Televising video games?

Surprisingly, the first time I heard that CBS was going to air video games as “sports” was last night when I read Zonk’s post on games.slashdot. I figured it would be a shame for me to miss them, seeing how this would make some excellent blog material. Something to really rag on! Spike TV’s Video Game Awards all over again! I couldn’t wait to begin the snark.

The snark never came! I must say, I was actually impressed with how CBS presented the show and handled the overall production. Everything that Spike did wrong (garish music and sets, celebs that mailed in their appearances, backhanded jabs at gamers)? CBS did it right — it was about the games and the gamers. They took the high road. It wasn’t about making fun of the hobby we love or mocking the “geek lifestyle.” It seemed like they recognized it for what it was — video games are something people get a lot of joy out of. Even the people hosting the shows weren’t completely clueless.

Of course, everything wasn’t perfect. When they did the Fight Night 3 competition, they interviewed one of the participants in between rounds, which came off as really lame. Every once and a while a backhanded comment would slip, but for the most part they seemed to be taking things seriously.

One of the biggest complaints people use when they hear about televising video games is, “I like to play video games, I don’t want to watch them on TV.” I may be in the minority here, but I’ve always enjoyed watching others play games. This goes way back to the days I’d go over my friends house to “play” the old D&D SSI games like Pool of Radiance. I put “play” in quotes, because it mostly consisted of him playing and me watching. I really enjoyed that and still do, even now. That may explain why I enjoyed more than others might.

While I don’t think televising video games will ever reach the level of any type of sports broadcast (even “Xtreme Sports”), it’s a step in the right direction. It was fun to see people compete in games that weren’t First Person Shooters. The World of Warcraft 3v3 match was interesting, especially since I haven’t played WoW myself. Overall I give it a thumbs up.

Did you happen to watch it? I’d love hear what others thought of it.


  1. Dark Reyule says

    It was my understanding, and this is something I thought of a long time ago, that with the next-gen incarnations of sports games you would be able to jump into a game spectator style.

    This would rule for admins of leagues to once and or all dispell any claims of “cheese” and I remember Xbox pumping this feature up pre-360 but I never heard from it again,

    I emailed 2K forever ago about it wit NFL 2K5 and their dev team responded (when they used to respond back in the day) saying that they were thinking of doing this.

    Hell, I’m still waiting for Xbox to ink a deal with XM and Sirius so I can listen to Opie and Anthony while playing Golden Axe!!!

  2. @DR – Yeah, they’ve still got a long way to go with the spectator aspects of games. It’s something that a lot of people are waiting on.

    As for streaming radio, this is something that is long over due. I can get ESPN updates with NCAA 08, why not let me listen to ESPN Radio the whole time? (Not that I’d want to, but the possibility should be available.)

  3. I used to a do a ton of watching other people play video games. I tend to do that a ton with RTS types.

    Apparently, for some reason or another, it’s a lot more interesting for me to watch someone else gather armies and build walls than it is for me to actually do it.

    That said, I really wish I could find my freakin’ Supreme Commander disc.

  4. @Jason – Yeah! RTS games are more enjoyable to watch because all the micro management fries your brain. Let someone else deal with it!

  5. I think there’s definitely an untap market here with televised gaming. What better way to mass-market games to gamers, but by putting out well produced shows?

    G4 missed the mark. SpikeTV/Gametrailer’s GameHead has it almost perfect, but the show is only 1/2 hour long, on Friday’s at 1:30am for goodness sake. We need more of this at reasonable hours that all ages can appreciate it and at times where we don’t need DVRs/Tivo’s to watch or stay up waiting for.

    I watched the CBS “World Series Of Video Games” and also thought it was pretty good… although I particularly like some of the “showbiz” MTV-style editing style in contrast to the CBS sports tone, but eh, to each his own eh?

    I personally think the concept of watching game “pros” doing their thing would be brillant. We need the US equivalent of Korean Starcraft PC Bangs… or at least the American Gladiator show for gamers.

    If it was hyped up with a great cast of hyped up hosts, (less corny than G4) and there was a live studio audience filled with gamers, (like WSVG’s CBS show) and a good production value both on set and in post production, I think more people would come to appreciate the “sport” of game play.

    I mean, think about it, how many sports “fans” actually play football, basketball, etc.?

    The point is, there are fans who just love to watch. Who love the game but don’t necessarily want to play.

    Same could be for gaming. Gamers who love to watch pros and perhaps teams of pros, do their thing. And represent their city/state/group.

    Point is the industry could evolve. And the good thing about TV vs. the NET, is that TV is the perfect couch potatoes lazy way of catching up on whats news.

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