Watching Video Games: The New Age Pastime

It’s not a “national pastime” like going to Fenway Park, driving down to Daytona to catch the race, or getting a front row seat at Lambeau Field, but gathering around to watch someone play a video game has been happening since the age of arcades in the 1970’s. When someone interesting is playing, such as someone trying to break the high score on Pac-Man, you would have a crowd around them. Even games today like Dance Dance Revolution will draw a crowd at your local mall. Twitch is just that phenomenon multiplied by the internet. The drive to win a game, or see if someone else can beat a high score draws loyal viewers to Twitch in the same way that anyone who has played a sport likes to see what their competitors can do, and how the game is played at the highest level. People like watching each other compete. Thousands of years ago, people gathered to watch the original Olympics. It is a part of human nature that we enjoy watching other people face off in a competition that we enjoy and understand.

 

2014 League of Legends World Championship in Seoul

2014 League of Legends World Championship in Seoul

LoL : The Current Leader in Esports

When it comes to League of Legends, the viewership numbers are insane. The League of Legends World Championship last year racked in a bigger audience than the NBA finals and Game 7 of the World Series. The game has become a spectacle to watch. The production value has gotten better and better and it is geared to entertaining the viewers more than any game has gone before. The Season 3 World Championship was held at the legendary Staples Center in Los Angeles. Season 4’s Championship was held in the Seoul World Cup Stadium in South Korea. Athletes from other sports have also become huge fans of League of Legends. Former NFL player, Chris Kluwe, was seen attending multiple LCS games in the past year. NBA player Gordon Hayward has stated that he is better at Lebron James, at League of Legends. Even retired NBA player Rick Fox watches the LCS weekly. It doesn’t stop with other athletes either.  The band Imagine Dragons have said that they play regularly in-between shows and even performed in Seoul for the World Championship last year. Actor Simon Pegg and Actress/Comedian Aisha Tyler say that they play League of Legends and watch it as well. Even the ever so popular Justin Bieber plays League of Legends. If you find yourself watching video games, don’t feel weird because literally millions of people do it everyday. League of Legends is the most popular game in the world for a reason. It has a game that is always evolving, an entertainment value to it, and the biggest fan base a video game could have.

League of Legend fans gather in a theater to watch

League of Legend fans gather in a theater to watch

Today’s Video Games

Many of today’s most popular video games are designed to connect players across the globe in multi-player missions, which helps to expand gaming as a social network. The massive number of gamers worldwide is both a dedicated and growing audience that helps a company like Twitch be able to bring gameplay to millions daily consistently. Twitch is a product of the globally connected world we live in, and given that the video game industry is estimated to be between $80-100 billion globally in 2014, that’s a lot of people who like video games who are just a click away from socializing and watching. So unlike the old arcade days in the ‘70s and ‘80s, behind the shoulders of a gamer today are potentially millions of people who like that game and can watch with a click of the link.”Many of today’s most popular games, like Minecraft, Call of Duty, Dota 2, CS:GO, and League of Legends connect players from around the world in multi-player missions or competitions. These games build a community of players and Twitch is one of the ways that these groups are linked as a larger network of gamers. Twitch is not the only site that streams video gameplay either, it is just the most recognized. Twitch has live streams of every video game you can imagine, but it doesn’t stop there. Fans can go to YouTube, Azubu, and other sites to watch games as well. Sitting at your computer screen is not the only way to enjoy your favorite games either. The top professional games are usually played in front of sold out studios, halls, arenas, and stadiums. Viewers can go to theaters, bars, or just get together at whoever’s house has the biggest TV for a viewing party and watch their favorite video game as a crowd as well.

 

espn

What About the Future of Gaming?

Gaming is here to stay, and professional gaming is a thing that our society needs to embrace. There have been many articles discussing the possibility of video games being on television networks like ESPN in the near future. In April, ESPN2 broadcast a Heroes of the Storm tournament. Many people were quick to point out the low ratings it received without realizing the facts about the event. It had almost no advertisement prior to the event as well as coming on at 11PM on a Sunday night. It wasn’t even a professional event, it was a collegiate tournament. Former ESPN employee, Colin Cowherd, was extremely against covering video games on ESPN. After the Heroes of the Storm event however, many production members said that they really enjoyed the experience and look forward to covering more Esports. In some countries in the Eastern part of the globe, they already have gaming networks on television, and the video game industry is more embraced than here in the United Stats. When it comes to ESPN though, the fact is that Esports does not need ESPN as much as ESPN needs Esports. Esports is at a very good spot right now being streamed. They do not need to take the next step because their target audience already can access their material. This generation is moving away from watching TV more and more. Movies, shows, even sports, are all watched via the internet. ESPN wants to target a younger audience and adapt, yet their president has stated that they want to stick to covering “real sports”. ESPN meanwhile broadcasts the likes of Poker, Spelling Bees, Scrabble tournaments, and cup stacking. Yeah, cup stacking guys. Professional gamers put in 10-14 hours of practice daily, yet some people doubt that playing video games isn’t that hard. Games today require loads of skill, speed, and mental focus. Video games don’t want to be called a sport, they have established themselves as an Esport. ESPN however only wants to televise “real sports”, but I don’t know how much of a “real sport” Scrabble really is.

 

By: Jeff “Gravy” Miskin