Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Real Time Strategy (Games) Games

Why People Watch StarCraft, Instead of Playing 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-enjoy-wrists-free-of-carpal-tunnel dept.
generalepsilon writes "Researchers from the University of Washington have found a key reason why StarCraft is a popular spectator sport (PDF), especially in Korea. In a paper published last week, they theorize that StarCraft incorporates 'information asymmetry,' where the players and spectators each have different pieces of information, which transforms into entertainment. Sometimes spectators know something the players don't; they watch in suspense as players walk their armies into traps or a dropship sneaks behind the mineral line. Other times, players know something the spectators yearn to find out, such as 'cheese' (spectacular build orders that attempt to outplay an opponent early in the game). Rather than giving as much information as possible to spectators, it may be more crucial for game designers to decide which information to give to spectators, and when to reveal this information."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why People Watch StarCraft, Instead of Playing

Comments Filter:
  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:24PM (#36143102)
    Or maybe it's like any other competitive sport, there are people who enjoy watching it being played at a higher level than they themselves are able to participate at?
    • Not to mention that sometimes it's nice to sit back and watch the big picture. When you're playing it's easy to get caught up on minutiae and miss important story elements, complex action sequences, or beautiful scenery.

      Also, many players add a fun commentary track. [lparchive.org] A good "Let's Play" can add a lot of humor and personality to any game, and IMHO is usually more fun than playing the game itself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fhuglegads (1334505)

      Or maybe it's like any other competitive sport, there are people who enjoy watching it being played at a higher level than they themselves are able to participate at?

      I feel like this with League of Legends. The top players streaming is a completely different game than when I play. The strategies are very different and the games have a more natural flow to them. When I play as a "baddie" the games are often just a lot of discord.

      Beyond that, there are players who don't like each other and sometimes they end up on the same team. It probably wouldn't work if the players were all anonymous and I didn't know who I was watching. Beyond the soap opera and the drama it's a goo

      • by ect5150 (700619)

        I like watching some Street Fighter 4 (or SF3) matches. Some of the things these guys pull off are amazing.

        And there is always the famous Daigo vs Justin Wong match.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeM0rH_4ung

      • I have to say, I love watching others play. No matter if they are highly skilled or not. It's great to watch people's reactions to situations, maybe learn a little in the process. I've always enjoyed watching quake rolls, raid run downs, and the like. Having gamed for over 20 years, once it's in your blood you kind of enjoy everything about them.

        One thing I find is it's hard for traditional media to cover events that have more than 2 players. Switching between 8, 16, or even 32 players would give anyone a h

    • by gknoy (899301)

      I especially liked this about some of the commentary from people like Day[9]. I loved the way they commented on the meta-game, or on fundamental concepts of the game that aren't really visible to scrubs like me until (or unless) we go looking for them.

    • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but someone's always going to be able to blog / get research grants about the possiblity that it's something else!

  • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:24PM (#36143104)

    Like most academics, I think they have put way too much thought into this.

    Outside of Korea I imagine people for the most part watch this stuff because it’s awe-inspiring to see someone playing who has literally dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the game and as a result is mind blowing skilled at it. Inside of Korea they watch it for the same reason everyone else watches hockey, soccer, football, etc

    These guys really do treat it as a professional sport in Korea... with training camps, massive salaries, licensing and a _draft_. Spectators are just a part of that. Whether or not you take the “esport” seriously, it’s still something to see at least once, even as just a novelty.

    As for playing vs watching, I assume it’s the same as any other “sport”. I can play hockey with the guys at work, and still enjoy watching professional hockey players who dedicate way more time to the game and are better at it then I’ll ever be. One can play starcraft with their friends while still having an appreciation for people who take it seriously.

    • by rm999 (775449)

      "Outside of Korea I imagine people for the most part watch this stuff because itâ(TM)s awe-inspiring to see someone playing who has literally dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the game and as a result is mind blowing skilled at it."

      But there must be more to it than that. How many people watch World of Warcraft? Or Command & Conquer, or Team Fortress 2? Far fewer than Starcraft.

      There is something about Starcraft that makes it more fun to watch. IMO it's one of the rare games with both lots of st

      • The problem with FPS as a spectator sport is you can't see everything at once. You only see through the eyes of one player at one point in the map. Also, with the exception of 1v1 games like quake live, watching a top level FPS player just isn't that impressive. I can watch the world championship of counterstrike and other than aim, I don't see what makes them so good, even though I've played a lot of counterstrike and understand the game well. I don't know if that's because the game just doesn't have t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tasha26 (1613349)
      There are two popular Youtube channels for SC2: HuskyStarcraft [youtube.com] and HDstarcraft [youtube.com], both americans and they rack up views of between 50K to 100K for each cast. I watch them for strategies or nuke drops.
      • by Terrasque (796014)

        Not to mention TotalBiscuit's channel [youtube.com] - while not as technical as others, he more than makes up for it in entertainment value :)

      • by Jorth (1074589)
        How can you mention those two without a nod to Day9 ? He is by far the best thing in Starcraft commentating (alongside Artosis and Tasteless) google him and watch his 100th episode about his life in SC and why he does what he does on his daily, I used to love playing games all day long but now I'm 27 trying to make a career out of something I don't get the time to play hardcore like I used to so I love to watch the pro's.
        • by Tasha26 (1613349)
          I'm using the replies to add more channels to my subscribe list. Thanks for the Day9TV [youtube.com] tip... hoping i got the right guy.
      • http://sc2casts.com/ [sc2casts.com]
        ist pretty nice. i think sc2 is a magnificent spectator sport, lots of tension and uncertainty with few, if any, dull moments.

      • by Talon88 (975382)
        http://warpprism.com/ [warpprism.com] All the streams, all the time, always. That's all.
    • in turkey sc community, in between 1998-2005, we have watched a lot of games of our fellow players, and rarely these were better than us.

      There is a magic to watching it than playing it - first it saves the hassle, second, its good to see people use their brain and wits to match against other. and indeed, there can be a lot of humor in between spectators while watching.
    • by rjejr (921275)
      They watch this in Korea the way the rest of the world watches porn.
  • Cheese? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dmomo (256005) on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:28PM (#36143146) Homepage

    "Such as 'cheese' (spectacular build orders that attempt to outplay an opponent early in the game)."

    I'm going to start canon-rushing just so I can quote that line when I get raged. "Sorry you were no match for my spectacular build order, NOOB".

    • by stazeii (1148459)
      yes, their definition of cheese is horrible. Cheese: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft/Talk:Cheese [teamliquid.net] Though, the Korean origin is dubious at best. This is a long standing gaming term meaning to break the normal flow of the game by doing something "cheesy". =P
    • 'spectacular' doesn't mean awesome, it means 'creating a spectacle', 'an event with striking effects', 'dramatic and eyecatching'. Cheese is 'spectacular' because it completely changes the the early game from a slow build up to large armies, into an edge of the seat, do or die confrontation with minimal forces.

      Really though, the odds of success in pro games is pretty low for those kinds of plays, opponents are too good at scouting them and deflecting them; I suspect that pro level players continue to mix t

      • by dmomo (256005)

        Yeah. I actually enjoy getting cheesed. As a lower-tier player, I find it to be a good exercise. Instead of getting mad, I change gears. My "success" metrics turns into "thwart the cheese". Even if I lose the match in the end, I have gotten some good practice in.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Look up "When Cheese Fails" these are fantastic videos, of people who try to cheese others and fail.
    • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
      The funny part is that cheese is normally associated with people who have no skills to play a longer game. They just do the same build over and over, and manage to get like diamond or masters in ladder... But in actual tournament play, doing repetitive cheese just means you lose game 2 and 3.
    • by Terrasque (796014)

      Like this [youtube.com]?

      Epic cheesing in that video :)

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:29PM (#36143164)

    I wish they would include a "spectator" mode in more online games. I'm not very twitch quick, but I do enjoy *watching* a lot of FPS multiplayer (where you can see the really quick and clever guys pull off some amazing stuff). I wish there were more games with a mode that let me walk around as a "ghost" in the game, just watching without having to worry about getting killed and tea-bagged over and over again by 14-year-olds.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      I wish they would include a "spectator" mode in more online games. I'm not very twitch quick, but I do enjoy *watching* a lot of FPS multiplayer (where you can see the really quick and clever guys pull off some amazing stuff). I wish there were more games with a mode that let me walk around as a "ghost" in the game, just watching without having to worry about getting killed and tea-bagged over and over again by 14-year-olds.

      Heh, Left 4 Dead is good for that... actually it's sort of integral to the learning experience. When you die you're sort of forced to spectate so you can take some time out to watch how the rest of the team handles things.

      It's also one of those games where there's much less stress on twitch reflexes, and more on learning the game mechanics and how to handle particular situations. Wish more games were like that... (Tribes 2 also comes to mind... where you can kinda see the opponents coming long before you'

    • Even better would be if you could be turned into an npc that could do a little harassment but not enough damage to hinder the game. Kind of like the bob-omb in Mario Kart 64, but less of a threat to the game outcome.
  • So there are also these things where you can watch other people play. There is no "information asymmetry". And thousands of people watch those, too.

  • Similar to Poker (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ELitwin (1631305) on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:36PM (#36143240)
    This seems similar to watching poker on TV where the viewer knows what cards all the players are holding. There is still suspense with regards to the flop (and turn/river) and whether the betting/bluffing strategies will work.
    • Your statement stands for observing, but here are some other thoughts on the two games:

      Speaking as someone who played in a reasonably high level in both: Made the first Blizzard world championships in Brood War, and made 1000x my initial bankroll in Poker:

      In Starcraft, you will only win tournaments if you're really good. In Poker, you don't need to be the best to win tournaments.

      Because you need to be really good in Starcraft to win, there isn't much money for players who aren't top 1000 players.
      B
  • I love StarCraft 2, however it is extremely stressful to play. Sometimes I just want to chill, so I bring up the teamliquid.net stream list and watch my favorite players instead. Note that this is different than spectating a match as an observer/referee because you are essentially looking over the players shoulder and aren't privy to what his opponent is doing.

    That being said, watching live cast games from the observer point of view (such as the recent TSL3) is a lot of fun as well. It really amazes me how

    • by sarahbau (692647)

      I only skimmed the article, but I didn't see any mention of watching "instead of playing" as the Slashdot article is titled. They listed 9 types of spectators, but none of them were people who liked the game for a while, but find it more enjoyable to watch than to play, due to the stress. I think part of the reason I stopped playing is because a single mistake can (and often will) cost you the game. Not many games are that unforgiving.

  • As a Starcraft player, I suck.

    At my level (bronze), Starcraft is primarily not a strategy game, it's a "push buttons faster" game. The best thing I could do to improve my play is to make more stuff and spend more money. At low levels it's a game of who can make the most stuff (almost ignoring what that stuff is). If I had perfect macro, made only marines and did absolutely 0 micro I'd probably at least move out of bronze and maybe further.

    Watching Starcraft is the only way I get to enjoy the game as a strat

    • by guruevi (827432)

      First of all, it's a bit hard to get into it but you should try using the full array of game controls and you'll boost up to Gold level easy even if you have low APM (Actions Per Minute). Simply putting your buildings on a hot key does wonders. Heck, there are players in the pro-level that have a mediocre APM (Axslav for example has ~80 APM), they just have well-thought out strategies and know what they're doing. Bronze yielded me some good games since everybody's trying stuff out, Silver and Gold is for ch

    • same here, its like watching professional soccer on TV , you want to play like them!!!
    • by Shados (741919)

      While i agree with your general point as to why watching the game can be more interesting than playing, in bronze it is anything but a push buttons faster game...the strategy is all that matters.

      I got my wife to gold just by telling her what strategies to do. You could do it without using the keyboard, no shortcuts, no hotkeys, just the mouse... because the core strategy is so important at that level.

      I'm platinum at the edge of diamond, and this is still true. I have trouble against diamonds, but if my frie

  • It is interesting what people like to watch and why.

    It always intrigued me that a whole bunch of people who don't play football or baseball watch those things on TV.

    Yet not many people watch live chess matches, etc.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Chess is relatively "boring". It's gameplay is very abstract and doesn't involve a whole lot of action since it's Turn Based, it's also very focused and can be completely cast with a single camera. StarCraft is a Real-Time Strategy Game with a huge area of play, lots of possibilities and a lot more things going on at once and every caster can bring their own viewpoint, change camera's and it will be a completely different cast every time. Chess also has very few 'units' and not a whole lot of animation.

    • by lpp (115405)

      Ordinarily I would say this is because when we sit down for entertainment, we expect a minimum rate of feedback per unit time. Things don't necessarily have to constantly be happening, but things have to happen fast enough. And even when things aren't happening for long stretches, that's why we have color commentary.

      For chess, unless you have timers set short enough to speed matches up, there's not going to be that rate of feedback most folks want. Yes, some would still find it entertaining, but you have to

    • by bleh_fu (870974)
      Not really the same thing. With the fog of war in Starcraft, information is a resource just as valuable as anything else. Come to think of it, though, adding fog of war to football and chess would prove interesting indeed...
    • by ACS Solver (1068112) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:25PM (#36143926)

      I've been to a chess tournament with some of the world's top players (Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik included). The hall was packed pretty full of people watching the game boards on the big screen. So yeah, people watch even chess.

      Of course chess doesn't really make a good spectator sport. One problem is the speed - a single move will take several minutes, can take half an hour even, that isn't exactly fun to watch even if you're into chess. The other problem is the level of skill involved. You have to be a very skilled player to see the reasoning behind Kasparov's moves. If you're an enthusiast, 90% of moves at that level will leave you clueless as to why they were made. This is rather different from Starcraft, where a bronze-level player may understand what the pro player is doing, or from football, where a fan can appreciate quality passing without being able to do anything remotely similar.

    • by unclei (55647)

      In chess, there are no psychic commandos shooting nuclear bombs.

  • Frustrating to Lose (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DigitaLunatiC (452925) <[irish.dot] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:55PM (#36143486) Homepage Journal

    I think another key issue is that StarCraft is one of the more frustrating games to lose for some people. When I play a game of Ultimate and my team loses, I can usually understand what mistakes we made, what plays we let go that we should have stopped and where we were outplayed. It's still disappointing to lose, but it's readily understood when it happens.

    SC2, in particular, has a lot of information asymmetry between the individual players, not just the spectators and players. When I lose a match in SC2 I feel dumb. I still know there's something I should have scouted, a change I should have made in my build order, somewhere I could have had some better micro, or even when I fell behind on my macro, etc, but I don't really know what, at the moment of my defeat, I should have done differently. So I go back, and I watch, and I see all my mistakes, and I see my opponent's mistakes, and I think, "Why didn't I push then? Why did I leave this point undefended for so long? Why did I make unit x instead of unit y?"

    One figures out why one lost, but one has to go through the process of watching it all over again, and watching all one's chances to win just stroll on by.

    • I play very little SC online, but have played other RTS games more (and now play Company of Heroes, best in the genre IMHO), and this appears to be rather common to the genre.

      The key, of course, is that this is exactly how you become better. At first you're completely oblivious as to why you lost at all. Then you pick up on those things, and after a losing game are usually able to quickly identify the main reason you lost, even if you need to see the replay for subtler elements of the loss. And then eventua

    • I think the other thing is stress. Starcraft is a very stressful game to play - unlike many FPS, RPG, etc. I know a mate of mine in Diamond League, who's pretty decent, but these days barely plays any 1v1s at all, instead preferring to either play team games, watch professional matches on GomTV, or even just watch his friends play each other. He says its just way too stressful.

  • You can probably describe the same thing in TV poker. Everyone watching can see all the players hands, and can see a train wreak coming. Players also like to think how they would react to the same plays given the amount of information.

    I own the game, but play rarely, mostly because I suck.

  • I can theorize as well. Their methodology doesn't seem much more accurate than an educated guess.

    As for the topic itself, from personal experience, watching has not much to do with the additional info that the audience has, because most live streams aren't good enough at highlighting such things. The players themselves are much more attuned to the timing and rhythm of their game and even if one player can't see what the other is doing directly, he is usually more expectant of it happening than the audience

    • by immakiku (777365)

      Also most people don't watch and hope for cheese. They watch hoping for a good show - some new variation on a well known strategy in the current metagame or some novel response to a build order. They want to see mind games going on without the players directly communicating with each other. None of that is information asymmetry.

      Last point is, playing at anything above diamond level is exhausting. After a few games I just want to relax. Then sometimes I'll play less serious formats like custom games or 4v4 g

  • by greymond (539980)

    People watch people play Starcraft? Oh this is just a Korean thing...they have weird fascinations with games that other cultures don't.

    • by gauauu (649169)

      People watch people play Starcraft? Oh this is just a Korean thing...they have weird fascinations with games that other cultures don't.

      Nope, not just a Korean thing (Although moreso a Korean thing). Starcraft 2 actually has a pretty big following of people watching it (For a video game). There's a North American [nasl.tv] pro league, a good number of English-language casters on youtube who get over 100K viewers per game they cast (like Husky [youtube.com]), and people like Day[9] [day9tv.blip.tv] who get a huge following casting games and talking about strategy.

      Sure, it's small compared to mainstream things like real sports, but it's gotten surprisingly big.

    • People watch people play Starcraft? Oh this is just a Korean thing...

      Actually, a lot of [youtube.com] people [youtube.com] watch [youtube.com] other people [youtube.com] play Starcraft 2 professionally and non-professionally outside of Korea. Look at the number of views in the videos in these channels: most of them have tens of thousands, some exceed 100,000. These are just some of the biggest channels, there are many others in youtube.

      Not to mention the SC2 competitions outside of Korea: MLG [majorleaguegaming.com], NASL [nasl.tv] and IPL [ign.com] -- these are the big leagues, there are many other smaller competitions going on every week.

      And the dozens of SC2 streams in

    • by Jorth (1074589)
      At one point during the TSL3 finals between 2 Swedish players (top prize $15,000) hosted by teamliquid.net in NYC there were over 65,000 people watching the stream in HQ and 20,000 or so in LQ it's not just them anymore :)
  • And I'm not that good at it; not the sharpest tool in the shed, indeed not even in the shed! But if you know in general what the pro players are doing it is fun to watch even if you do not understand why they are doing what they do. Besides which all that APM hurts my fingers!
  • by Kingrames (858416)
    Or, you could, you know, play League of Legends, where watching what your teammates do is actually part of the game, and thus, it appeals to both, and being a good spectator can actually help you in playing the game?

    I was thoroughly unimpressed with Starcraft 2, because the developers seem almost hell-bent on refusing to innovate. If you really want to see something amazing and you're pointing your eyes at the RTS industry, be sure to take a look at the mod developers, because they've done far more impres
    • by moenoel (1897920)

      I was thoroughly unimpressed with Starcraft 2, because the developers seem almost hell-bent on refusing to innovate. If you really want to see something amazing and you're pointing your eyes at the RTS industry, be sure to take a look at the mod developers, because they've done far more impressive work.

      Why does new stuff always have to "innovate" to be good? Even if SC2 did bring a whole lot of "innovations", what good would it be in the long run? People that always want "new and shiny" would abandon it the moment something newer and shinier hits the market, because what was new and shiny at SC2's release is now old and boring in comparison. That is not the audience SC2 is made for.

      What Blizzard wanted to do with SC2, and I think they did a good job, is aim for the long run by taking elements that are kno

  • I've never played SC2, but I enjoy watching it sometimes because a talented commentator can bring so much life to the game. Having played other RTSes in the past, I can understand what's going on to a degree by myself, but a great commentary to go with a game adds so much.

    By the way, it's amusing that this should be posted on FUNDAY MONDAY: look up "day9 funday monday" if you need a compelling reason why SC2 can be fun to watch.

  • And this is why developers need two monitors. How better to keep your skills sharp than to both play and watch at the same time?

    Keep your pants on. He'll get back to coding in just a minute.
    • by socz (1057222)
      i just watched my first ever match on justintv or something... was impressive: guy was playing sv, listening to music, streaming his game, chatting with people via IM's and on 3 websites lol. I couldn't stop cracking up when he'd switch from the game to the other screens. So, definitely having a second monitor is a big plus for this. I run no less than 2 at work and at home.
  • It's not just Starcraft tough. I'm not the only one who enjoys watching other people play games, that why the entire genre of "Let's Play" exist.

  • People like to watch others do cool things better themselves.
    It's cheaper and less time intensive than to do it yourself well.
    Commentaries are fun (as others have said).
    Researchers are idiots who come up with idiot ideas so they can get paid.

    But my question is- how much money did they spend on this. What's next, why do we like watching pro football rather than playing? Hopefully, it wasn't federal taxpayer's money, so it was contained to the student's and/or the states money (I don't live there).

  • I think in Korea SC2 is very comparable to Chess, it's got a fan following but it's nothing like baseball or football in the states. People show up to gaming conventions all the time for all sorts of games just to watch. The original had almost unlimited depth to it's play style and from that arose a fan following, time will tell with the 2nd one, but right now it's at least partially playing off the glory of the original.

Forty two.

Working...