Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A-head of the Game[r], Part II: A League of Their Own

I will gladly admit that I have watched videos of video game tournaments at 4AM if I'm sick. That stuff is exciting. It also robs me of some precious sleep. I will also admit that I played Tecmo Super Bowl to prepare for writing this part. My mother could tell you that I get very vocal while playing that.

In Part I, I had made a lovely introduction into the sports genre of video games. We explored how, despite the animosity toward the medium in general, this is a great way to express love for a sport and to keep athletes fresh and focused on different scenarios occurring in-game. When you think about the history of video games, it was a tiny baby in the 1970's that was destined for greatness.


Gaming studios and the various franchises created by these studios are slowly becoming an everyday conversation in households containing the 10-40 demographic. Almost every child in a fortunate living situation has experienced a video game of some kind, and that experience may culminate into indulging into systems and various genres of video games in the future. You will have [young] kids that beg their parents to get them the latest Call of Duty game, or you will see the grandparents buying their children the latest Madden or NBA installment for Christmas. They may have absolutely no idea what their children are playing (Grand Theft Auto V, anyone?), but they are giving children a kind of outlet to send them to a world that stimulates the brain.

While this is mostly mental stimulation as a opposed to physical-leading-to-a-mental stimulation in the world of sports, we're seeing a paradigm shift in what can be done with a mighty force such as video gaming. After all, there are numerous games that can be played two-player, or up to 20 on certain games over the Internet. Two-player games like those in the sports or fighting genre are shoo-ins when this paradigm is mentioned, but when it comes to the 20-player melee, you wouldn't expect something to this caliber. No pun is intended here; these 20-player melees occur in the Call of Duty and Battlefield series of games.

Video gaming, in many circles, is considered a competitive sport.
I sat down and thought about this for twenty minutes and it satisfies every modern-day category for a spectator sport. Heck, poker is considered one, you guys. Why not this one too?

Ever since the inception of YouTube, I have been aware that tournaments were held for fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. In fact, when arcade cabinets were still cool, there would be exclusive tournaments for those specific games. Now that the idea of "arcades" are practically ancient history in the United States, tournaments are strictly held to console gaming at either a convention center or a hotel. For example, one of the biggest international tournaments held in the United States is the Evolution Championship Series (EVO), held every year on the west coast for fighting gamers. Cash prizes and legendary nerd status is acquired through numerous bouts of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Soulcalibur V, and Street Fighter X Tekken. These matches are extremely exciting, and from a gamer's point of view, these guys know the games inside and out, just as an athlete would know their sport.

The only tournament that is held for games in the sports genre is FIFA. To be honest, it doesn't shock me considering it's an internationally-appreciated sport and is much more tactic-based than games such as Madden and MLB. Plus, it can be argued that this is the perfect way to get people into pubs in other countries during the offseason. The controls are easier than other sports games, so it's easier to pick up and play. Also, you can watch your buddy beat the snot out of a rival team 23-0. When you have so many teams to choose from, it's rather easy to see this played in tournament format because you won't be seeing the same three teams each time.

It was brought to my attention this past week that there are tournaments that exist for men and women who play Call of Duty. Yes. There are tournaments based on warfare. Strange, but again, this is a lifestyle for people, and they actually get a huge cash prize if they win. Even if the spectator isn't there in person, there are numerous websites that exist that will stream coverage of the tournament, so you can see who the best "camper" is and who the best sharpshooter is. To diehard fans of the game, this is a showcase of the best without Internet lagging, and it also provides helpful hints on how to completely decimate your opponent the next time you decide to try multiplayer. It's like The Hunger Games or Battle Royale without any real person actually dying. [Hopefully people leave the dying to the character models.]

In less-realistic warfare, one of the more popular gaming tournaments that exist are ones for the StarCraft series and League of Legends (a.k.a. LoL). These PC games are based on real-time battle planning, and you (or teams if you're playing League of Legends) must devise plans based on individual abilities and tactics to demolish the opponent. These tournaments are insane. Like, Wembley Stadium concert insane. Take a look for yourself. Just like in the culture of spelling bees, this is a sport of the mind, and the one who can outsmart the other will become victorious.

In the past, there have been numerous pushes to make specific game franchises officially recognized as a sport. In the mid-naughts (2000-2009), there was a brief push to get Dance Dance Revolution recognized as a sport. I could not make that up. There were some real freaks at the game that were fun to watch, and you would see them at arcades playing the most difficult songs as bunches upon bunches of arrows fly up on the screen. It was a sensation that promoted fitness and foot-eye coordination as well. It may still be popular at the elusive arcades around the country, but the culture has died a slow death over the years. In the heyday of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, competitions--err, "gigs" were held all over the place as well, tying music in with a video gaming sports flair. Whenever you can play a game with someone else, there is always competition, making the will to succeed a "sport" to anyone who dares to play.

Will video games be considered an official sport someday? Most likely. With the advances in technology, and the theories that someday we will be able to take part in a virtual reality where anything can happen [Thanks for the hope, cheesy 1980's futuristic film genre.], there should be more competitions where gaming will come to life in a Real Steel style. Although we were supposed to have flying cars by now, people will find a way to get together and compete in a way like no other. I guess you could say that video gaming is in a league all it's own.


If you want to do more perusing on the topic, check this video out on PBS Idea Channel. I love this guy.