Title: Pro-Gaming; What's all the fuss about?
Posted: November 15, 2007 (11:55 AM)
So you think that you are the best player of Counter-Strike in your neighborhood? Do you believe that no one can score better goals than you when it comes to the FIFA soccer series? Or when it comes to Real Time Strategy games other gamers hesitate when it comes to competing against you? How would you like to earn money and also travel the world while you beat others at their own game? If you like the sound of that then let me introduce you to a career choice that might be right up your ally. I'm talking about Professional Gaming or E-Sports.
The concept of people playing and competing professionally in computer games is relatively new. But what was once just a few friends competing over a few bucks at a local gaming zone or cyber-cafe has swiftly become an international phenomenon which now involves thousands of gamers from all over the world competing with each other for prize money up for grabs is in thousands of dollars.
The World Cyber Games (WCG) inaugurated in the year 2000 is the world's first 'Cyber Game Festival.' Also known as the Olympics e-sports, more than a million players compete in this annual event and the number of participating countries has seen a steady rise since its inception. From just 17 countries in 2000 the number of countries has increased to 78 this year. The competition features various games from different genres such as Counter-Strike, Warcraft, the FIFA soccer series and the Need for Speed series among others. Not only is the number of participating countries rising over the years, the prize money has also seen a rise this year. The prize money for the Counter-Strike tournament alone is $200,000 this year up from $150,000 over the past years. Divide that amount among 5 players and the amount comes to $40,000 per team member which, in my view isn't such a bad amount for one night's play. National qualifiers are held in each participating country and winners from the national qualifiers meet in the Grand Final in the host country which is different each year. Just like the real Olympics, participating countries compete with each other for the opportunity to host the Grand Final.
Similarly, there is Quakecon. Termed the "Woodstock" of gaming, this annual event is held in Texas USA and is an event where gamers can come and enter for free. Thousands of gamers from around the world register and gather in Dallas to participate in perhaps one of the longest running and most prominent LAN competitions in North America. What began as a humble affair in 1996 has become a major event attracting gamers from around world and offering thousands of dollars in prize money. In this event gamers can play games just for fun or take part in tournaments where the prize money is up to $100,000.
Then there is the Cyber Professional League (CPL). Launched in 1997, the CPL describes itself as the world's first computer gaming sports league. Over the years they have hosted 60 international main events with a total attendance of over 300,000 gamers, sanctioned over 500 international qualifiers and awarded more than $3 million in prizes.
The CPL also does a world tour and this year the league will be visiting Italy, Sweden, USA, Brazil and Australia. Prize money that will be awarded to the winners in this world tour is $40000.
The above mentioned competitions are just a few competitions that take place in the world of E-Sports. The reason that I have mentioned them is because I wanted to show you the kind of money that is involved in these competitions and as you might have guessed by now the money involved is huge. Not only is there money to be had but fame too. Top gamers like players of other professional sports are well known among the pr-gaming community. In videogames obsessed Korea pro gamers are like celebrities and enjoy the same kind of attention that Cricket players enjoy in Pakistan or Soccer players in Europe. Pro gamers in Korea even have bodyguards to protect them from their fans and their matches are shown on television too. Although this kind of media and public attention is rare for pro gamers in other countries they do however get noticed. One such professional gamer is Johnathan Wendel who goes by the name Fatal1ty in games. He has been featured on MTV and also on other videogame programs over the years.
With bundles of cash to be made and fans who adore you, all for just playing games; it seems all too good to be true, doesn't it? So before you quit your current job and start installing games on your PC, you have to realize that it takes more than just having games on your PC to become a pro gamer. Just like other professional sports, e-sports require passion, dedication and sacrifice. Fatal1ty claims to practicing 8-10 hours a day, Fatal1ty himself claims to have practiced 8-10 hours a day, an act which has won him many top places in gaming tournaments for the past few years. To practice 8-10 hours a day means a shorter social life and gaming taking precedence to many other issues of normal life.
Also critics of e-sports give the following reasons as to why e-sports has no future or go even as far as to say that there is no such thing as e-sports or pro gaming.
1. Lack of a proper competitive platform
Every year new games keep appearing and the older ones are left behind. In the world of competitive gaming, the same thing occurs, except the impact of a game being pushed aside can be devastating for some.
For example, the CPL's decision to switch from the Quake series, which they had been using since the beginning, to a newer (and more popular) game at the time, the legendary Counter-Strike.
For most of the professional gamers who had made their income from past CPL tournaments by playing Quake, this meant the end of their career unless they made the switch from Quake to Counter-Strike. Unfortunately, switching games is not as easy or simple because both games have different sets of physics and gameplay; in Quake you fight one on one while Counter-Strike is a team-based game, the players usually in numbers of five.
Thanks to patches, updates, and advancing technology, the games used in competition change constantly. Also, you can't even evaluate 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.
2. Games aren't made for competition play
Most game developers in general make their games for the casual gamers and not the competitive ones who are but a niche segment. Most of the time it is the mod community that modifies the game to be played competitively. This alone brings trouble, as the more modifications to the game; the more the community is divided, some preferring the one version of the game while others preferring something else.
As mentioned above, the fact that the majority of gamers are casual gamers while the competitive ones make up only a small niche in the market, game developers don't see catering to the competitive community as lucrative as the majority.
3. It's impossible to have a fair game
You can use all the anti-cheat software you want, you can make all the rules you want, you can do all the supervision, umpiring, and server logging you want. But the fact of the matter is, at this point, it is absolutely impossible to run a completely fair online tournament.
The reasons include Exploits, ping-rate differences, inconsistent server configurations, lag ... these are just a few of the many technical problems. And even if you were somehow able to solve all those, it's nearly impossible to confirm a player's identity. In past competitions, players have confessed that they had played under the names of some of their friends in order to help them earn a place in the tournament.
4. Rules are Inconsistent
One thing all sports have in common is steady rules. There are of course lots of small variations but the basics are always the same.
Not so with modern professional gaming. Maps, time limits, team size, kill total, how many rounds you play ... is always changing. There's no such thing as uniformed scoring, no official rulebook, and there's very little consistency.
This is partly because as mentioned above the games are continuously changing, and partly due to the fact that most games aren't really designed to be played under competitive tournament conditions. Even when modifications are made to facilitate professional play, there's no governing body or a universally accepted set of guidelines for each game which can be adhered to.
These are only a few of the objections that have been raised against e-sports. The list of objections, frankly speaking is quite long. Even so one has to realize that pro-gaming is still very much in its infancy. Pro-gaming came into the limelight only in the 90's. Even if you take 1990 as the starting point of e-sports then its only been 17 years since its been around and 17 years in the life of a professional sport is nothing. Games like Soccer and Cricket have been around for centuries and still they are not perfect, therefore right now, who is to say that electronic gaming will not achieve mainstream sports status?
So, if you think you have what it takes to be the next big thing in e-ports/pro gaming, what are you waiting for? Start playing and start practicing.
Posted: November 16, 2007 (10:57 AM)
In the US, I see the professional gaming circuit dying out in a few years. You nailed it right on the head when you said, "Top Gamers...are well known among the pro-gaming community." Let's take a count. How many people at HG care about professional gaming? (Last year, the count was zero) Out of all my friends, acquaintances, and hell, let's throw some enemies in there, not a single one cares about pro-gaming. This is the problem. The only people paying attention to pro-gamers are other pros and the people trying to become them.
While you may have pointed out some of the current problems with the circuit, I don't see them as being the responsible hindrances. Here's my list of problems:
Lack of marketability - You mentioned Korea and the popularity of pro-gamers there, but you negelected to discuss the higher acceptance of gaming there. In the US, being a gamer is traditionally something to be ashamed of. Even today, when games are everywhere you turn, people still hide their cellphones for clandestine rounds of Tetris. I have "caught" my girlfriend playing games numerous times. I'll ask what her score is, and she quickly turns it off and pretends as though nothing were happening. So, if the majority of gamers and none gamers alike are disinterested, how do you make pro-gaming marketable? This brings me to my next point.
The lack of variety - I have no interest in pro-gaming because I don't care about the majority of the games being played. WSG got it right this year by throwing Guitar Hero and World of Warcraft into the mix, but other forums like MLG, have been relying on the same games for years. Only recently have they actually incorporated a few new titles into the mix, but they are still all FPS. Why not toss some new games into the mix, like DDR, Command & Conquer, Geometry Wars, or even Katamari Damacy? Incorporating newer games like Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas is a start, but they need to keep diversity in mind.
Posted: November 18, 2007 (01:21 PM)
i agree with what u said but lets hope pro-gaming doesnt die out and eventually becomes something big. as a gamer i would love to see that happen and also that people start accepting gamers and games as part of society