Spectator Sport













Introduction
Ranking Ladders
Professional Online Gaming
New Problems


One implication of online gaming that has recently come forth is its transformation into a spectator sport medium. Online tournaments and ranking systems have appeared throughout the Net, completely changing the online gaming environment. No longer is the sole purpose of online gaming just for fun and friendly competition. Furthermore, as a result of the increased competition, there has amassed numerous nonparticipatory online spectators at these tournaments and dedicated game servers supporting ranking ladders. Online gaming has not only become much more competitive and serious because of this, but it has also been transformed into an entertainment medium for others.


Ranking Ladders

Ranking ladders have allowed players to attain a hierarchy for players to rank themselves on. Considerable status comes from being at the top, and word spreads quickly when one of the aces is toppled by a newcomer. Besides the opportunity of achieving public glory by reaching the top of the ladder, rankings also allow players to find opponents with a comparable skill level, thus allowing for a more exciting, hard to predict game. Beginners are able to jump into the action without any fear of being matched up with an experienced player, an experience which would often result in frustration. Experts are also able to match up with other experts, not having to worry about playing against an inexperienced player.

All of this ranking has naturally led into online celebrity status for some players. These elite online gamers have been compared to the superstars of other sports. And it is the online gamer’s dream to reach the level of playing of their favorite online superstar. The most well-known online gamer thus far has been Dennis Fong (“Thresh”). He has been labeled as the Michael Jordan of online gaming for his incredible play and domination of the game Quake. His greatest achievement was winning the first ever professional online gaming tournament, featuring the game Quake. “Thresh’s” winnings included $7,000 and a brand new $100,000 Ferrari. Since attaining the title of grand champion, his fame has soared throughout the online gaming community. Not only has he garnered numerous sponsors, but he has also been hired to write his own column (“The Threshold”) in a premier PC gaming magazine, PC Gamer. Furthermore, “Thresh” has found a professional career as an online gamer. His universal online game presence was clearly evident when he was “killed” at another tournament. Although, it was double elimination and “Thresh” went on to defend his title, word quickly spread across the Internet about the defeat.


Professional Online Gaming

“Thresh” is a member of the Professional Gaming League (PGL) which has formed to gather all the premier gamers. The PGL says that it is catering to gamers by hoping “to broaden the awareness of online gaming and reward top players with fame and glory.” The PGL hosts premier tournaments and has broadcasted the tournament games over Internet channels. Their goal is to bring online gaming to the television. Many online game enthusiasts are convinced that one day soon, pro gaming tournaments will be competing with other minority interest sports on television sports channels, and spectators will pay to watch the elite play. However, those outside of the game do not consider online gaming to be a legitimate sport mainly because it takes no athletic ability. Proponents of online gaming explain that one must consider pro gaming in the same category as billiards and darts, which requires no athletic ability, but plenty of skill, dexterity, and practice.


New Problems

Potential problems have been created due to this new form of online gaming. First, with the anonymity of the Net, players are able to bring in “ringers” to play for them in online tournaments without anyone knowing the difference. This is only a problem for the lower-class tournaments and will remain an issue, for there are no foreseeable answers. Another problem that the professional gamers must face are that “unlike genuine sports that endure through the ages, the games played by the stars of the PGL and other competitive bodies are inherently short-lived—as technology advances, games become outdated and are quickly replaced. This high rate of turnover could translate into a turn-off for potential audiences (Fong 1998).” One foreseeable solution is to determine a master not by a single game but rather mastery of an entire genre.

Although ranking ladders and online tournaments promote competition, this competition can become excessive, resulting in social problems. To attain a higher ranking one might spend excessive time practicing or playing online. This severely takes away from the social aspect of online gaming, for these gamers are solely concentrating on self-success. Ranking systems also increase the addiction factor of online gaming because one desires to be at the top of the ranking ladder. It is when the addiction factor sets in that the fear of video games comes forth and becomes reality. These individuals have the potential of becoming highly anti-social, having little to no off-line social life. These individuals may also put aside any school work, concentrating solely on their online ranking. The situation very closely mimics that of MUD addiction. Addiction is not a common occurrence on either platform, but rather is the exception. However, when addiction does occur there is tremendous concern about its negative effects.

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This document was created April 19, 1998 and last modified on  Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 17:34:54.
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