Take a look at those pictures. They are modern gaming or at least one aspect of it. I took them at the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland. It was held in Spodek, a sport’s arena, and that does not seem inappropriate. I was there signing copies of Illidan at the Blizzard shop. At least, that’s what I came to do. I ended up an awestruck onlooker at a phenomenon the like of which did not exist when I was the age of most of the people present.
It’s a measure of how much the world has changed since the 70s. When I was a teenager, video games were something you saw in Science Fiction movies. They did not exist in the real world at least for people like me. They’ve grown through my lifetime from block graphics running on a ZX 81– with its 1 Kb memory, yep, you read that right– right up to today’s broadband-connected Xbox Ones, Playstation Fours and high-end gaming rigs.
These events represent a huge wave of technological and social changes. It’s not just the software and machines that the games run on. It’s the infrastructure that makes esports possible as a spectator sport. The internet, streaming, distributed broadcasting platforms like YouTube. Ultraportable digital camera systems. A swarm of technological miracles.
And then there’s the media infrastructure that let’s you follow the players and teams and games the way newspapers and magazines used to let you when I was growing up. I was interviewed by people using mobile phones to record the chat, photographed on the same phones. Stuff that once took a studio can be done on a device carried in a pocket. I talked with people young enough to be my grandchildren whose shows reach the sort of audiences only possible to mass media when I was their age. Broadcasting empires run from bedrooms. I don’t know why it surprises me. I do the same thing in my own small way with my indie-published ebooks.
I think it was the scale of the thing that really struck me. Standing in those huge crowds, looking at those vast screens, is a very different thing from watching a game on the screen of your laptop. And that’s kind of the point. The only comparable thing I can find in my own experience is being in the crowd at a football game. I suppose that’s the statement being made too. This is an event on that scale. It has the same kind of coverage, the same kind of impassioned commentary, the same kind of audience involvement. Watching the kills in Counterstrike in realtime is a different from watching a streamed video. It’s the difference between watching a recording of the big game and being at the match.
For me, it’s something new in the world. It tickled my sense of wonder. For most of the people in the audience, I am sure it is simply everyday life.
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