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Pro Gaming Network Television Coverage Begins Sunday 92

The New York Times has an article on a first for pro gamers: network television coverage of a match. Sunday at noon EDT CBS Sports will be airing coverage of the World Series of Videogames. Events will include Guitar Hero II, Fight Night and World of Warcraft 3v3 Arena combat. The article explores some of the challenges of making gaming understandable on television: "The dollars are already quite mainstream. Americans bought about $13 billion worth of video game systems and software last year, more than they spent at the film box office (around $10 billion). Advertisers for Sunday's broadcast include KFC, Intel and the Marines. But for gaming to make it as a major-network TV sport, the big hurdle will be translating a medium that is by its nature meant to be experienced firsthand into a compelling hands-off spectator experience. It is a task that in some ways is no less daunting than that of the early baseball television producers who eventually realized that a camera way out in center field would provide the best view of pitches." Update: 07/28 23:19 GMT by Z : Fixed day of the weekend the show is on.
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Pro Gaming Network Television Coverage Begins Sunday

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  • I for one... (Score:2, Interesting)

    ...welcome this extraordinary event. It is high time that the geekier sports such as video gaming be given a chance on network television. Imagine the thousands of gamers that will be affected by this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dogtanian ( 588974 )

      It is high time that the geekier sports such as video gaming be given a chance on network television.

      Anyone in the UK from their mid-teens onwards will likely remember GamesMaster [wikipedia.org], a show on Channel 4 [wikipedia.org] that primarily focused on people playing computer games in just that manner. And this was over 15 years ago... okay, to be fair, it's not been on TV since 1998- but my point is that showing gaming on TV is nothing new.

      Personally, I'd rather have seen less people playing games and more reviews and stuff. (But apparently- according to the article- GamesMaster was under the jurisdiction of Channel 4's sports

      • This is just anther retread ... they tried this during the Atari - Colecovision days, and it was a HUGE FLOP!

        Why? Because the people who like to play video games don't want to watch other people play, and the people who don't like to play video games - surprise! - they don't want to watch other people play either.

        With pro sports, the rules and playing field are simple and easy enough for most people to grok at a glance - with video games, either you're familiar with the in-game territory that's being p

        • This is just anther retread ... they tried this during the Atari - Colecovision days, and it was a HUGE FLOP! [..] all these advertisers are just SUCKERS!

          Well, GamesMaster ran for six years and ten series, which is pretty respectable... and the WP article suggests that its axing was due to personal politics rather than ratings (which were still healthy by Channel 4 standards at the time of its demise).

          As I said, I wasn't too keen on it personally for similar reasons to the ones you give, but plenty of others must have disagreed. Whether it would have done as well on say, BBC1 or ITV (the two highest-rated and more mainstream channels of the time) is uncle

        • by kv9 ( 697238 )

          Why? Because the people who like to play video games don't want to watch other people play, and the people who don't like to play video games - surprise! - they don't want to watch other people play either.
          have you even seen a korean StarCraft match, or more importantly, listened to the audience (and the announcer)?
        • Why? Because the people who like to play video games don't want to watch other people play, and the people who don't like to play video games - surprise! - they don't want to watch other people play either.

          With pro sports, the rules and playing field are simple and easy enough for most people to grok at a glance - with video games, either you're familiar with the in-game territory that's being played at that moment - in which case its BORING, in a "been there, done that" kind of way, or you haven't, in which case it's like a movie spoiler.

          Okay, so you count the sales of movie-based games where? You see the movie the game is usually spoiled, so why get the game?

    • by mh1997 ( 1065630 )
      ..welcome this extraordinary event. It is high time that the geekier sports such as video gaming be given a chance on network television. Imagine the thousands of gamers that will be affected by this.I for one will be affected by reliving that magical time in my life when my older brother would take my game away from me and make me watch him play. At least when it is on TV, there will be commercials. Now, if I can just get my neighbor to come over and beat the crap out of me before the game starts....


      • games are fun to play, not watch
        I think this is true for physical games as well as computer games, and yet we have premium rate channels dedicated to showing nothing other than people playing games. Some people seem to enjoy watching more than participating.
    • by Azari ( 665035 )

      Frankly, I think that this is a problem for video games (for consumers, not necessarily for the industry). If televising video games ever really takes off, which I doubt it will, I think it will only exacerbate the 'graphics over gameplay' problem which we currently face because suddenly companies won't just be making games for gamers[1], they'll be making them for spectators as well. Think of a couple of your favorite games and then think about how much fun they are to watch (I'm a fan of RPGs, for example

      • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
        Do you think a game that's unbalanced or otherwise bad will be used for a competition? Players are good at finding the optimal strategy if one exists and exploit it to the limit. The best graphics wouldn't make it fun if everyone always picked the same faction and performed the same strategy because everything else will cost them the match (unless you put players in there that wouldn't last five seconds in an open competition).
        • by Azari ( 665035 )
          It has nothing to do with whether a game is good or bad, balanced or unbalanced. I am saying that (to my mind, at least) using gaming as a spectator sport has the potential to encourage two things above all others: eye candy and head to head multiplayer. While this in itself is good in that it could encourage both publishers and authors in the direction of decent testing and quality control, I think it would be to the detriment of other game genres. The more media attention that gets put the game industry's
          • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
            But arguing that graphics are more important than gameplay for getting a game on TV ignores just how much of an impact even minor imperfections in the gameplay will have on a competition. Of course the dumb companies will think they can make big money by releasing B-rate multiplayer titles but that won't take off because those don't work in a competition.
      • by donaldm ( 919619 )
        I am a fan of RPG's and Adventure games and I cannot see an audience watching someone play theses type of games although maybe a quick glance. For the person controlling the game I am sure if they enjoy it I know I do, but I can't imagine an audience watching someone playing Oblivion (as an example) who is just out to collect all the plants, I picture the commentary like:

        "Yes he has found a blood plant and! No he could not pick it oh the humanity! Wait he has found another one and "Yes" he has picked it.
  • Uh, yeah. (Score:2, Insightful)

    But for gaming to make it as a major-network TV sport...
    Hey, I love gaming just as much as the next guy (X360 + PC here.. working on finding a Wii).. but IMHO gaming will never "make it" as a sport. It's just not entertaining enough to watch. Games are fun to play, not watch on TV.
    • These "mainstream" games that CBS is trying to pass off as Pro Gaming will likely not be that entertaining to watch. The entertaining games to watch people compete in will likely not see the light of day on CBS, either due to violence or how complicated they are. Like Starcraft would be a great game to watch, which they do in Korea, but it is not mainstream enough in the US for the casual viewer to even know what is really happening. Then fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom or whatnot, most viewers could
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jettawu ( 1030820 )
        Maybe what those games need are mods to reduce the violence and make the gameplay easier to follow in order to gain spectators.

        Specifically, most FPS games are very bloody and also take place on maps that are not designed for spectators to view the game. Soccer/Football, Baseball, American Football, etc all have large, open fields that allows the audience to view every active member of the game.

        Just reducing the current games to open maps wouldn't be enough, though, as just that change on its own would mak
      • Then FPS violence kind of eliminates them even though they're great to watch people compete at those.
        Replace the red blood with multi-color blood, and you have digital paintball, which can easily coast through TV-14 standards and practices.
      • Then fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom or whatnot, most viewers could not appreciate how complicated it is to pull off those moves.
        I don't see the point, anyone interested in that sort of thing would just watch UFC or something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by prencher ( 971087 )
      Korea disagrees.
      • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
        Speaking of which, are there any other widely-attended gaming tournaments in Korea besides Starcraft ones?
    • Oh really? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Googled any shooter (Gears?) on Youtube recently? Ever played player versus player in room full of people, or just connected in a common chat on Xbox live? I'm guessing not. All that's needed are the ability to capture the entire match of any game and put and direct a camera anywhere anyway in it. Presto, a resolution of events resolution that no other sport can match.
    • Re:Uh, yeah. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Saturday July 28, 2007 @07:37AM (#20021859) Journal
      Hey, I love golf just as much as the next guy (working on getting into a country club).. but IMHO golf will never "make it" as a sport. It's just not entertaining enough to watch. Golf is fun to play, not watch on TV.

      In non-troll-speak: Sports are covered so heavily because of inertia. A few people like watching it, enough to justify coverage, and people who don't really care about them watch it because hey, it's on. I don't think gaming will be any different.
    • At first.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chineseyes ( 691744 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:21AM (#20022069)
      I agreed with you but then I thought about when I was a child. At one of the local hangout spots there was a street fighter arcade machine where literally dozens of people would stand around for hours to watch this guy I knew in middle school kick the crap out of every person that dared to challenge him with every character there was. Just to entertain himself he would allow himself to get the crap kicked out of him on purpose until he had almost no energy left then proceed to taunt his opponent while he blocked their every move and slowly killed them.

      We were all amazed as kids and enjoyed every second of it, how it will play out with adults I'm not sure; but it will only work if they can find gamers who do things that are sufficiently unique and amazing that people will want to watch for extended periods of time.

      Plus people watch poker and NASCAR so anything can make it on tv.
      • by donaldm ( 919619 )
        Actually I can remember the 1970's with Defender and Donkey Kong and a good player was fascinating to watch but times do change and fighters became popular to play and watch particularly if you get a skilled player but while a 2 to 10 minute game may attract a large audience it definitely won't hold them for very long. The same is true even today.
    • What about StarCraft?
  • Games on TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Evangelion ( 2145 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @06:50AM (#20021681) Homepage
    I recall when Doom 3 came out, the QuakeCon that year webcast the matches that were being played there (some Doom3 1v1 deathmatch, as well as some Q3 CTF matches there). I was watching these on my living room TV as they were being webcast, and I kind of realized something about watching games or sports on TV -- they are only truly interesting if you know enough about the game to play it yourself.

    i.e. being a Canadian, I wasn't able to avoid learning how to play hockey as a child. Not that I'm any good at it, but I know the rules, I know the point of the game, and I understand what it means when different things happen. However, I find Football (either kind, take your pick) mind numbingly boring -- because I never really played them, I haven't really internalized the rules, and don't know enough about the tactics of the game(s) to be interested in them.

    Similarly, watching Q3CTF and Doom3 (especially the 1v1 matches), I really got into them because I understood what they were doing, and I could anticipate the reactions and behaviour of the competitors. The same is true with watching (PvE) WoW videos -- I get into them because I understand what's going on.

    I have a feeling that's going to be the largest impediment to gaming on TV -- sports rules change very slowly, and not by very much. Even if you haven't watched NHL hockey in six years, you'd be able to sit down and clearly understand what's going on[1] within a few minutes. If someone was watching Q3 videos online six years ago, and then sat down today to watch -- umm, Halo2 or something? what are people playing these days? -- it wouldn't be even close to the same. It would be like watching an entirely new sport every few years.

    [1] This does not extend to league management.
    • No, the biggest problem is two-fold.

      1.) Gamers have the internet. They don't need to buy cable-TV to watch these events. In the long run, it is not something to invest in.

      2.) epic moments are VERY rare in video games (obviously; anyone playing WoW will tell you only once or twice a night will anything note-worthy happen, and even then its not worth mentioning more than once or twice to a friend). The odds of them happening in "professional events" are even more rare. These are the people who don't fuck
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Panseh ( 1072370 )
        1) I posted on this point somewhere in this thread. South Korea has two networks regularly broadcasting professional gaming matches and hosting events, full of major sponsors. They were the start of professional gaming. True fans can get it streaming, but why stream it when they can watch it with better quality on network television? Plus streaming is not a substitute for being at a finals event in person; it's like a regular sporting event with rabid fans screaming for their favorite. 2) This is true only
    • I kind of realized something about watching games or sports on TV -- they are only truly interesting if you know enough about the game to play it yourself.

      Which is why state school systems mandate physical education classes that teach specific games, in order to build a market for television broadcasts of those games, so that the state can tax the sale of goods and services sold by advertisers on those broadcasts.

    • I've had very similar experiences myself as a tournament paintballer. When the National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) came out with a show on ESPN, many of my friends just simply didn't get it. I took some of them out to the field with me the next week and suddenly they were glued to the screen during the next broadcast.
    • When the face of the top first person shooter or real time strategy game changes from year to year, it is a very difficult to garner a strong fan base.

      However, in South Korea this is not the case, where since it came out in 1998, StarCraft: Brood War has been at the top of professional gaming. The OnGameNet StarLeague [teamliquid.net] has been around broadcasting StarCraft matches since 1999 and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, one of the top four South Korean television networks, started it's own MBC StarLeague [teamliquid.net] of their o

    • Actually pro gaming has been on TV for a while now, though a Direct TV exclusive along with web broadcasts: http://www.thecgs.com/ [thecgs.com] While I cant speak much for all their choices in games; Fifa 07, Dead or Alive 4, Project Gotham, they at least have Counter Strike: Source. Players are making, at least the starters, a 30K salary just for being drafted and playing. Even the terrible players. Hopefully this is a start of a new era in broadcasting gaming. The big key though is to make the viewers feel like
    • I was watching these on my living room TV as they were being webcast, and I kind of realized something about watching games or sports on TV -- they are only truly interesting if you know enough about the game to play it yourself.

      I think this applies to most things. I rarely watch speedruns of games I've never played. As for sports, I can watch boxing or judo because I practise both so I know what's going on and I can appreciate it. But something like football or ice hockey just bores me to tears.

    • It would be like watching an entirely new sport every few years.

      Which is exactly why Starcraft has stayed as the spectator game in Korea it has - it's stable, it hasn't changed (much) in almost nine years. Even if you only played it heavily the first two years it came out, you can understand what's going on when you watch someone play it today.

      Blizzard understands this, which is why they've said the basic rules and concepts are staying the same, while functionality is extended and modified to make it a

  • Interesting that gaming on TV seems to be coming back into vogue. In the UK, we used to have a show called GamesMaster [wikipedia.org], which was quite fun. People would try to complete 'challenges' issued by the games master (bizarrely played by Patrick Moore [wikipedia.org], with a distorted head). The only one I actually remember was someone trying to complete a track on the SNES version of Mario Kart in a certain time. :-)

    It was pulled because some people at the channel thought gaming on TV wasn't wanted by anyone.
  • Geek sports jocks wow the girls with their 1337 wrist action and fingering skills.

    Err, Sorry. Got a bit carried away there. That last bit should read "1337 mouse and keyboard skills"
    • They better be good with those fingers, with the weight I see a lot of "gamers" putting on these days they won't be able to find their dick under the rolls of fat. Although with diabetes, hypertension, and ED that comes with being that fat pharmaceutical companies will probably be the biggest sponsors of the gaming channel. I can see it now.....

      Don't let a 15 hour session of WOW get in the way of a 45 second romp with your gaming groupies. Cialis it will be there.....when the moment is right.
  • by ejito ( 700826 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:36AM (#20022137)

    Guitar Hero II, Fight Night and World of Warcraft
    Guitar hero is not really a competitive game, as players are really just playing against a preset sequence, not eachother. It's impressive for a while, but it's more similar to rodeo than head to head competition. Fight Night is hardly competitor quality, especially for a fighting game. I'm assuming it's on the list because of corporate meddling. They could've at least chose a fighting game actively played in leagues, like Super Smash Brothers. World of Warcraft is not balanced enough nor does it have the gameplay for competitive PVP. PVP might be fun, but at a competitive level, class imbalance (which rotates every patch), UI modding, combat skills (especially engineering), terrain imbalance (no projectile clipping), and itemization all play a large factor at an advanced level. Blizzard can make very competitive RTS, but WoW just isn't even close to that caliber.
    • Agreed, it would've been a lot more interesting to see Smash Brothers or any other competitive fighting game.
    • When I saw Guitar Hero listing I thought one thing: David Letterman might have something to do with this. Seth Rogan was on the show once and they both got to talking about Guitar Hero and it turns out David Letterman plays! I know that Letterman is involved somewhat with CBS programming, so maybe he mentioned something like this to Les Moonves over dinner and now it's on TV?

      Sure, it's just a theory - but don't you think that would be the source rather than the advice of some CBS intern. "If Dave likes this
    • I agree--concept is interesting (if a bit niche), but game selection is terrible. I'm not that much of a gamer (have a Wii, my first console in years)--but the best way to do this would be to play Halo in one of those "Slayer" PvP (or 2Pv2P) modes, either to a preset score, or for a preset time. Like I said, I don't own an Xbox myself--but I assume there has to be some sort of way to set up an extra omnisicient "camera" that can move all through one of these battlezones, jumping around from place to place
    • As someone who plays Smash, it's a hard game to appreciate if you don't know what's going on. At the basic level, even some game reviewers don't get the concept:

      The concept seems elementary, but after testing the game for easily over 20-hours, I still am confused by the play. There is no rhyme or reason for a knockout, and delivering that "final blow" can be done in 10-seconds or 10-minutes. Probably the biggest flaw within SSBM is the complexity in simplicity.

      Many times I have started off the game, an

  • xleagueTV - http://xleague.tv/Portal/home.aspx [xleague.tv] a channel dedicated to gaming, regularly show pro-gaming matches (on a show called "The Match").

    They also managed to find some people to discuss the match in the studio who actually have an idea what they're talking about - although it is sometimes a bit cringing when they're winging it. Regular contributors involve various pro-team managers and sponsors, and developers.

    It's not perfect, but I do find I can actually be entertained by watching people play game
  • by paleo2002 ( 1079697 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @09:23AM (#20022441)

    My first thought when I looked at the article was "What the heck is this doing on CBS!?!" Sure, its wonderful that they're trying to mainstream the competitive side of video games and that the event involves a variety of games (with a noticeable absence of an RTS). But, why in the name of Tassadar are they running this on CBS?

    Let's see . . . CBS is best known for its half-dozen procedural crime dramas, an investigative news magazine whose trademark is a device many video gamer players have never seen in real life (a mechanical stop watch), and for being partnered with AOL: your parents' internet. The target demographic for CBS is upper-middle-class 40+ professionals who are getting ready to bury their parents. Ever watch CBS in the morning (The Price is Right, Sunday Morning)? Count how many commercials they run for life insurance, death insurance, investment/retirement firms, and luxury cars. Oh, and Country Music, we can't forget how much CBS loves the soundtrack of the heartland.

    Running a video game competition on CBS is like running something educational on FOX. And, no, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader does not count. And I just can't wait for the running commentary.

    "Wow Jane, video games have really come a long way since Pac-Man and Pong!"

    "I agree Scott. Hey, do you think the winners will get their prize money in quarters?"

  • I just checked my locale and could not find it. Someone have more info on where it's airing?
    • It's strange how such a "high profile" launch with good sponsors doesn't manage to get airtime. My Tivo reports that despite a 3 hour block of PGA Golf - there are no other sports on.

      But I can get almost three hours of "Paid Programming"

      Not exactly a ringing local endorsement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It is playing in Boston on Sunday at noon (ET). The title of the post is incredibly misleading.
  • Game developers should be making special versions of the games that include multiple camera angles and support for remote control of those cameras.

    Imagine a 1 on 1 combat game with head cams, fist cams, low angle shots, birds eye view shots, etc.

    Currently games are set up to maintain the challenge for the gamer but few provide support for spectators. This will be easy to work around with MMOG type games, just set up extra players around the arena and use their views... but for games that are more tradition
    • Since there's no huge need for gaming broadcasts to be live, this could be beautiful. All you need is a log of the match. You can then do the cinematography in post-production, as it were. Indeed, with a little help from the vendor, you could generate the final footage with enhanced visuals on a rendering farm, and it could look like film.... Seriously, it has the potential to blow away real world sports, as a viewer experience.
      • The excitement of seeing the action as it's unfolding shouldn't be underestimated. The Superbowl can also be edited and released at a later date, but you'd be crazy if you think people wouldn't prefer to watch the live broadcast.
  • I just looked at the guide for my local CBS station. You know what it has on at noon? Infomercials. Apparently they think they can make more money showing infomercials than videogaming...
    • The local CBS affiliate out here in the Phoenix, AZ, market isn't showing this, either. Instead, they started their programming at 9 AM MST (NOON EDT) with some kid's show called Cake, followed by a DDR tournament from 9:30-10 (ok, we're getting closer, but still not on target to the slashdot article), then a rerun of Rocky III from 10-12, and the Canadian Open golf tournament all afternoon.

      Still, not like I really care too much about video game tournament coverage. I'm guessing that they'll most likely b

      • That's the Saturday lineup. This is going to be on Sunday. I made that mistake at first too. Unfortunately my local affiliate still isn't showing it. Oh well. I'm sure someone will put it online somewhere if I really want to see it.
  • After checking my local TV listings in the US, it appears that CBS will be airing the episode on Sunday---not Saturday. sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY at the Colliseum...seum...seeum
  • And the geeks shall inherit the Earth... cue 2112
  • They don't even know how to caption their photos correctly - the man pictured on the left is Freddie Wong, not David Briers aka wuLFe.
    • by LocalH ( 28506 )
      Offtopic? OFF FUCKING TOPIC? What I wrote DIRECTLY regards the linked article, how could it be any MORE on-topic?

      I think /. need meta-meta-moderation to counteract trolls in metamod.
  • None of those are games that are played competitively... I mean, common, guitar hero? World of warcraft? There's nothing impressive about being good at world of warcraft... it's just sad.

    The only games that are really played competitively are starcraft, warcraft 3, and counterstrike. Why the hell not cover those? They already have huge tournaments...
  • You want a good game for competitive play? How about UT? Its whole premise is that its a competition to begin with. The only problem with it that I see is that it might be a little bit too fast for the unitiated to follow.
  • Sports in real life do not change their playfields or rules very much (if at all). Because the game and playfield do not change over time, viewers get to know the nuances of strategy. To some extent this is what happened in Korea with Starcraft. Starcraft is an old game and by sticking with it year after year, even though newer games with better graphics were available, it gave viewers a chance to get to know the nuanced strategies and gameplay styles of particular players. In the US, there has been a l
  • I think we're a long way off from professional gaming. I don't think they're at a point yet where they can be enjoyed from the sidelines like any real life sport. There's a dynamic that's missing.

    I think real sports are able to transcend the game itself. There are countless minute variables that affect the game and players. The players have real emotion. They suffer from exhaustion, injury, frustration. There's the interplay between players. There's weather, wind, the grass itself. There's a whole world out
  • I checked it out today, and you know what, I didn't think it was all that bad. CBS treated it with respect and gave a good primer on the game. The way they portrayed the games were both exciting and informative to those of us that knew the games. The commentators they had knew the games and were able to provide insight. They ran a good vignette of WoW terminology for the WoW section, and even popped up definitions for terms that people may not know.

    I was pleasantly surprised with the respect they gave t
  • I agree about CBS not being the most optimum choice for a channel given its demographic etc. but maybe this is the channels way of changing its image and try and appeal to a more younger audience...notice the use of the word "try" how far they are successful will depend on how good the coverage is how comfortable they can make the average user feel about the game in question and more importantly how knowledgeable the guys (girls) are who present the event and their ability to convert gaming terms and expres
  • If you put it on television, people will watch it. I had a linux machine connected to the TV when I was experimenting with creating a media center. My friends would sit and watch the apt-get show.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.