Top Ten Reasons Pro Gaming Sucks
Why "professional gaming" is an oxymoron.
By Kevin Bowen | April 6, 2003
In my humble opinion, the entire concept of playing games on a "professional" level is pretty ridiculous.
Donít get me wrong, I donít liken professional gaming to playing Russian Roulette or filling your pants with gasoline while chain smoking Cuban cigars or anything like that. The idea is not completely without merit, but it is still significantly flawed.
Yeah, I know that in Korea at one point Starcraft was so popular that matches were televised and the best players were being stopped on the street by fans asking for autographs. That was just a passing fad, no different than the brief spurt of popularity enjoyed by certain American Asteroids players in the early '80s. And yes, MTV recently aired a special about professional gamers entitled True Life: I'm a Gamer, but then again MTV also recently aired a special about people who like to dress up as cartoon animals and bonk each other. Besides, Caroline in the City is in syndication, which pretty much proves just getting something on television doesnít automatically make it interesting or worthwhile.
Pro gaming will probably never get significantly bigger or more popular than it is now. Maybe itís already peaked. Hereís why I think thatís the case:
10. Competitive Gaming is Not a Sport
The only revelation here is that this particular CPL ad campaign really bites.
Hereís the dictionary definition of sport:
"An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively."
Now, do video games have rules? Kinda (weíll come back to that later). Are they undertaken competitively? Sometimes. Do they involve physical exertion? Hmm ... maybe, but only about as much as eating a ham sandwich while simultaneously slurping down lukewarm soft drinks.
This is all very subjective, but I donít consider video gaming to be a real sport. At its very best, under optimum conditions, maybe pro gaming is a "competitive activity" or a skill, comparable to something like billiards.
Comparing the CPL to the NFL would be just plain silly. Theyíre two totally different worlds.
9. Itís No Fun to Watch
One might be able to convincingly argue that pro gaming is indeed a sport, but even if they did, theyíd have a pretty rough time trying to make anyone believe it was a good spectator sport.
Who watches these professional video game matches, outside of the organizers, the players in the actual tournament, and a very small handful of extremely dedicated players? The answer is pretty much nobody. Why? Because no amount of fancy video editing will change the fact that youíre watching two (or more) people do something you could very easily be doing on your own. Why watch other people play a game when you can just do the exact same thing yourself?
Watching the players themselves is no better. Hereís a description of what it was like to view the televised video game contest, "Wizards vs. Wizards" from Steven Levyís book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution:
"[once the contest began] it was woefully clear how boring it was to watch a bunch of hackers sitting at long tables, joysticks between their legs, each one with a sneakered foot curled under the chair and the other foot extended under the table, jaw slightly slack, and eyes dully planted on the screen. Unlike more compelling forms of video competition, the [players] were undemonstrative when clearing a screen of aliens... discerning spectators had to watch very carefully for grimaces or for squinty frustration to tell when a wrong move ended in a video explosion. When players were confronted with the despised GAME OVER signal... they would sadly raise a hand so one of the judges would take note of the score. A lackluster agony of defeat."
Even though Mr. Levy was writing about a competition that took place in 1982, things really havenít really progressed much at all.
It might be a different story if these players were pulling off incredible feats of astonishing gaming prowess, but this rarely seems to be the case. Matches are often very predictable, almost to the point of being scripted. People camp, they use cheap tactics, they use the same moves or strategies over and over again. Itís not even remotely entertaining and youíll probably get a bad case of motion sickness in the process.
8. The Games Keep Changing
While multiplayer competitive games are in a constant state a flux, there are still people trying to break classic arcade game records. Pac-Man World Champion Billy Mitchell played a perfect game in 1999.
Imagine if Major League Baseball suddenly decided to start using softballs instead of baseballs, aluminum bats instead of wood, and forced every team to move into new stadiums. Then six months after that, theyíd announce that they'd be changing the softballs back to baseballs, moving the bases ten-feet closer, adding two new positions, and forcing players to wear five pounds of lead in each shoe to prevent them from jumping too high.
Pretty dumb, huh? Unfortunately, thatís pretty much exactly how video gaming works.
Thanks to patches, updates, and advancing technology, the games used in competition change constantly. But you canít even compare the Counter-Strike matches of today to the ones from two years ago, because so much has changed thanks to the release of new versions and rule changes. And you certainly canít compare the modern Unreal Tournament 2003 player to a Quake II player from four years ago, they are completely different beasts.
Thereís almost no tradition. Thereís no legacy, no sense of history, and that makes it all seems pretty illegitimate. Part of the fun of professional sports is you can compare teams from different eras against each other, cheer on attempts to break records, follow a favorite player throughout his career ... you canít really do any of that in professional gaming, because the players, teams, and even the games themselves change at a rapid pace.