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First Person Shooters (Games)

Is America Ready For Competitive Gaming On TV? 84

Posted by simoniker
from the fraglympics dept.
Thanks to GameSpy for its editorial discussing whether America is ready for more TV coverage of competitive gaming, following on from last week's QuakeCon, of which it's claimed: "Television coverage of the event was almost non-existent... although many media outlets did a story on QuakeCon, and taped a few interviews with competitors at the event, none covered the finals in a play-by-play fashion." One editor suggests gaming just isn't appealing enough: ("Deathmatch as we know it just isn't it yet. Visually it isn't too sexy if you're not, yourself, a hardcore player"), whereas a contrasting view is presented by another editor ("The competitive FPS scene in America is also ripe for television. All we'd need to do to get that up and running in the US is copy what the Starleague has done [using StarCraft] in Korea.")
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Is America Ready For Competitive Gaming On TV?

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  • by u-238 (515248) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:16AM (#9999682) Homepage
    is so far off and incompatible. The contrasts between pop and traditional culture in Korea and America are so drastic.. it really doesn't behoove any game-TV advocates to make that analogy, as it is very doubtful that an American TV producers would be convinced by this argument.

    Although I belive that since it's gotten far enough this ready (QuakeCon, CPL championships, etc.) game coverage TV certainly isn't a far fetched idea - nor far away from becoming a reality. In the next decade, at least, I assure everyone that you'll be hearing about and following champion game players and teams in the same manner we do today with football, baseball etc.
  • 3rd person (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RealityMogul (663835) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:17AM (#9999692)
    I haven't seen any of the QuakeCon setup, but any deathmatch style clips I've seen broadcast on G4 have always been from the first person point of view. That's so boring. You need several camera's that a director can control to watch the action from above or a 3rd person point of view. That way the audience could see where the snipers are camping, and when two people are going to run into each other as they come around a corner. Just like any other sport, where there's a hundred cameras running to get the best shot.
  • FragTV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueCup (753410) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:42AM (#9999854) Homepage Journal
    There's a station available in Winamp that I believe is called "FragTV" that plays peoples recorded kills to music. I've spent more than a few hours watching it, though I'll admit, there probably aren't a lot of people like me out there that would enjoy this as much as me... but there is surely an audience.
  • Or... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ev0lution (804501) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:43AM (#9999862)
    ...are advertisers ready for competitive gaming on TV? If they are, it'll be shown.
  • Fore! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robbway (200983) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:49AM (#9999934) Journal
    I am a rabid gamer for almost 30 years (yes, Pong on up!). I still play games a lot. Do I like to watch competitions on TV? No. They're uninteresting. Even more, the commentary is not needed. Commentary detracts from the overall experience.

    Watching games played on TV is exactly like watching bowling or golf on TV. To me, these three things (video games, bowling, golf) are fun to play, but not to watch. It kind of reminds me that I'm not doing anything but vegetating in front of the boob tube.
  • Re:3rd person (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The-Bus (138060) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:58AM (#10000079)
    That was actually my comment exactly. Let me expand upon your initial idea, if you don't mind.

    First off, don't show it live! At least not the first year or so, because you're gonna need practice to get good coverage. Think of what's more cinematic to see, a live NFL game or one of the "NFL Films". This sort of brings us to our next technical limitation.

    This is easy to cover in existing PC games (especially modded ones -- who knows, iD games might already have this), it's a bit more difficult for console games. Specifically, you would need to create a utility that "tapes" the game, in a replayable, demo format. From that point on, a spectator should be able to access that feed and basically see it from any angle, including pause, rewind, fast-forward, and preferably, some sort of slo-mo to get that hip* Matrix style everyone is talking about.

    Now, once this is done, you need to get a really good editor to put all this together, as well as a director. They don't need to come from the "traditional" film world -- I think Randall Glass [warthog-jump.com] would be excellent, for example, or . So now, say, a match on Blood Gulch (to stay with the same game), isn't just a first player perspective, but a third-person view. You have overhead shots of a gunfight, behind-the-vehicle shots of a Warthog, etc. This makes it much more exciting. Replay multiple angles of a scene, etc.

    Here's another important part -- narration! You don't want to dumb it down too much but you don't want to use too many "insider" words. "That noob spawn-camped on the RFK. That's LOL! 45 TTT! Hahaha!"

    The end result should be very close to watching a narrated action movie. Oh, and I don't want to see the players during the game! I don't care! They're mostly not photogenic at all.

    The reality is that you have shaky video playing over someone's shoulder, and then the narrator saying "As you can see, Edgar300 is going wild!" with a shot of explosions in UT that don't tell me what he's getting "wild" about.

    There just is not any interest in me seeing that sort of crap, and I think I'm probably a good target audience, considering I'm into games but not a "hardcore gamer".

    * If this was 1998.
  • Boring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reapy (688651) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @09:02AM (#10000123)
    The only time I ever saw a deathmatch on tv was when flipping around a while ago on g4 maybe. It was boring as hell. It was either tribes or unreal ctf game. I never got into either of those games too much, so I didn't know the map or the weapons. Which means I didn't know what the hell was going on. They would cut to a 3rd person view of some guy fraggin another, then running on. Then would cut to someone running with the flag. The only thing I saw was a random string of fragging clips that made no sense.

    This would be really boring on tv to people who don't even know what these games look like, or what the point of th em are.

    There are some ways to help that though. The first thing is to slow the game down to maybe half life speed running speed. Quake and unreal are maybe a bit too fast. It's hard to get an eye for where someone is when they cover ground so quickly, and hard to soak up changes when the field moves around so much.

    There needs to be an overhead map showing all the teams on at all time. The map has to color code the teams, show who is carrying the flag, and highlight who we are watching. This would be hard to accomplish on maps with multiple floors.

    Another thing they could do, is break down the game for us. Let's say that one guy is running back with the flag, some defenders hot on his heels. Ahead of him in a room, defenders have set up an ambush. Just as he gets in the room, the ambush is sprung, and they start firing on the flag carrier.

    But out of the corner, some defenders pop out and frag the ambushers, drop down, and stop the other defenders.

    On tv coverage, I'd like to see them pause before the flag guy gets into the room, set up the scene by paning around and showing me the situation, the flag guy is running into an ambush. Show the guy run in, tell me it's lights out for the flag guy, showing me an angle where I am behind the ambushers and can see the flag carrier. Then, as the attacker's friends run in, pan up to show them emerge and start shooting and scoring the frags. Let the announcer show me this blow by blow, explaining it the whole way.

    This way, I know where they were on the map, watched them set up the play, and can see how well executed it was.

    Basically they just need to break it down and explain it, and pause the action to show us split screens from a 3rd person view, and show someone's uncanny aiming ability from first person view, and also show me health and armor values as the fight progresses.

    Either way, the game still isn't going to be fun to watch by someone who has never played the game being shown, as you'll only be watching graphics and animation, and won't appreciate the skill of the players.

    In athletics, everyone can relate to someone running fast or jumpping high, you can't relate to a great ability to rail someone after seeing them on the screen across the map through a little tiny window for half a second.
  • No (Score:0, Insightful)

    by illuminata (668963) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @09:10AM (#10000205) Journal
    America's not ready and probably never will be ready.

    One problem is the low barrier of entry. You plop down cash for the game, you take it home and play it. In time, you'll probably be about as good as almost everybody else that you play. That's not the case with games like chess, where there's a very good chance that you'll never be at the top.

    You don't have to be an athlete to play a video game, which is why so many people play! People watch athletics because not many people can become great athletes.

    Poker seems to be an exception to the rule as of late. Who knows how long that will last but there are things that separate that from video games. One, big money is involved. Two, the big money creates drama. Three, and most important, they end up getting people who are considered cool, like on Celebrity Poker. Have you ever heard of a video gamer be called cool outside of the community?

    No matter how much money is in the pot for this stuff, a gamer has a long way to go from becoming cool. And remember, the televised poker craze just started this year. Athletics have been a television mainstay.

    But, in America, people like to be active participants in something when they can be. Most can't play in sports professionally, but they can play video games and end up becoming good at them. So, there's no way in hell this will have widespread appeal. Perhaps it could be expanded on at G4TechTV, but even then I don't see it successful.

    Gotta be honest here, it's just too damn geeky.
  • It CAN be done (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MarkPNeyer (729607) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @09:40AM (#10000454)

    There are several steps pointed out in the Gamespy article that need to happen before competitive gaming becomes a reality. One of the major ones is the need for a game that looks great, is TV friendly, doesn't require hacked up config files to allow you to be good, and is fun to watch. Ladies and gentlemen: that game is Halo.

    Halo is already tremendously popular on college campuses, and you'll get many guys who don't normally enjoy video games excited about 8 on 8 capture the flag games. It's almost as fun to watch as it is to play. It definately requires a good amount of skill. The capture the flag games require immense teamwork and cooperation if you're going to suceed, while the 1 on 1 deathmatches can be very exciting. Everything I've heard about Halo 2 sounds like an improvement over the original, and most of these improvements would lend themselves great to the game being a spectator sport. Dual weilding looks really cool and adds layers of tactics. The covanent energy sword looks awesome and surely could be entertaining to watch. The new vehical destruction physics will make entertaining and exciting flag runs possible - Will his vehicle hold out just long enough for him to make it back to the base? The fact that the game runs on an Xbox means that it looks great and costs very little to play, while ensuring there aren't going to be many cheaters and making config files nonexistant.

    There are already some video games that are fun to watch. the Grand Theft Auto series is one of them - the reason is because you can see all sorts of entertaining things and there is generally nonstop action. The same is going to be true of Halo 2. If bungie plays things right by adding a pure spectator mode and the ability to host tournaments, we could see the start of something really big.

  • Re:Fore! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Paolomania (160098) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @11:17AM (#10001869) Homepage
    I tend to find watching sports that I know nothing about to be very boring. For instance, watching an NFL game before I played football was just like watching a meaningless pile-on of huge men - but after learning both the rules and the nuances of strategy involved it became much more interesting to watch.

    I think good commentating would play a large part in keeping a televised gaming event interesting. Someone to describe to the home viewing audience what is happening on screen ("we can see here in the replay that Daigo has individually parried every hit of his opponent's super-combo, in order to do this, he had to respond to each individual hit with split-second timing!"), what the strategic implications of certain moves are ("well Chuck, it seems like the terrorist team is piling the bodies of their fallen teammates on the bomb - this is a new strategy in this version of the ..."), and what the heck all the l33t sp34k trash-talk means ("but Chuck, when the red captain calls the other team 'ub3r' he is actually *insulting* them by sarchastically using an *out-of-style* superlative to imply that their time has passed...")
  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @11:45AM (#10002241)
    In the next decade, at least, I assure everyone that you'll be hearing about and following champion game players and teams in the same manner we do today with football, baseball etc.

    I assure you that is a very far-fetched notion. Do you have any idea how many people follow football, baseball, "etc"? Personally (see my user name) I play video games more than the average bloke, but even I can't stand watching people play video games, if for no other reason than -- heck, I could be playing video games! But I watch a lot of hockey, football, baseball, and college basketball, if for no other reason than -- damn, they are pretty good!

    Even the best Quake player is absolutely zero fun to watch. But hey, in today's era of a thousand digital channels, many dedicated to even smaller niche clientelle, why not some video game coverage? Obviously there is some small market for it.

    But putting it on the level of football, baseball? The next time you see 50,000 people paying an average of $50 to sit in the cold and watch someone play video games, let me know! 10 years? Maybe -- maybe -- 100 years. It would take such a monumental shift in American culture that I just can't see it -ever- happening. We enjoy -real- violence and -real- sport, it is nearly instinctive.

    Reminds me of a quote which I'll have to paraphrase since I can't remember it fully: "Hey, there's this new video game, with unbelievable resolution, perfect frames per second, no lag! It's called real life."

    Video games are something fun to do when it's too dark/cold/rainy to go outside.
  • by muel (132794) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @12:10PM (#10002572)
    The recent success of World Series of Poker championships on ESPN (and, yes, the word is 'success,' as the stuff has been driving up ESPN's ratings in surprising fashion) proves that what you're saying isn't so much of a joke.

    People will watch any competition on television if it's crafted correctly. Forget the other stuff people have said about making televised competitions look like movies. G4 does that sometimes and the result is boring.

    No, the real kicker is personalities. The success of WSOP programs is found in the combo of competition and the humans involved in that competition. Dads, young novices, old mainstays, families, "crew"s, and all their backstories and quirks and so on. Otherwise, the actual poker is some pretty boring stuff.

    If a program can edit together competition highlights that pay as much attention to the gamers as to the game, then there's a serious shot at mainstream success. Could that be done? Perhaps not as easily as poker, as the participants aren't as "all over the board" in the gaming world (this is the same reason bowling competitions generally suck ass on TV), but the possibility is still worth noting.
  • by bckrispi (725257) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @12:30PM (#10002802)
    There are other televised competitions that cater to niche crowds that, unless you are a hardcore fan (of *watching*, not just participating) would be boring as hell. Two that spring to mind immediately: Golf and Bowling. How either of these two sports survived (or in Golf's case, thrived) on television is beyond me. Neither have *any* action to speak of, both move at a snail's pace, neither involve any significant strategy, and neither are really "in your face" competitive. I'm not saying that makes them bad sports, but it does make for bad television. But somehow, there are enough fans to keep televising them viable. I think that with the past two generations having grown up on video games, ESPN can afford to risk an hour a week to televising video game tournaments. The fan base is definitely there.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @12:48PM (#10003027)
    But, in America, people like to be active participants in something when they can be. Most can't play in sports professionally, but they can play video games and end up becoming good at them. So, there's no way in hell this will have widespread appeal.

    The first problem here, obviously, is that people just don't realize how much of a gap there is between the top players in almost any given video game and the people that just play alone, or a random public game maybe a couple times a week. Sure, most people can become decent players of a game themselves without being particularly gifted in any way, but anyone that's played against someone that plays in upper-level competition long enough knows that there is a clear difference in skill.

    The second problem is that at any given time the game being played in high level competition is only familiar to a small percentage of the TV audience. Most Americans have played football, baseball, etc (even soccer) at some point in their lives, even if it wasn't with the professional rules. There is no barrier of entry in these sports, until you want to play at a higher level. Everyone knows someone when they're growing up with a bat and a ball. With PC games you have to have a PC that can handle the game, a good internet connection, maybe some knowledge of how to configure the game to work best for you (and your computer), and the game itself, all before you can even learn how the game plays. Particular skills transfer from game to game, but people are easily confused by new maps and differing weapons and skills in different games. It takes some time to get familiar with the new environment before you can take full advantage of any benefits gained by having played earlier games, and even then you have to change habits for the new game.

    These things also apply to watching the game. The only thing more confusing than trying to figure out a map in the middle of a deathmatch is trying to figure it out when you are not in control (when you're watching it on TV, for instance). Then add familiarity (or the lack thereof) with the game itself, as well as possibly the game-type (DM, CTF, TF, CS, AQ2, etc), and you've got a lot of things people need to know before they can enjoy watching a game, let alone playing in it.

    Perhaps it could be expanded on at G4TechTV, but even then I don't see it successful.

    I have watched a few games on G4TechTV, but overall I've found it to be a poor experience even when I'm familiar with the game. This is in direct contrast with the time I spent spectating matches online, although in those cases I had direct control over my viewing angle and occasionally jumped between matches when things slowed down.

    What I feel they need to do to make the viewing experience better on TV is take some time before the match not only to explain the game, game-type, and map, but to show, as much as possible, what they're talking about in the game itself. Use an overhead view of the map to give viewers a general idea of what the map looks like, highlight important areas, as well as points of possible strategic interest, show people the different weapons in the game, maybe discuss the strengths and weaknesses of those weapons, classes if the game has them, and the objective of the game type. Some of this can be drawn out into the match, take a break to detail what's going on and show some more background information (like they do in the previously mentioned televised poker, discussing things like what a straight and royal flush are, how the game type works, and so on).

    You might show the players themselves when they have a particularly strong reaction, and to introduce them intially, but you don't need to show the player when his character is sitting in a corner defending an area, basically not doing anything but watching the screen. Something else to consider would be to allow some minor customization of skins in order to better associate the individual players with their characters on-screen. Real sports ha
  • by lpangelrob2 (721920) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:54PM (#10006794) Journal
    Maybe if you make it into more than just a game. I'd probably only watch it if it were Battlefield: 1942, and only if there was professionals designing the missions, and only if there were advanced players, and only if, if the setup were to be modeled on an actual event in history, if historical parallels were available and on-hand -- and the players didn't know (or at least weren't told) about them.

    Now that I think about it, that's a hell of a lot of restrictions. But third-party omniscient, professional commentary on "what they did, what they should've done, and what really happened" would very much interest me, especially if we're talking about times and places of major battles in the past.

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