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A Brief Look At Professional Gaming

By taste in Op-Ed
Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 04:09:38 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

The other day I came across an old friend while doing my weekly shopping and we decided to go for some ice blendeds to catch up on things.

It went along smoothly until I asked him about his job. At the mere mention of it, he shifted uneasily and his eyes scanned our surroundings. Finally, he leaned close and said in a hoarse whisper:

"I play games for a living."

It had been a known fact since my high school days that this particular friend loved playing games and often his mind were on his games rather than the opposite sex. At one point he had mentioned that his dream was to become a professional gamer, and it looked like he had achieved his dream, except for one problem:

"It's not working out," he said dejectedly. "Everything's falling apart."

Playing games... for money?

The concept of people playing and competing professionally in computer games is nothing new actually. Around the world there are quite a number of international events such as the Cyberathlete Professional League, the World Cyber Games (run by the Koreans, considered to be the 'Olympics of Cyber Gaming'), as well as the recently completed Electronic Sports World Cup held at the Futuroscope Park in Poitiers, France.

There are also tournaments that are played over the internet, as well as local ones that are usually held in cybercafes or gaming pubs.

Gamers from around the world have qualifiers in their respective countries and are sponsored to attend such events. One such 'professional gamer' who was featured on MTV recently is Johnathan Wendel who goes by the name Fatal1ty in the games, has made over $100K in a year from gaming.

In the past, Russia has proclaimed computer gaming to be a national sport and based on the rumors, it is likely that China will include computer games in their 2008 Olympics as well.

Websites dedicated to E-Sports such as So Gamed and Cyberfight that cover the events and happenings in the world of E-Sports. As a casual gamer who plays these games and follow the competition scene, I found myself breathless by just looking at the pictures and following the E-Sports World Cup coverage from one of the more popular international e-sports websites, ESReality.

Gamers who compete in these events play their games at a level above the contemporary gamer. They devote their time into practicing daily to improving their skills. Fatal1ty himself claims to have practiced 8-10 hours a day, a feat which has earned him many top places in gaming tournaments for the past few years.

The Ugly

All is not fun and games in the world of professional gaming though as my friend has revealed to me. A lot of sweat, and sometimes blood is involved. The concept of e-sports is still far from being a reality and few people can actually earn enough to support themselves and secure their futures. There are many reasons which can span several pages but I will only touch lightly on two of them.

1. Lack of a proper competitive platform

Over the years, new games keep appearing and the older ones are left on the shelf. In the world of competitive gaming, this is the exact same case, except the impact of a game being pushed aside can be disastrous for some.

In this, I am referring to the Cyberathlete Professional League's one time decision to switch from the Quake series, which they had been using since the start of their foundation, to a newer (and more popular) game at the time, the infamous Counter-Strike.

Now for most of the 'professional gamers' who have lived off their earnings from past CPL tournaments, this meant the end of their career unless they made the jump from Quake to Counter-Strike. Unfortunately, switching games is not as simple because both games have different sets of physics and gameplay; in Quake you battled one another one on one while Counter-Strike is a team-based game, the players usually in numbers of five.

Now, even more recently, the CPL has announced for their World Tour that they would be switching games once again, this time back to a duel based game. There will still be a Counter-Strike tournament during the event, but this leaves many to wonder how much more air time does Counter-Strike have before it finally gets shelved as well.

2. Games aren't made for competition play

Most game developers make their games for the casual gamers in general,  and not the competitive ones who are but a minority. In the end they leave it to the mod makers in the competitive community to fix all the loose screws and modify the game to be played competitively. This alone brings up a problem, as the more modifications to the game, the more the community is divided, some preferring the 'vanilla' version of the game to the modification.

Game developers these days depend very much on their graphics to help the game's sales, while in contrast, competitive gamers have a habit of dumbing down the graphics of a game to a point where all they see are polygons for the sake of visibility and boosting their framerates. This in itself is a problem for the developers as they won't be able to promote their game should the game be used in a competition with the graphics in such a state.

Being that the majority of gamers are casual gamers while the competitive ones make up only a small niche in the market, game developers do not see catering to the competitive community as profitable as the majority.

Is there any hope at all?

The erratic and unpredictable nature of professional gaming is perhaps why past champions such as Dennis "Thresh" Fong, who won John Carmack's Ferrari during a tournament I might add (it is always mandatory to make a John Carmack's Ferrari reference whenever mentioning Thresh for the first time), who quit playing professionally at his peak and turning his eyes towards the lush fields of dotcoms, which resulted in the founding of Gamers.com and sites such as FiringSquad.

So far, Korea is the only nation where the concept of E-Sports is fully realized, with China coming in a distant second. Blizzard's Starcraft has an immensely huge cult following in Korea, to a point where there are TV stations that air games during leagues and tournaments that are held on a regular basis. Being one a professional gamer in Starcraft earns you thousands a month, even if you are not the top of the crop, a reason professional Starcraft players from all over the world migrate to Korea and live there permanently.

Final Word

Yet, the outlook of e-sports getting anywhere in other countries is still bleak. Even with all the international tournaments and media coverage, professional gaming still remains a myth rather than a fact. Most people either grow out of gaming or quit completely after realizing that there is no stable future for a competitive gamer.

Thinking Positive and Looking Forwards

Even so, we could still consider e-sports very much in its infancy. After all, computer games only made their way into our lives in the 50's, and e-sports in the 90's. When we look at other professional sports such as soccer and chess which have had centuries before becoming what they are today, who is to say that electronic gaming will not achieve mainstream sports status? Even as I write this article, post-ESWC mania the many gamers and e-sports fans alike are already preparing themselves for the World Cyber Games that will be held in San Francisco this coming September.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Professional Gaming is...
o going to be big in the near future. 9%
o the devil! 2%
o what I'm training my kids to excel in. 2%
o a good idea. 2%
o interesting... but I'll pass. 40%
o a pointless waste of time. 30%
o it edible? 11%

Votes: 42
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Cyberathle te Professional League
o World Cyber Games
o Electronic Sports World Cup
o Fatal1ty
o So Gamed
o Cyberfight
o by
o just
o looking
o at
o the
o pictures
o coverage
o ESReality
o announced for their World Tour
o Dennis "Thresh" Fong
o Gamers.com
o FiringSqua d
o Blizzard's
o Also by taste

Display: Sort:
A Brief Look At Professional Gaming | 63 comments (47 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1,FP (1.00 / 15) (#9)
by Hide Teh Hamster on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 12:50:51 PM EST

My God, I could actually smell and taste the B.O. in the air as I read this piece, and this was after I have showered and washed myself liberally.

This revitalised kuro5hin thing, it reminds me very much of the new German Weimar Republic. Please don't let the dark cloud of National Socialism descend upon it again.
hmm (none / 1) (#13)
by reklaw on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 04:50:12 PM EST

If you still have B.O. after you shower and wash, you probably have a bit of an odour problem...
[ Parent ]
"...and washed myself liberally." (none / 2) (#17)
by fluxrad on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 05:38:03 PM EST

Were you thinking about Al Gore and John Kerry as you scrubbed down your ballsack or something?

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Yes. (1.00 / 6) (#18)
by Hide Teh Hamster on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 06:50:30 PM EST

Al Gore was buttfucking John Kerry while John sucked on my cock and Al played with my balls. At the same time I took it in the ass from a delightfully aromatic and sweating Michael Moore. It was a grand olde time as Michael's purposely-unshaven jowel scratched my tender shoulder blades.

This revitalised kuro5hin thing, it reminds me very much of the new German Weimar Republic. Please don't let the dark cloud of National Socialism descend upon it again.
[ Parent ]
oh good. (1.07 / 13) (#10)
by rmg on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 02:48:23 PM EST

i'm sure articles like this will attract more of the element we want. when our front page is finally converted to nothing but game reviews and philosophizing about gaming, the chains of elitism that have held this site back from mass acceptance will finally be broken!

i, for one, welcome our new gamer overlords.


if i do not respond, it is because you wrote nothing worthy of response.

dave dean

not what I was thinking of (3.00 / 3) (#19)
by khallow on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 10:54:23 PM EST

There are a number of what I would consider "professional gamers" out there. They make a modest income in games like Everquest where characters need to be built over a long period of time. Often it's worth decent money to train a character up to a significant level (that takes a long time to achieve) and then sell the character or perhaps vital equipment off on Ebay. FWIW, I'd say that these markets are larger than the professional gaming entertainment you mention above.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

I wrote an article on that a long time ago. (3.00 / 3) (#23)
by Imperfect on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 11:52:13 AM EST

For the sake of massaging my ever-reducing ego, here's the link:

HOWTO: Make Money Off Your Addiction

Not perfect, not quite.
[ Parent ]
no offense (none / 0) (#25)
by khallow on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 12:33:58 PM EST

But with a masterfully written story like that, I can't imagine how your ego would have started to shrink. :)

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

I no longer have that glorious career? (none / 1) (#28)
by Imperfect on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 04:57:58 PM EST

Since finishing college, I've been forsaken by the local job market and am working as a night-shift stockboy at a local grocery store. And I'm too broke to look for a job in my field in other cities, with a $13,000 school loan breathing hard down my neck and making unwelcome suggestive comments.

For a start. =)

Not perfect, not quite.
[ Parent ]
+1 FP (2.90 / 10) (#20)
by pHatidic on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 02:41:44 AM EST

I think professional computer gaming is one of the dumbest fads ever. Why waste time learning a game that will be obsolete in 5 years when one could instead invest that time into learning a timeless game like Go, a foreign language, or a hobby. However the article is so well written I feel compelled to vote +1 FP.

Ditto (none / 1) (#24)
by Peahippo on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 12:10:13 PM EST

That's essentially what I wanted to say. However, in contrast to your acquiescence, mine revolves around a reluctance to judge Human pursuits. It's culture, man, so who am I to judge? +1 SP.

[ Parent ]
Why not? (none / 0) (#38)
by spasticfraggle on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 03:49:51 AM EST

Sure, if you spend your life trying to collect "Culture Points", maybe playing CS isn't as profitable as learning to play Go. If you're not collecting points though, I don't see any great difference.

Go may well live on well after CS is forgotten, but a dead Go player is just as dead as a dead CS player.

Life is short

I'm the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]

Dead Go Players (none / 1) (#57)
by Boronx on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:56:20 PM EST

You're obviously not familiar with Hikaru no Go. Maybe Starcraft is the next "go" anyway. We won't know for another thousand years or so.
[ Parent ]
Counter-point... (3.00 / 4) (#40)
by skyknight on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 09:47:26 AM EST

I think that it very much depends on your selection of game. Personally, I feel that I have been well served intellectually by the games that I have chosen to play, specifically StarCraft, Counter-Strike, and Civilization. I've always chosen games based on their challenge and ability to somehow enhance my mind. I've always eschewed games that were pure entertainment, eye candy that failed to stretch my brain.

Counter-Strike, as far as I am concerned, is both a game of reflexes, as well as an extreme puzzle solving game on a compressed time scale that involves a probabilistic puzzle. People who have attained a high level of skill in this game will know what I mean. As far as real life tangible benefit goes, my lightning reflexes have prevented car accidents (8 years of driving with 0 wrecks), as well as allowed me to prevent myriad small scale disasters by being able to respond quickly (catching someone's digital camera just as it was about to hit the pavement comes to mind).

StarCraft is basically real time chess, and far more complicated since opponents are potentially playing with different pieces and new pieces enter the game in a stream. The strategy is incredibly rich. I wish that security analysts would play this game as I feel that they would learn a great deal about things relevant to their trade, e.g. the value of defense in depth, heterogeneous defense systems, counter-strike capabilities, etc.

Civilization... I would hope that this game wouldn't require any explanation. The intellectual arenas that it taps are multifarious. It has helped me to reason in a sophisticated way regarding logistics, probability, investment, security, tactics, and so on... I think of it as Super-Chess.

People who categorically bash all playing of computer games, I would suspect, have never actually become competent at one, and thus don't understand the breadth and depth involved in attaining such mastery. This ain't Pong anymore. Also, as you may note, each of the games I mentioned have been around for more than five years. Civilization has been through multiple revisions and I believe is pushing 15 years in age. I believe that StarCraft and Counter-Strike are respectively seven and five years old, and each still have very strong followings.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
well (2.66 / 3) (#42)
by speek on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 01:50:17 PM EST

Before I can accept your comparison of anything to Chess or Go, I'd want to know what your qualifications are. Are you a master at either (ie professional level player)? If not, how would you know? After all, you challenge us naysayers with the complaint we've not become competent at computer games.

I also would point out that increasing complexity of a game can have the paradoxical effect of reducing the strategic element of the game. Not to mention the effect that real-time has. I don't think Starcraft or Counter-Strike, etc can compare to Chess or Go in terms of taxing one's abstract and spatial reasoning skills.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

That's fair... (none / 1) (#53)
by skyknight on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:19:48 AM EST

I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert chess player, or even advanced as far as I am concerned. Chess is (obviously) an extremely challenging game, and I would never demean it. I just get irked by people assuming that other games are necessarily low brow simply because they haven't been around for a long time.

Regarding complexity, there is indeed a careful balance that must be made. Complexity for complexity's sake is not beneficial to the quality of game play. A game needs to be sufficiently complicated that it extends past the ability of individuals to map out all possibilities, but not so complicated that it's impossible for players to make inferences about patterns.

For example...

I felt that Age of Empires was made needlessly complicated, and it detracted from the game play, whereas the creators of StarCraft were brilliant in that they made the game almost exactly as complicated as it should have been, and balanced the strengths and weaknesses of different units such that there is very rich possibility for interaction but not so much so that it is overwhelmingly complicated.

The same contrast exists between Civilization and Alpha Centauri. The former has excellent game play as the result of carefully managing complexity, whereas the latter feels like a hodge-podge of various things that somebody thought would be cool, all glued together in a careless and ad-hoc fashion.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
it's just a bad comparison (none / 1) (#55)
by speek on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 11:48:06 AM EST

I don't think games like Chess/Go are a good comparison to games like Counter-Strike or Starcraft. I'm not arguing they're worthless - I'm not even sure what the criteria of worth is. I'm sure these games do exercise important mental skills - just not the same ones as Chess or Go. The ability to keep track of multiple simultaneous activities, make snap judgements from a lot of data, recognize patterns instantly are things you might learn from Starcraft. Whereas in Chess one must recognize patterns, but also recognize subtle differences in those patterns, as well as manipulate spatial patterns in your head for long periods of time (minutes and hours).

My complaint about "what kids do these days" is that it overly emphasizes speed. Fast decision-making skills are being tested everywhere. In-depth concentration and reasoning less so. I am a product of the reverse over-emphasis. Put me in a time-pressure (real-time pressure) situation and I think poorly. I'm a slow, ponderous thinker. I suspect that's from a youth spent reading, and playing chess and other board games. Everything I did allowed for lots of time, and I took advantage of that and became very good at it (at one point playing chess at an expert level, ie around 2100 USCF rating).

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 1) (#56)
by skyknight on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:53:46 PM EST

It depends which games we are discussing. Comparing Counter-Strike to Chess is probably very shaky, StarCraft less so but still not great... Civilization, though, is actually a much longer and involved game than chess, at least as far as time is concerned. A single game of civilization can take tens or hundreds of hours, depending how meticulous you are in your planning and execution. If you haven't tried it, give playing Civilization III a shot, as I think you would enjoy if it Chess is your kind of game.

I think that as you play very fast paced games, your mind adapts to the time scale and becomes more adept at doing complex processing in a shorter period of time. The greater the throughput of your brain, the more you can get away from being simply reflexive and try to strategize at a deeper level.

When I first started playing Counter-Strike, it was really overwhelming. I focused primarily on just trying to aim well whenever I ran into someone, and ran straight into any situation that would give me an opportunity to get into a fire fight. As I gradually became more sophisticated, I was able to think about the game in a much more involved way. I realized the battles that I avoided were just as important as the ones in which I chose to engage, and came to discern what were favorable fighting conditions. I came to think extensively about geometry and the inherent trade-offs with fields of fire and and lines of vulnerability. I might step around a corner to engage in a fight, looking back along the hallway first, thinking "ok, I've got three seconds for which I can be assured I won't get shot in the back, and after that it's an increasing risk". I learned to stop waiting for the perfect moment, e.g. having a full clip of ammo, and to realize that waiting for said moment meant that while I might improve my position, my opponent might also improve his, and more so relatively speaking than I did. I could go on and on... There is so much to the game that a beginner can't even comprehend because he is so overwhelmed with the basics.

As far as criteria of worth is concerned... All value is relative. I'm not sure that anything is intrinsically meaningful or valuable. I guess my sense of worth in games depends on how much I can apply the skills of the games to other things in a useful way. This rationale is not limited to games, but rather a general life philosophy. I have a finite amount of time, and I want to maximize the investment thereof, which means engaging in activities that pay diverse benefits. It's the same reason that as I try to improve myself as a software professional, I focus on general themes that transfer well from one domain to another, not on learning some arcane API that is useless outside of the specific task at hand.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
About Quake and Starcraft (none / 1) (#60)
by taste on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 09:42:43 PM EST

One of the problems with competitive games which I mentioned in another comment is that the strategies of a game are very abstract and to understand them, one must have played or at least followed the game to that level to be aware that such depth exists.

I used to think myself pretty good in Quake 3 Arena. After all, what more was there to the game than just being accurate and killing your opponent before he could kill you? I had been playing over a year before I met a 'pro' player. The said player proceeded to devastate me in a map I had thought myself profecient in. He then taught me how to 'lock' a map, timing the weapons and powerups, controlling the map, movement and tactical combat knowledge such as choosing the right battles and knowing when to flee.

This opened me up to a whole new level of the game and every other game for that matter. There is something more than just the visible gameplay aspects that only through refined playing you can come to understand.

I played and followed both Starcraft and Warcraft at a high level and I must say, though these games are weak comparisns to go (real-time vs turn-based) but they are not inferior in depth either.

Go's gameplay is simple, yet the near infinite combinations in which a game can be played is what makes the game incredibly complicated.

In Starcraft, the concepts are alot less simple (and thus not as visibly shown to the general public/casual gamers alike). The game itself is not speed-centric, in fact far from it, and it is the creative use of the game's units and extreme strategies that makes the game different no matter how many times it's played. I had been planning to write an article on Starcraft so I'll cover more about the game then. Even so, when two well evenly matched opponents play one another, you will find that this is where the game truly shines. In that, Starcraft is very much like Go in trying to achieve the perfect game; the 'Hand of God'.

[ Parent ]

Meh (none / 1) (#45)
by jmzero on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 04:41:53 PM EST

Why waste time learning a game that will be obsolete in 5 years when one could instead invest that time into learning a timeless game like Go, a foreign language, or a hobby.

Why waste time learning to play Go?  Why waste time learning to use a question mark?

I'm a decent chess player, but that skill isn't getting me anything.  In many ways, the time I spent learning chess (or French, or the bit of Greek, or electronics) was absolutely wasted.  These days I'd rather play basketball, even though I'm pretty sure I won't play basketball into my 60's.  

What matters is that I enjoy doing these things (and I enjoy improving at them) now, not whether my skill is somehow going to pay dividends in the future.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

producing professional gaming champions (3.00 / 3) (#21)
by adimovk5 on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 08:47:06 AM EST

If gamers want to turn truly professional, they must cease focusing on a single game for their tournaments. Single game formats allow players to learn the game engine and tricks. Instead, a multiple game format should determine a champion. It should be a Pentathlon or Decathlon type scenario. Each year there would be a vote for which games should be included. The top five or ten most popular games would be part of the competition.

Winners would be determined by the ability to beat preset point conditions decided for each game before the first tournament within time limits. There should be so many point possibilities that it is impossible to collect all points for a perfect score. It should be possible for people with different styles to compete. At each level, there would be a game champion who precedes to the next level.

There would also be a Gaming Champion. This person would be determined by assigning a weighted score to the finishing places in each game. The person with the best overall score would be the Gaming Champion who precedes to the next level.

After 6 months of practice, local competitions are held. One month later, there are regional contests. National contests follow the next month. Finally an international tournament.

This format produces many benefits:

  • The most popular games are in the tournamnet, not the best sellers at the time.
  • The best at each of the games will be recognized.
  • The top overall player will be recognized.
  • Gaming enthusiast will have a yearly tournament system to meet at.
  • No single game producer will be able to control the system.

There could also be an amateur division to allow the emergence of fresh faces.

But... (none / 1) (#30)
by jimrandomh on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 07:39:32 PM EST

The problem is, going to a multi-game format drastically reduces the overall quality of play. The point is to see players who are really, really good at the game(s) in question, and that won't happen if they have to keep up with too many games at once.

Oh, and going for preset conditions is just stupid. Play matches, award points to the winners and don't award points to the losers. Simple.

CalcRogue: TI-89, 92+, PalmOS, Windows and Linux.
[ Parent ]

not necessarily (none / 0) (#49)
by suntzu on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:20:12 AM EST

for instance, i knew someone who was in about the top 50 starcraft players on battle.net for a while around 1999/2000. watching him win a game in half an hour on hunters really wasn't that much fun. it was pretty much could he pull off a predetermined set of moves quickly enough through his knowledge of hotkeys and resource locations. but there are starcraft matches that are fun to watch. in general, the problem is just that some games have ways to win that take skill but aren't fun to watch.

i'd think UT2k3 bombing run matches might be entertaining. at least when people play as a team.

[ Parent ]

Unreal Tournament 200X (none / 1) (#61)
by taste on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 09:54:10 PM EST

Epic's Bombing Run gamemode in their UT200X games are poorly designed and will never make it to the mainstream competition games.

For one, the shooting weapons in the game with their spamming potential and excessively high damage is hindering the bombing run gameplay from growing into a proper competition game, even though from the looks of it, Epic seems to be the only developers catering to a more competitive theme with their UT franchise(the theme of UT is basically a sci fi arena combat).

There's actually a mod that tries to refine the Bombing Run gameplay called Deathball which still falls short due to the ranged weapons still being allowed in the game but at least it is alot more playable than the vanilla version of Bombing run. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done by Epic and it's unlikely we'll see Bombing Run or Onslaught ever played competitively due to their, so to put it in a nice way, 'uncompetitive' nature.:-)

[ Parent ]
It's better than you think (none / 1) (#62)
by jimrandomh on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:55:26 PM EST

My experience (in UT2k4) has been that newbie games consist mainly of shooting, mid-level games consist mainly of translocating and passing, and high-level games have a healthy balance. The weapon balance is, IMO, perfect (save perhaps the bio-rifle and link gun, which lack clear roles.) 'Spamming' tends to really mean 'firing shots which I stumble into', which is actually 'predicting where I'm going to be soon and shooting that spot', which is actually an interesting level of gameplay in itself. It certainly isn't what I would call a _problem_.

CalcRogue: TI-89, 92+, PalmOS, Windows and Linux.
[ Parent ]
Agree yet disagree.. (none / 1) (#37)
by taste on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 03:10:35 AM EST

I think the multi game idea is a good idea but I also agree that having multiple games reduces the level of play (like jimrandomh mentioned) as players need to train for each games and to play a game at a high level takes not months but years.

I believe the root of the problem here lies in the developers. Most games are catered to the gamer, not to spectators. Games are designed in such a way for the gamer to derive his fun/entertainment, but not for the passer by (except to attract them to buy the game perhaps)

What people usually look for in a competition are the skill sets and strategies of the players. Unfortunately due to the design of the game, only someone who has played the game before would understand the nature and events that happen in the game. When we take competitive gaming into account, even casual gamers have a hard time understanding what is going on beyond the fact that Player A killed Player B with some weapon (in a FPS game for example).

Again compare that with sports today such as Football where the gameplay is clearly visible. Of course, some minor rules are not as clearly shown such as offsides but the fact remains that a passer by could easily explain the game to another after watching a match.

The professional gaming community is not passive about this and have made several steps to increase viewability of the games such as having shoutcasts of a game, or writing summaries of the games after a match but how would you explain the strategy involved in a duel match in Quake 3 Arena to a casual gamer or someone who has never played the game before, much less make the strategy seem exciting enough for the general public to follow?

What I would suggest is to have a commitee nominate several game developers each year for specific game genres. They will then be funded and given the task of developing a competitive game(s) within a certain amount of time.. Since we are taking out the singleplayer content, the developers can focus all their resources on the competitive aspect of the game (which shouldn't take as long as a singleplayer game). The game would then be played for the next 5 years, and at the end of every 5 year gap, there is an 'Olympics' of the game.

By doing this, we will get to see higher quality competition in the specific games, and with the 5 year gap between each game, we'll get to observe how the level of play in each game slowly evolve as it improves over the years.

5 years by itself should be enough time for players to reach the 'peak level' in any particular game and an Olympic type event at the end of the 5 years would be a spectacular finisher for the games. In between, we could see these games being competed on in other tournaments. Besides, games usually have a life of 5 years or less, so I think the number of years is appropriate.

By having a consistent gaming format like this every 5 years, this may help e-sports develop into something solid and maybe professional gamers will become a real profession someday.

[ Parent ]

deep versus wide (none / 0) (#51)
by adimovk5 on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:44:50 AM EST

If your purpose is to find the person who understands a particular game engine best, single game format is best. In single game competition, a person who devotes large amounts of time to a game can eventually learn the physics of that game. That person is able to exploit his knowledge of the rules of that game to beat the AI or other players.

If your purpose is to find the person who has the best gaming skills, multiple game format is best. In a multiple game competition, a person is unable to spend too much time learning the physics of a single game. Instead, he must develop general skills that apply universally. He is then able to apply those skills against widely different enemies.

The format I suggested is a combination of the two. In the Pentathlon, you would have individual champions who develop deep knowledge of their own particular game. However the focus would be on the Gaming Champion who might not be able to beat the individual masters at their game but who could probably beat the single master at the other four games in the contest.

The Single Game Masters would rise and fall with their game. They could only reign as long as the public voted their game into the tournament. The Gaming Champion could continue for years, returning each year to prove that he is master of all games. There would be sponsors for Gaming Champions and they would be at the forefront of new game development.

As the popularity of the Pentathlon grew, the game developers would be more inclined to produce games to fit the format. After all, game designers want people to play their games. How better to achieve that goal than to get millions of eyes watching the game year after year in the tournament of Champions?

As for your five year plan, I find it interesting. However, five years would be a long time for a single game to maintain its popularity in anything beyond a cult following. The general public is fickle and likes to see new things. Also, what happens to the people who reach the peak? There is nothing left for them.

I have a lot of problems with the committee part. Committees generally produce weak products. One of my favorite sayings is that a camel is what a horse would look like if designed by a committee. After a few years, the committee would probably not pick the best designers any longer. The choice would be the result of lobbying, bribery, and influence peddling. The best game developed would probably not be chosen from the lot. That's why I say let the audience decide which games they want to see.

[ Parent ]

The games need commentators (none / 1) (#63)
by trmn8rx on Wed Jul 28, 2004 at 07:43:12 AM EST

Chess is a highly strategic game with complex rules and innuendos, yet that has a _huge_ spectator following and commentary adds to the excitement.

The challenge is in explaining the strategy of FPS games, with commentators for example.

I know _nothing_ about surfing and can't see the differences in professional skill levels, yet when I watch extreme sports chanel, the professional comentators make it exciting and _teach_ the viewer to appreciate the skill and eventually see the difference

Most FPS games just provide a live stream of a game, without commentary, the strategy and tactics will be lost on the casual viewer...

[ Parent ]

i'd also add (none / 0) (#50)
by suntzu on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 12:24:17 AM EST

that there should be two sets of games. one where the line-up is determined by a yearly vote, and another where the line-up is determined by a multi-year vote, say 3-5 years. that way you get a sampling of who's good at what's popular and who's good at what's more classic. maybe even use a staggered rotation for the multi-year set. that way you're not changing out a bunch of them at once and disrupting something that's supposed to have less change in the results from year to year.

[ Parent ]
stagger stagger roll (none / 0) (#52)
by adimovk5 on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 07:02:43 AM EST

I like the the staggerring concept. How about this? Each year, the fans vote for a single game. The game that is the most popular is added to the cycle. The oldest game is dropped. Each year you have five games in the tournament. Each game lasts for five years. A Game Master could rise and dominate during his game. The overall Gaming Champion would only have to learn one new game each year. It would add much stability to the system.

Keep in mind that the scenario doesn't necessarily have to run with five games. It could have more games with the run for each game consequently being longer. In other words, a seven game system would allow each game to run seven years with seven Game Masters each year.

[ Parent ]

That is the saddest thing I've ever heard of. nt (2.00 / 4) (#27)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 03:28:27 PM EST

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
Games as sport (none / 1) (#29)
by melia on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 07:05:22 PM EST

In the spirit of that DDIII review posted recently, I propose all future "professional games tournaments" be based on Olympic Summer Games on the SNES. This is the only sensible choice.

Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong

Dance Dance Revolution (none / 2) (#31)
by Tau on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 08:34:05 PM EST

California has quite a few 'professional' level DDR tournaments going on, or rather they had a year or so ago. The concept's quite a good one; a video game with a significant physical element to it that's really addictive to boot. To compete at the top end you have to be in very good physical shape and it takes a lot of skill (the very best players can follow a 10 step per second pattern to within 30 milliseconds of the underlying beat). Unfortunately Konami handled the arcade side of the game really badly outside of Japan, with an awful US version, and an awful and not quite so awful European releases. Most arcades simply resorted to importing the Japanese machines, which was good up to the point where DDR went completely out of fashion in Japan, at which point Konami axed* the series and nipped the rapidly developing western DDR scene in the bud. Yeah there's the console releases but for several reasons they're really quite useless for expert level play. * Well, not officially, but they may as well have. Konami releases several lines of music games in lockstep and DDR has missed the last two. That and the last release, almost two years ago, was really a 'be all and end all' compilation with several hints that this was the end of the series.

Damn it (none / 0) (#32)
by Tau on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 08:35:04 PM EST

Wrong formatting mode!

[ Parent ]
East Coast still goes strong (none / 0) (#39)
by LittleZephyr on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 05:57:19 AM EST

While the scene is dead in Japan and dwindling in west coast, the east coast scene is beginning to mature. I've been noticing more and more DDR tourneys occurring around where I live.

They have one at Anime Weekend Atlanta every year, plus a large Korean owned and operated bowling alley/arcade/pool hall/karaoke/bar had a tourney sponsored by Red Octane, the biggest manufacturer of third party dance pads. Even my local arcade at the ghetto mall is having an high score competition.

Mainly because of the cost of importing machines over the Pacific and across the country, most places are still a version behind. My local arcade only upgraded to 7th Mix recently, and the newest mix I've seen in Georgia is only an 8th mix.

And to say that DDR is dead in Japan is even an overstatement. Konami itself has said that they would at least go up to a 10th mix AFAIK. Plus there's the relatively huge sim scene that programs their own DDR ripoffs for use on home PC's allowing custom songs. (My fav being Dance With Intensity)

England too, is experiencing its first taste of real DDR. They've had the inferior Dancing Stage re-branding of DDR, but it's pretty lackluster. Arcade owners have started practicing the American method of buying cheap bootleg upgrades from Hong Kong and alike, saving them the cost of buying a whole new machine.

Anyway yea. If you are a DDR pro in Cali, you might be the victim of the downfall of DDR, but the rest of us are just beginning ^_^
(\♥/) What if instead of posting that comment,
(0.-) you had actually taken a knife and stabbed
("_") me in the eye? You murderer. ~ Rusty

[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#44)
by Tau on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 04:38:29 PM EST

I'm a rather hardcore British DDR player (if a few recent matches are anything to go by I'm probably in the top 10 in the UK). And yes Euromix 2 sucks, although Extremes are cropping up all over the place. London even has a DDR Extreme that's been turned into a customized Stepmania cabinet, so it has tons of fanmade songs on it and is quite fun (although the owners of the machine never stop twiddling with it, so the timing windows are all over the place)

I think the general concensus is that Konami thinks DDR has run out of steam for the time being, so they'll let it cool off but it's likely that there will be a new release at some point, like you said. If the UK and East Coast scenes mature a little more, the new release could get things going again.

UK DDR scene is definitely on the rise though.

[ Parent ]

I'm terribly sorry! (none / 1) (#33)
by taste on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 08:49:06 PM EST

I'm terribly sorry about the edit! Shortly after submitting the article(at work) my ISP went down for the weekend which rendered me unable to log on to the net during the weekend.

Here is the correct link to the ESWC website!

I forgot to add the http:// in the link which resulted in what it was.

As for the corrections in grammar/spelling, is there a way for me to edit the article now that it has been posted?

And by the way, thank you for your comments/votes and crits!

Fixed (none / 1) (#34)
by panner on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 10:55:26 PM EST

I fixed the link to ESWC, the problems pointed out in editorial comments, and various spelling mistakes.

For future reference, the best way to get minor problems fixed in a story after it leaves the edit queue is to email editors@kuro5hin.org with the changes you want made.

Keith Smiley
Get it right, for God's sake. Pigs can work out how to use a joysti
[ Parent ]
Thank you very much! I'll remember the advice(nt) (none / 0) (#35)
by taste on Sun Jul 25, 2004 at 11:15:21 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Re: Is there any hope at all? (none / 1) (#41)
by MattGWU on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 09:56:50 AM EST

Does there need to be? Why is this a worthwhile activity that needs to be helped along? All professional gaming is is a platform for advertisers, a boon to the hardware industry, and a justification for kids who sit around all day playing video games. "Maybe someday *I* can make it to the big leagues..." Sure, until your hands swell up and explode at 25, and the new hotshot 14 year olds are piz0wn1ng you at every turn while they're not doing their phonics homework or their paper routes. Ever wonder why the trash-talking on game servers is so ineloquent? Fourteen year olds, dude. Sure, when you get down to it, online gaming affects nothing outside of its own realm, and might as well be left alone. In the end, people should do whatever makes them happy, regardless of whether or not they are useful members of society. And here come all the justifications. To paraphrase South Park "You play GAMES for a LIVING!"

entertainment (none / 0) (#43)
by Zaak on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 02:22:06 PM EST

Why is this a worthwhile activity that needs to be helped along?

Um, it's called "entertainment". Similar arguments could be made about any professional entertainers. People pay professional gamers money because they like to watch people play games. Just like people pay professional [actors|singers|dancers|politicians] money because they like to watch people [act|sing|dance|lie]. (ok, maybe not that last one)


[ Parent ]

Re: Is there any hope at all? (none / 1) (#54)
by skyknight on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 10:28:25 AM EST

Does there need to be? Why is this a worthwhile activity that needs to be helped along? All professional sports are is a platform for advertisers, a boon to the consumer products industry, and a justification for kids who fool around all day playing sports. "Maybe someday *I* can make it to the big leagues..." Sure, until your joints wear out and explode at 35, and the new hotshot 18 year olds are piz0wn1ng you at every turn while they're not doing their Calculus homework or honing their communication skills. Ever wonder why the trash-talking going on in games is so ineloquent? Adults with the minds of 14 year olds, dude. Sure, when you get down to it, professional sports affect nothing outside of their own realm, and might as well be left alone. In the end, people should do whatever makes them happy, regardless of whether or not they are useful members of society. And here come all the justifications. To paraphrase South Park "You play GAMES for a LIVING!"

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Problems with answers that nobody likes... (none / 1) (#46)
by Elendale on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 05:45:22 PM EST

Both problems you outlined here are serious problems. The switch from Quake to the vastly inferior but enourmously popular CamperStrike (err, CounterStrike i guess) was disasterous and set the cause of professional gaming in the USA back at least a couple years. However, silliness like that aside: these problems both have psueodo-answers: Challenge ProMode (or "CPM").

CPM is a Quake 3 modification designed (initially) to remove a lot of the sacrifices that iD made in order to sell their game to the growing CounterStrike-like crowd that wants slower movement and plenty of luck kills, but it grew beyond that as the project progressed. Soon the mod started including some newer maps, including maps specifically designed for its altered gameplay (the normal maps were fairly unplayable under the newer physics... plus the newer maps were just better anyway, some of them saw and still see use in non-CPM gameplay despite being designed for a different set of rules entirely). It now includes the best networking code i have ever seen in a game period (don't underestimate this- it's seriously the best thing in CPM and i wish that more game companies would at least take a look at it) as well as highly refined rules and a number of different game types.

In short, the game more or less already exists- but there's little to no popular support for it.

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.

no luck kills in cpm? (none / 0) (#47)
by skelter on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 07:13:34 PM EST

in cpm duels most kills are spawn rapes, which are generally considered to be lucky. in vq3 duels, spawn rapes are much harder (they start with more health and the mg is a weapon that is actually useful, unlike in cpm).

[ Parent ]
VQ3 vs. CPM (none / 1) (#48)
by Elendale on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 07:44:50 PM EST

First of all, this is a common argument against CPM. It suffers a fundamental misunderstanding of the game, however. Sure, you'll occassionally get lucky and someone will spawn right next to you. Nail 'em. That's the way the game works. ArQon and the CPM design team tried to stop luck spawn-kills but eventually decided that "All spawn systems suck, but some spawn systems suck more than others." Heck, what's worse than lucky spawn kills is having lucky spawn positions, though that's the mapmacker's fault. VQ3's spawn system is actually worse as far as "luck kills" than CPM. It's just that there's an artificial barrier implemented to reduce spawn rape of any kind- this, by the way, was discovered when those artificial barriers were removed but the spawn system was left in place. What you're probably talking about (the repeated killing of a freshly spawned opponent, racking up maybe five or eight kills in an extremely short period of time) is actually not "luck" at all. It requires solid understanding of the spawn system, the ability to be "in place" to land spawn kills, being tanked up enough (which, yes, is a skill) to survive multiple successive encounters with a freshly spawned opponent without letting up the pressure, etc, etc.

They might look like luck to someone more familiar with VQ3, but if you doubt me just go play against someone and see how much luck is involved. Hint: new players get spawn raped a lot- this is not luck, luck favors neither player. This is the new player's lack of understanding the phenomenon of spawn rape and how to avoid it or how to implement it correctly.  

With "luck kills" i'm talking more the opposite: freshly spawned players nailing someone fully tanked up because the default weapon is both luck-dependent and powerful. I'm talking about inaccurate hitscan weapons getting lucky headshots due to just the random aim modifier. That sort of thing. I'm also talking about the old railgun (which isn't precisely luck- but it all too often is, or was). Old machinegun and 125 spawn health aren't good things, they're bad things. I do believe you can test for yourself if you don't believe me: play for a while and then switch spawn health to 125 and see what happens. This stuff wasn't just made up- it's years of experience with Quake, Quake 2, Quake 3 and numerous other FPSes.

...Of course, the CPM team finally decided to "fix" the railgun. I've only been complaining about it for years now, but don't mind me: i'm just bitter.

Also: i think if you count carefully you'll find that, on average, most of the CPM kills aren't spawn rapes.

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.

[ Parent ]
So what happened to your friend? (none / 2) (#58)
by ethereal on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 03:45:32 PM EST

You kind of left that part of the story hanging. Why was he so dejected? Did he not want to move to Korea?


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

He got a 'proper' job (none / 0) (#59)
by taste on Tue Jul 27, 2004 at 08:39:46 PM EST

He managed to find work at a small company doing data entry and running around to handle errands for his boss. It's nothing glamorous or well paying but at least it puts food on the table.

[ Parent ]
A Brief Look At Professional Gaming | 63 comments (47 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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