Monday, June 27, 2005

What is holding back gaming from being a spectator sport.

I'm going to break this down into a couple of chief reasons then actually offer some solutions for a change

Chief Reasons

1) Gaming skill cannot be commonly appreciated or understood unless the game or at least its controls are familiar. Games do not deal with the physical plane of reality like sports do. Or the limits of human endeavour. That is the main reason why everyone can appreciate michael jordan taking off from the free throw line or someone winning a NASCAR race is because even on a vague level any human being can understand why a feat like that is difficult. With games, to an average laymen or someone who is unfamiliar with the game they are watching, you dont know what part of a combo move is preprogrammed, what level of speed/physics is unusual to the game, nor any understand of controls that would allow you to understanding of why one series of actions is more skillful than another.

2) Games are not about real people. At least not the way we present them. They are about models flying about the screen, sprites, caricatures, cartoons at best. How many attempts of game videos have there been that have focused exclusively on the game action. You're not going to watch a football game beginning to end from the one angle on ESPN, why would watching a game like that be anymore exciting? which brings me to..

3) Rest breaks. The best spectator events are ones which allow people to appreciate the feat that they are watching. Lots of sports have timeouts where a broadcast will use as time to replay the last touchdown or goal, or talk to another commentator, spectator, player. Games are ridiculously fast, with lots of flashing lights, effects and explosions that have no meaning other tahn a lightshow. A commentator could use the time to then explain why something was paritcularly skillful or not.

4) Rules - There is no easy solution to this. Games wildly vary even within the same genre. Being able to understand the rules of what someone is watching is key to drawing them into the action and investing them into it. After all most people understand the universal rules of soccer, hocket, basketball, all of which involving getting some kind of ball thing into a hole right ?

Factors to consider

1) Replays. Well we are starting to build these modes into games like Counterstrike which is a start, but most game developers don't know the first thing about broadcasting. We have the freedom in 3D to have as many cameras to cover the action as we want and to switch between them freely or to even make cuts ont he fly, but this has to be built into the game. These alone would not be enough unless there would be heavy editing time spent afterwards on each replay, if you are designing your game to be spectator sport friendly then the design has to take into account the above as well as camera controls and placements that would be more suitable for broadcast outside of the basic game view.

2) Cameras - In considering camera placement we forget that a camera view that is not one that a player would normally be able to play a game in, and if partciularly captures the action better is pretty new and exciting especialyl to someone already familiar with the game.

3) Human involvement - This is stepping outside the realm of your traditional video games but it is a huge reason why otherwise simplistic games like DDR took off. This is also a good example.

I also think there is something to be relearned from the near extinct arcades of yesteryear, it can be very awe inspiring and attracting to see a skillful match or get into parts of a game that others typically couldnt. Anyone remember the crowds?

4) Advertising - Along non existance of arcades these days people are forgetting the simple draw/advertising/stickiness of value of seeing other people play a game and how much fun it is and wanting to get/play it for themselves.

Can making a game that is also exciting to spectate really be ignored?



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