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Game Boys

August 28th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Crispy Gamer, Print Screen

My new Print Screen column is up at CG. This time, I review Game Boys, Michael Kane’s account of professional Counterstrike players.

I’ll admit to being a skeptic of pro gaming ever getting big. Kane and his subjects keep making the comparison to Texas Hold ‘Em, a game that wasn’t even the most popular form of poker played in American homes until some genius found a way to make the game compelling to a TV audience. If poker can become huge, why can’t pro gaming just get a little bit bigger?

And maybe it is getting a little bit bigger, but considering how marginal it has been for a long time, that’s no grand accomplishment.

Kane’s real accomplishment is to move beyond the star player model of covering the sport, not doing another puff piece on Fata1ity or any challengers to his endorsement crown. He sees Counterstrike for what it is at its best, a team sport where people have roles to play. He also recognizes that the success of a sport is tied to how easy it is for an audience to appreciate it. Don’t show the players, show the game. So you need to find someway to actually broadcast a sport where ten players can be in ten different places.

Replay software makes it possible to see all this after the game, and Kane mentions how the replays are used in scouting and to preserve legendary moments. But there is still a real challenge to making this palatable to a live audience. Even the CGS founding tournament had to bus in fans and give them cues as to when and what to cheer.

I’m too nice a guy to not wish the sport great success. But I just don’t see it.

The book, though, is a wonderful read.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Darius K.

    I would love to put together live metrics software for competitive multiplayer — something along the lines of the live stats you see in baseball.

  • Thomas Kiley

    Couldn’t they, with the whole camera issue, have many set places for cameras and then have one or two spectators picking the best shots,just like in live sports.

    The real issue is the mental boundary I think, watching someone play a game, are you kidding? When you are watching a real sport, you hide behind the excuse that you can’t play that well, why this isn’t valid for video games is irrelevant, because people won’t accept that so it can’t become mainstream. At least, not until Nintendo broadcast it.

  • Michael Kane

    As the author of Game Boys, I appreciate the review for understanding the opportunities and limitations of making gaming a big-time sport (or at least entertainment spectator curiousity, like poker).

    I agree that a large hurdle is for viewers to appreciate that they themselves could not do what the gamer pros can. Everyone who’s ever had gym class knows they couldn’t hit a 450-foot home run, but does anyone appreciate the ability of a pro gamer to frag? Maybe in time.

    Cheers for the insightful review. — mk