Posted by: crudbasher | March 19, 2012

What eSports Can Tell Us About The Internet (and Education)

Last night I went to the Red Bull LAN event here at Full Sail University. Basically the way it works is you get to watch professional gamers play video games in a tournament. This is known as eSports. Now I know a lot of people kind of poo poo the idea of video games as a sport. Apparently you have to be doing something athletic to be considered a sport. (Does that mean chess isn’t a sport? How about poker?) Perhaps eSports is a bad name but that’s what we have. In South Korea, eSports has taken off big time. Apparently there are actually two real TV channels that show eSports 24/7. Wow!

First of all, I really enjoyed the event. I like to play a game called Starcraft 2. While I am ok at it, I mostly like to watch professional players play. I guess it’s like how you can play baseball but prefer to watch professional games. I have watched lots of recorded Starcraft games online but last night I got to experience it live. It was awesome! Being in a crowd of people all watching was fun. We laughed and cheered together.

I didn’t stay for the whole thing (it went to midnight) so I went home and watched the live stream for a while. That’s when I had the idea for this blog post.

Video games have been around for several decades but it is only recently that they really started to take off as a “sport”. Like most other innovations I talk about on this blog, the reason is the rise of the Internet. For a sport to become popular in the past, it had to be on TV. When there were only a few TV channels, the networks had to carefully evaluate the number of possible viewers and decide if they were going to carry a sport. Only sports with large national audiences were put on the air. It was really a catch 22. You had to be popular to get on TV, but you had to be on TV to be popular.

What has changed is that the cost to broadcast something like this has dropped by several orders of magnitude. In fact, pretty much anyone can broadcast anything for free via various services such as Livestream. Essentially the Internet has become a TV with infinite channels. Not only that, but it has global reach. Once we get live realtime voice translation it will truly span the world. What is currently missing in the livestreaming equation is a good way of taking Internet streams and aggregating it on a TV. Google has tried it but is running into trouble with the legacy TV networks. Still, somebody will get this right soon. (hello Apple?)

What is significant here is it shows us the true power of the Internet. The biggest effect is being seen with individuals, not big corporations (or universities). On the Net, being small is just as good as being big because you can connect with people who share interests with you. This is the nature of the stormfront of change coming to education.

So what did it look like last night? The players were on stage with their computers and we watched what they were doing on large screens. There were two commentators named Day9 and DJWheat. Actually it’s not called commentating it’s called “shoutcasting”. lol

Here’s an example of a game series with  Day9 and DJWheat shoutcasting. If you don’t understand what is going on, just keep in mind your students do. This is of great interest to them and they spend a lot of time learning about it on their own. GG.



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