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As Gaming Evolves...
A mini-discussion(tm) that me and Phait had on #tf got me thinking, the rant was about whether online "sports" should be called sports and if the people playing these games professionally should be called "athletes".

As gaming gets more and more mainstream what do you see happening to the gaming world in terms of recognition from the masses, things like TV shows, online championships and sports and gaming integrated into everyday life. Do you ever think you would get TV coverage of pro matches and tournaments like you get with football these days?

The most pressing of all might be : how will integration into the mainstream affect the actual games getting released? And also the developers making these games? For instance game sensorship and explicit content.

Fire away...
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My POV... 
I think that someday it wont be un-common to have gaming "super-star" players that people will talk about while sitting with a beer in the pub with their mates, much like people do today with football / any sport players today. I think "pro-gaming" in terms of online tournaments and championships will be pushed a lot further and may gain television backing and official leaderboards and divisions will be setup globally and per country to track these "cyber athletes" progress.

In terms of how mainstreaming will affect the actual games - This will probably mean a lot more "casual" games such as The sims and other "playing reality" and sandbox games where players dont need to be hardcore to progress and have fun, also consoles will come to the forefront and perhaps even overtake the pc on the game development front as they are much more accessible to newcomers.

While I dont think that games content will be toned down, I think an enforced rating scheme will be put into place much like there is with films these days, so you really do need to be 18 to play doom5 and Quake7 ... 
Games are going to need to evolve WELL beyond where they are now to become spectator sports. It's already a challenge to make players care about their avatars, it's a whole other thing to get Joe Shmoe to care about those avatars being controlled by someone else.

Plus, unlike a real sport which can evolve with the times, yet keep the same basic rules and mechanics... computer games aren't there. Before even thinking of making games a mainstream event, developers will need to start creating flexible game architectures AS WELL AS interesting and dynamic game designs that will stand the test of time, and allow future upgrades. Lots of extra time to turn around games for little garenteed results.

Already in 7 years we've had vastly differant Quake games... along with a huge amount of other FPS games... PLUS plenty of OTHER multiple games. An amount of standardization is needed to get mainstream audiences to understand rules, regulations, and what the hell those things on the screen are doing. This won't happen anytime soon, as it's harmful to the industry that relies on people buying new games all the time AND has a consumer that trives on getting something new and cool.

In 'real sports' you have very few choices, and only the very involved can keep track of what's going on in each. Try to do the same with all current video games... it's near-impossible... and there'll only be more infomation to keep track of if worldwide cyber-sports was made a reality.

Varity may be the spice of life, but the main course is always the same drab thing. Games already have tons of genres and sub genres... and even within those, gamers have wide amount of tastes in game styles. Trying to satisfy all tastes would mean new games needed all the time, which means lost interest in one 'event' and an eventual loss of interest in the whole of spectator games.

And let's be honest... 'cyber-athletes'? People care about sports for the same reason they always have... other humans pushing their bodies and using their strength to be the best. Nobody wants a pasty 14 year old nerd as a hero. Look how exciting tournement chess is... brains and skill aren't things people want to watch. The best games can do is add gloss to the fact someone is just sitting at a keyboard and mouse and hitting buttons.

I agree that someday, interactive media may equal/overtake real spectator sports, but I doubt it something we need to be concerned about nowadays. 
Darts Is A Sport, Therefore Online Sport Is A Sport 
It's Already There In Korea. 
They have Starcraft tournaments on national TV. 
and in a few years? No more kekes and no more OMG ZERG RUSHes. Try to do it in america, it'll be a cute fad for maybe 5 years tops, and then it'll go the way of Who Wants to be a Millonaire and co. 
Televised Computer Games Bollockry 
Well here's an example of how not to do it:

It's a game so crap looking and with such retarded mechanics that you wouldn't want to play it yourself, let alone be bored senseless by watching other people playing it. I have no idea how many people actually watch it, but I have a horrible feeling that it might actually be enough that they consider a second series worthwhile. I guess it might appeal to the sort of idiot six-year olds that think generic Disney platform games are the pinnacle of the games industry's achievements. 
a shining beacon of stupidity in the mist of creativity and intelligence. I mean, why use an existing game that people like to play, made by people who are paid to make games? Why not get the BBC effects department to make a game instead? And then why not make the game the same every week, the same stages, or levels, or whatever you want to call them. And then, lets build a super-expensive set, with a gladiatorial/bullfighting style arena, surrounded by a studio audience!

"but wait!" I hear you say, "why is there an arena when there's nothing to go IN the arena?". Well, that's the ingenius part, because we can pretend the 3d characters are actually playing the game in the arena itself! Even though the audience only sees them on a big video display screen, the viewer at home sees them in the arena! That's money well spent, it couldn't have been used to make the show entertaining, or anything.

Oh! and contestents get to design their own characters. So they look like shit. And, er, where do they control their imaginary fighters from? From stupid fucking pods that are raised from the ground and look down on the arena. Just a few more magic touches left, like employing the animation and graphics engine from Rise of the Triad, and stealing all the ideas from Robot Wars, like house robots ("sentients") and most of the stupid puzzles. Whoa, I nearly forgot the lamest presenting team I've ever seen, Lisa Snowdon and Trevor Nelson... maybe someone should have noticed they AREN'T ACTUALLY PRESENTERS.

Argh, the saddest thing is you know they think they're doing something original and amazing, unaware that severely damaging the reputation of video games is nothing new.

Seriously, you have to doubt the mental capacity of someone who likes that shit. 
Firstly, it is possible to follow worldwide gaming if you really want to. You can get news, demos, and live TV/radio commentary.

The problem is that it's still fairly minor in terms of the mainstream entertainment/sports industries.

The games change too rapidly to build up a regular audience base (even CS has only lasted a few years). The lack of a consistent game for each genre means that the players/game dynamics change too often to build up stable corporate sponsorship (needed to increase the 'scope' of competitive gaming).

Gaming will slowly become more mainstream as more corporate money starts to go into clans and competitions (SK being the obvious clan example and the CPL (evile as they are) the biggest competition), more stable entities than single players.

Give it all 50 years though of course :) 
Sounds like the BBC3 lads definitely got it all wrong. Personally, as I think about this, what we have here is probably better treated as a combination of specialised mod (i.e. provision for "cameramen," a specialised form of spectator) and reality show. Call it LanParty - it's both non-threatening (hey, it's a party dude!) and gives an idea of the (minimalist) set design.

But, as people have pointed out, the gaming scene is extremely fluid; selection or coding of a game/mod that would stand the test of time would be extremely difficult. 
I don't see a problem with computer gaming becoming professional and mainstream.

1. As the first generation of game players became adults, games went from "just kid stuff" to stuff that at least twentysomethings consider as ordinarty as watching a movie or playing Scrabble. As people who don't take video games seriously start to die off, they'll be replaced by people who do.

2. Most professional sports (baseball, basketball, etc.) started out informally, with rules varying widely among different groups and geographies. In the same way that they became suiitable for competitive play when a standard ruleset was codified, video game genres will become serious when enough people get behind specific rulesets. Example: there are a number of different FPS deathmatch rulesets (doom, quake, qw, cube, ut, q3, etc.) and when an authoritative body starts governing one or more "official" ways to play, you'll have the foundation for deathmatch as a real sport. (For now they just use popular rulesets as designed by third parties, such as id software or the cpm group.) Same goes for other popular genres, like RTS.

One thing that differs between deathmatch and most real sports is that the playing fields are very standardized in real sports. Of course, this isn't true for golf, or stock car racing. I expect that the visual part of level design will be a casualty of this process, however -- the looks of maps will probably be very utilitarian (not to say ugly -- golf courses can be very pretty, but there is not a lot of opportunity for doing unusual stuff, like a course made of purple fiberglass and glowing astroturf.) 
it will become mainstream, its inevitable in fact.
its simply a matter of time.
where "gaming" is now, is analogous to where cinema was in the 1920's.

that is, we are just beginning to explore its full potential. 
The game industry is often compared to the movie industry, and some times that's justified. In regards to comptetition, it isn't.

Professional gaming only works so far as it's something the public wants to see. So instead of asking what's going to happen, it's simpler to ask what we would enjoy watching. A lot of sports have degrees of success on two levels. You can mark progress by score, but on a sub-level by field position or outs. A football game is somewhat exciting in respect to the score, but most of the excitement is derived from watching two opposing forces struggle to push the ball in some direction. I think watching video games would be more exciting if this element of field position were made more apparent. There is jockying for position in fps games, but it's not always clear, particularly for someone who may be casually watching it. The casual observer of a football or soccer game need only look at how far the ball is in the direction "those green guys" are facing.

Successful professional gaming seems more likely with games more resembling sports rather than fps or rts games. Maybe a glorified version of globulos. 
Good Point 
There is jockying for position in fps games, but it's not always clear, particularly for someone who may be casually watching it.

Ditto with motorsport. I've noticed that more often than not, the commentators regularly list off the current positions, along with a bar down the bottom of the screen, whilst focussing on the race leaders. Something like LanParty could do the same.

Suitable FPS game types, as Pushplay observes, would probably be those more resembling sports; i.e. "ball" games such as CTF, Catch the Chicken or the like. Once again though, the problem is indicating to the viewer which "side" has the "advantage." 
Pro Gaming 
Some good points raised here, especially pushplays post.

I always thought that Unreal Tournament (any version of it) would be best suited as a "specatator sport" and I always really wished that you could get HUD overlays of who is in the lead and bar graphs etc of wins for you and bots as you played more and more games. iirc the original UT had overlays on billboards with scrolling text saying who the current leader of the match was, this was really cool and is the only example I can think of for "sports like" environment to a game that isn't based on a real life sport. 
Team Sports Vs Individual Sports 
Team sports seem to be much more popular, which is why I think team games like CTF and it's variants probably have the best chance of working as spectator sports. Particularly games with "positions", like TF and such. Although with any game certain positions will develop. 
A Small Problem Of Proprietariness 
A more serious attempt at televised gaming would need to make the "playing field" as flat as possible. That means standardising not only the software used, but also the hardware - identical computer systems, identical makes of monitors, keyboards, mice, headphones etc. A nice little windfall for some electronics firm or other.

But then there's the question of maps. Using maps currently in the public domain would be out of the question - especially any with ripped textures (the copyright wrangles would be dreadful.) Besides, they'd probably have been played to death anyway, so all their little secrets would already be known.

So that would mean some mugginses would need to be employed to crank out maps that are not only aesthetically pleasing (since their work will be on view to the general public, after all), with all areas immiediately identifiable, but also bastions of good gameplay. And might not be released to the general public - if ever - until after that season is over. (And that means some sort of development kit, with all the leak potential and non-disclosure agreements that implies.)

I can't believe I'm taking this idea so seriously... 
I can't believe I'm taking this idea so seriously

Some forward thinking person might take it so seriously and make a lot of money on it. 
Yeah Right 
Some forward thinking person who knows how to develop the concept and who to approach, and how to sell it. 
Mr Controller 
But then there's the question of maps. Using maps currently in the public domain would be out of the question

Huh? But tournaments already use custom maps, e.g. CPL using ztn3tourney1 (with ztn's permission of course).

Besides, they'd probably have been played to death anyway, so all their little secrets would already be known.

I'll never understand why people always say this :]. Would football be better if they randomly chose a different pitch layout every match? 
I don't know anything about the existing tournament situation, but my concern was to flatten the playing field as much as possible, so that the only lumps and bumps come from the players' respective talents.

But, now that I think of it, a game isn't as interesting to watch if the players spend half the allotted time going in circles, trying to learn the map. So you've got a bloody good point there. I never thought of that... 
It isn't half as much fun to watch people playing on a map that the spectator doesn't know. 
And Joe Sixpack 
wouldn't know even the most common maps from a hole in the ground.

Still, going with the motorsport riff, one could do a quick run-through to help orient the folks back home, before the stage^H^H^H^H^Hgame starts. Kinda like WRC reports. 
Joe's Hole 
This entire idea is lumpenproletarian in concept. 
That was very Kafkaesq of you to say. 
Essentialy, Obscurant Language Aside, 
I was just defending my good buddy Joe SixPack from the scurrilous and highly dubious as well as nebobly nebulous charges FC leveled against him. I don't know what has gotten into FC these days; the Academy has corrupted his once pure and beautiful soul. 
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