Last night at the Playboy Mansion gamers collided with bunnies and dreams were made for sixty people who snatched up pro gaming contracts worth $30,000. Fellow gamers cheered when Vanessa “PMS Vanessa” Arteaga, a Dead or Alive 4 contender, was the first person picked into the San Francisco Optx league. The keyword in the sentence was “gamers” in that sentence because most of the party wasn’t paying attention to the draft, they were outside enjoying the open bar. In between picks there was commentary by Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel, which made the event feel more serious, perhaps like a MLB draft. That’s the angle the Championship Gaming Series is going for with its six regional teams (go 3D.NY?), but once you get past the celebration something is severely missing, the geeky fun of gaming.
While the Championship Gaming Series looks like it is trying to appeal to a mainstream audience with a professional coat of paint, it’s too serious. Do people really want to watch Dead or Alive 4 bouts with detailed commentary about just frame attacks? I can’t imagine that being televised entertainment. Let’s take a look at South Korea, which successfully runs Starcraft matches on TV. Part of the reason why they have a nation of celebrated cyber athletes is because everyone in South Korea is familiar with Starcraft. Starcraft is mainstream in South Korea like Football is here. In South Korea everybody knows what a Hydralisk is and can spot a Zerg rush a mile away. Things aren’t the same in the USA. Sure some core gamers know the map layouts in Counter-Strike: Source, but I wonder how many random people can name all of the weapons in the game. Understanding the technical mechanics of Project Gotham Racing 3 just isn’t as ubiquitous as Poker.
There were not any announcements about how the CGS plans to tackle this problem, but I have a few ideas. To boost ratings the CGS should add in some classic games like Tetris or Super Mario Brothers where the general public understands the rules. While Tetris might be old, almost everyone is familiar with it, it’s universal. To attract the gamer audience the CGS should pull in surprise games, sort of like the Wizard. Remember how cool it was to see Super Mario Brothers 3? Give the pro-gamers brand new challenges, throw them curve balls and introduce brand new games. The strategy worked well for Microsoft’s Pac-Man tournament where the world’s best Pac-Man players had to translate their skills on the never-before-seen Pac-Man Championship Edition. Gamers were excited to see people play the new game, because it was new. Do you really want to watch someone play Fifa 07 when it’s sitting on your shelf? I think it would be much more interesting to watch something I can’t play.
On one hand the Championship Gaming Series was a significant milestone to legitimize “cyber athletes” and on the other the fledgling league still has a lot to prove this year. Most importantly if people care.
At least it was a night to remember for most. How many times can this happen?
The lucky sixty gamers chosen for the six teams. Pick your favorite(s)!