBA Live episode they had a slam dunk contest off of a diving board judged by Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins, Spud Webb and Lisa Leslie. Now the guy who won the competiton got to choose who would go against the girl that came in last place. They had a fight earlier in the day and as a sports gamer, he decided to take her out in the elimination game. Only on WCG Ultimate Gamer, can you find greatness like that.
But the absolute "best" and funniest part of the show has to be the commentary during the games. This show is marketed toward gamers, but they set up and explain the games as if you've never heard of them. During a game of Virtua Fighter 4, they had to explain what a life bar is!! Now, as a gamer, if you don't know what a life bar is, you're doing it all wrong. The show is on Hulu and I really hope that the readers will go watch at least the first episode to marvel at drama, stupidity and crazy product placement. I mean, the choice of game is quite bad. I think the only game they played that came out over a year ago was Virtua Fighter on the 360, I mean at near the end of the show they had to play a cell phone racing game for immunity!! A CELL PHONE RACING GAME! The show takes itself way too seriously and could do so much better if it laughed at itself, much like the gaming community is able to do.
I just watched a bit of WCG Ultimate Gamer and it was pretty terrible, like Tdiddy said. Interestingly though it highlights some of the issues I was talking about earlier. On the one hand, you have the WCG wanting to appeal to hardcore gamers by having a show about competitive gaming, but then it is diluted with reality television in order to appeal to the mainstream market. The problem is that these are completely distinct viewer markets and trying to have a show that appeals to both is difficult. As I stated earlier, defining what competitive gaming is trying to achieve will dictate how you promote it and who you market it to, and here I think the WCG lost focus of who their audience was.
And just to address some of the questions raised by Eternalplayer, I think it is possible for competitive gaming to move into the mainstream and it can appeal to non-gamers, although I am doubtful it will ever come close to the sort of popularity that sports like football have. Regardless, I think it is still too soon to try and make that move. I do think there is some correlation to games being accepted as a medium in the mainstream, and that that acceptance will come eventually with more time. Until then though, there are still parts of the gaming community who donít pay much attention to competitive gaming and the focus right now should be on trying to build interest amongst those individuals. Once a modest following is developed then it becomes much easier to market competitive gaming to non-gamers and perhaps gain even bigger sponsors for these events.
I am defining success as it is successful to its audience, and competitive gaming's audience is the hardcore gamer or the guy who buys just one game and just loves the crap out of the game. Those people will looks up anything and everything when it comes to the game they like. And with the regularness of people it should be like most sports, when the guy/girl wants to quit they can and someone new and fresh will take their spot. Also that brings up something I love about leagues of games, anyone can play in these, ANYONE! An eight year old kid, women (which doesn't happen in most sport leagues) heck even my grandma can be in a league if she wanted to.
The mainstream won't get into competitive gaming as a whole but they will get into the game they buy and play a lot of. Now I want to watch this show you guys are talking about. I just want to see what they do with the idea of competitive gaming on TV but it doesn't sound like it is successful anyway. I think Icarus is right, the gaming community as a whole, with sites like Penny Arcade and the very awesome Dtoid, can help build a base for competitive gaming. Once it has a base it can branch off to do new and different things (but the internet doesn't like the new). I am now remembering an old GFW Radio where they talk about a book on Counterstrike that has a lot of cool ideas on how to broadcast gaming as a sport.
I still think that to really breakout, we would need games that are really easy for everyone to jump into, a game that can stand the test of time. We would need it to be easy to understand but nearly impossible to master. In would also be nice to be cross-platform so that all console owners could participate or, even better, have a stand alone console like the Pac-man joysticks to enthrall the public. When I think of people tuning in to watch this game or these games being played each week, I think the games would need to have a bit of the same feeling a speed run does. Speed runs are something you can do but you find it entertaining to see it done much better.
I also think the reason this is not just a gamer fantasy and plausible is for precisely the reason Madninja brought up. ANYONE can play these games, making their appeal outshine nearly, if not all, other spectator sports out there. I don't know if publishers are willing to take the risk for a new type of game that has the appeal I talk about, but until one does it might be very long until we see competitive gaming become popular.