If you disliked the column last week, well, you’re in for a treat. I did an even worse job this time around. If you’re looking for grammar or facts, you’ve come to the wrong place. Move along, nothing to see here.
On with the show.
Every Breath You Take
“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you.” – The Police
In the not so distant past I spent a lot of time watching a game that I rarely play. It wasn’t hockey or football. It wasn’t women’s beach volleyball.
I watched Dota 2.
Have video games finally risen above the line where they are considered true pro sports and not hobbies?
What a great question… but first,
Vin Diesel Fact: Monsters check under their beds for Vin Diesel.
Money Talks - So Do Jocks
Over $10 million in mostly fan-funded prize money, coverage on ESPN and 300,000+ people watching via Twitch.tv. This is the real deal folks. There has been much hullabaloo about ESPN covering the finals of The International 4, but in my humble opinion ESPN needs gaming much more than gaming needs ESPN.
First things first, the dollar amount matters, but not as much as the press insists that it does. Other titles have more money-muscle, but gaming public relations are a lot like telling a good joke; it's all in thedelivery. I don’t want to take anything away from Star Citizen and the $40+ million that it has raised on promises alone, but until it delivers something concrete it scares me more than it raises my hopes. I’m thrilled for Chris Roberts and his team, but if it isn’t an incredible game then it will be considered a failure. The bar has been set so impossibly high that it may not even be possible for it to live up the hype. I feel great and terrible for them at the same time.
Valve, with Dota 2 and its $10 million prize pool on the other hand is most definately delivering, sort of, kind of…. maybe. Each year they have set the nerd expectation bar higher for The International and each year it has been surpassed. They did a wonderful job of it this time around in almost every way. Kudos to them and to the fans, but we aren’t there yet, so let’s stop patting ourselves on the back and comparing gaming to the NBA, NFL and MLB.
Gaming has a long way to go to compete with those titans, not the least of which is something so simple that I can’t believe it hasn’t organically become popular; team jerseys. When it comes to team jerseys and paraphernalia, gaming just doesn’t cut it. Traditional sports fans fly their colours and fly them proudly. Watch a soccer, hockey, football or baseball game and nearly everyone in attendance is wearing a jersey that depicts them as one of the players. Heck in baseball you probably couldn’t tell a fan from one of the athletes if you ran into them on the street sporting their team colours.
The TI4 stadium should have been infested with team paraphernalia. If team jerseys were French Canadians it should have looked like a Florida beach. I’m talking infested! You shouldn’t have been able to swing a speedo in that place without slapping somebody wearing a professional gaming team’s jersey. Mon Dieu indeed! Instead there was a smattering of team support, but it was a feeble attempt at best.
T-shirts, team jerseys, etc. should have been all that you could see at the TI4 stadium. Every time that the camera panned the crowd I should have been inundated with fans wearing the logo of their favourite team. Instead I get weak attempts at messages scrawled with markers on paper that looked like it was taken straight from the hands of a hobo. Seriously? You couldn’t think up that witty, “Go EG” before you got to the damned event? And then, once you arrived and the epiphany hit you, it was so important that you get your message out that you stole from a hobo? These are dark times.
To be fair, with some small exceptions it is challenging to even purchase the jersey of a gaming team and then when you do manage to procure one, it’s just a bloody T-shirt. Really? I own a $3,000 computer to play games, but the best the teams can do are $20 T-shirts? I am disappoint. Team Liquid, EG, etc. you are missing out on a revenue gold mine. Give me the rights to your merchandise sales and I’ll split the profit with you. It has to be better than the deal you have now where you sell nothing or sell cheap t-shirts.
Games, like traditional sports, have a tribal aspect. Guilds, clans, etc. are how games build that tribal connection. You join a group of people that you probably don’t already know and voila, you are part of the club and will defend them to the ends of the earth. Where they live, what they do for a living, their sexual orientation, etc. are all irrelevant. They play the same game as you….so they must be OK! You'd wear the same shirt as them, but nobody will sell you one. Go figure.
Traditional sports on the other hand play off your point of origin. If you live in Boston then you likely cheer for the Bruins and Red Sox even though after all these years nobody has fixed the spelling error on the baseball team’s logo. Likewise, residents of Dallas cheer for the Stars and Cowboys. On a larger scale, human beings generally feel a connection to the country in which they were born or live. Games don’t currently benefit from a “nationalism” push with a few exceptions.
The chants of “USA, USA” for the Evil Geniuses team at TI4 were probably the clearest “nationalism” to be found at the venue even though the team had both a Swede and a Canadian on it. Fans either crave the nationalistic aspect or simply don’t know how to cheer without it. It’s unclear at this point which theory holds true, but regardless, every team with even the remotest ties to the United States is immediately cozied up to like a long lost puppy by Americans who immediately take credit for their success. Polt, a Korean Starcraft II player is widely referred to as Captain America. He loves it. I love it. It’s not a bad thing, but why not get it right?
I can tell you why…
Nobody knows where the heck any of the players are from and you can’t guess by their name because get this… nobody knows their God Damned Names!!!!!!
Players all go by a nickname, so marketing them is essentially a coin toss that is destined to go against you. Enough with the nicknames. If Lebron James was only known as “Pigbaby” (a Starcraft II Pro’s actually nickname) would as many fans really love him? “Go Pigbaby, I want to wear the same shoes that you do!” is unlikely to be heard at a schoolyard near you. There's a reason movie stars change their names to something cooler and don't just pick nicknames like "Pigbaby", "GuitarCheese", or "IkeelUquick".
Games do have at least one area where they build connection more effectively than traditional sports and that is cosplay. Frankly, I like it as much as the next guy. It’s refreshing to see a person who is so excited that they dress up like a character from a game. They’re into it. They love it. They are passionate. What’s not to like? Traditional sports fans don’t get this concept. Sure, a few traditional sports fans paint their faces or their beer bellies, but they would never dress up like a football player in full equipment and go to a game. If they did the other fans, each and every one of them wearing a $150+ jersey would forcefully extricate them from the premises.
Traditional sports and games are similar, but gaming doesn’t need ESPN, nor do gamers need the acceptance of the masses who enjoy traditional sports, but don’t enjoy games.
Sure, we love that people outside of our little cool-kids circle are interested, but we don’t need them. It would be wondrous if they decided to join us and partake in our passion… but again, we don’t need them.
We’re just fine. Thanks for stopping by, but don’t let us interrupt your replay of the 1992 cricket match that would normally air instead of Dota 2. We don’t want to impose.
Now on to something more entertaining.
MMO news that matters. Just for fun I’m going to give you the title that we used and then follow-up with the sensational title it would have had if the article displayed on Kotaku.
- Wildstar Trial Keys – Kotaku would use “Play Wildstar For Free!”
- FireFly Online – Kotaku would use “Firefly Returns!”
- Warcraft the Movie – Kotaku would use “Miley Cyrus to Star in Warcraft Movie?”
And because the real world is usually more humorous than the virtual one. Here are some real world stories to put a smile on your face.
- From the Have-It-Your-Way-Dept. – Here’s Mud In Your Eye
- From the Truly-A-World-Record-Dept. – Earth Sets Mark for Hottest June
- From the An-Apple-A-Day-007-Dept. – Your Phone is Spying On You
That’s it. That’s all for this week. Show me that you have a voice, by commenting in the little Disqus box below. We won the Comment War last week and the “War on Comments” the week before, so way to go you loudmouth and previously mute bunch rabble-rousers.
Thanks as always for taking the time to read right to the bottom of the column. It’s like the credits of a movie and you just never know when I’m going to stick something good down here. I appreciate it.
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