5 Ways to Push Gaming as a Spectator Phenomenon

EVO 2012

Scroll down if you just want the list.

Being modern creatures of the internet, we’ve no doubt tuned into a stream and watched someone play a game live. Bypassing our own want to jump on Starcraft, League of Legends, Steam or fire up Minecraft for our own game, we sometimes make the choice to observe complete strangers. What gives?

People are drawn to communities and like-minded individuals. For gamers, that means other gamers. Since we can’t always be hanging around other gamers because of distance (or being at work/school), watching others game online is a logical alternative. This is especially true when you really want to see how a new game plays but you don’t quite trust reviews or edited gameplay videos.

Other times, people just want to see how the very best play a game. This is probably the best thing about live streaming gameplay. They allow a first person view of how the best players compete, right down to the unit detail on their HUD. In-between the numerous online and offline tournaments being held each year (EVO 2012 being a hot one right now), people can follow streamers as they get off the circuit and back on the ladder, picking up tricks and horsing around with their viewers in chat.

There are mostly a few successful streams showcasing a few individually talented players. It doesn’t matter if they’re skillfully or congenially talented, they achieve audiences in the hundreds or thousands while others are lucky to break 10 concurrent viewers.

Notice that the bar is quite low for this. If I look at the top streamers live right now on the popular Twitch.TV streaming platform, individual streams rarely break 5,000 viewers for the more popular games like League of Legends or Starcraft II.

Other huge games have an even smaller following. It would only take around 200 live viewers to ensure a spot in the top 5 streams for Minecraft. You only need 100 live viewers to hit that in Modern Warfare 3. Unless a majorly publicized tournament is afoot, game streaming doesn’t pull in the viewership that it potentially could.

Let’s look at what we can do to get game streaming on the up-and-up.

Spec Ops: The Line Metacritic1. Stop Reading Reviews

Yeah, you read that right. I understand that I’m writing for a gaming website that regularly puts out reviews. I understand that it’s a bit of a leap to take.

Still, consider the tendency for reviews to be skewed in multiple ways. To meet deadlines, reviewers have to push through a game, giving the whole thing a motion blurred quality. Reviewers are sworn to even-handedness but undoubtedly end up playing favorites. There’s a tendency for some of us writers to simply gloss over certain features or miss them altogether. Then there’s the looming question of whether a score was bought or sold with perks.

Watching a live representation of the actual game is the next best thing to playing it yourself. I would even say that it’s much better than playing a demo of the game. Why? Because demos are carefully selected sections of the game meant to entice you. Game streaming right now is still very pure. People aren’t trying to sell you anything.

They’ll get as frustrated as you would when their star system is overrun by pirates. They’ll point out random quirks that don’t make sense. They’re brutally honest, something that every gamer wants from traditional reviews.

EVO 20122. Get Genuinely Excited for Events

This is a little unfair to ask for but it’s what the community needs to do. No one can force you to be excited for something you don’t like. Since I reckon you like gaming, it should be simple to get excited for new events.

Some events like BlizzCon, MLG, E3, PAX and others are already successful at pulling new people in. These are well ingrained into our favorite games – either through legitimate reasons, careful planning or loads of sponsorships and money-throwing. These are a great way to get a first taste at upcoming games and technology.

Move past those, though, and you’ll see that there’s a whole lot more going on. Smaller events are being held weekly, either involving your favorite game or a niche genre that’s certain to pique your spidey-sense. These take a bit more work to find if you don’t know where to look but they are worth it. Just because an event doesn’t bring in thousands of people to their stream doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look.

Look around your favorite streaming directory and surprise yourself every once and a while.

Minecraft3. Introduce a Friend

Word of mouth is a great tool for any industry. The gaming industry is no exception. As much as you want to express frustration at the latest patch notes for your favorite game, you can also take the time to share the good stuff.

Are you an avid League of Legends fan and know some people who play the same game? Tell them about the streamers you watch, they might just learn some things. The same goes for Starcraft II and any other game under the sun. Better yet, introduce a friend who doesn’t play the game to the spectator community. You don’t necessarily have to play a game to be able to appreciate it.

I know some people who would rather watch games than play them. Yes, they exist!

If a group of people can come together behind a game or stream, it’s likely to get more traction from the people who eyeball it from a distance.

League of Legends4. Support the Games that Support the Spectators

For any spectator sport to succeed, it needs the proper avenues for people to watch the games. That means building big stadiums for football games and erecting half-pipes for the X Games.

Gaming has smaller stages and stadiums because it’s still in its spectator infancy. At the same time, it also doesn’t need them. As long as we know when a tournament is in progress, we can conveniently tune into it from anywhere in the world.

Live streams are nice but don’t neglect the games that really take the extra step in bringing live gameplay to the audience. Dota 2 comes to mind with its excellent spectator mode. League of Legends also has a similar system that was recently implemented. It’s a bit dated but you could always watch a game of Counter-Strike 1.6 by using HLTV. Also, if I recall correctly, the Street Fighter IV games and Street Fighter X Tekken have dedicated spectator modes.

These are great options but spectator-friendly games don’t necessarily need an in-game mode. They just need viewers.

Halo 45. Play More Games

What’s the absolute best way to push gaming as a phenomenon of any sort? By playing games, of course. As video games grow in appeal as a form of entertainment, everything connected to it will feel the benefits. This is doubly true for those of us who like to rest their fingers and watch someone else play games for them.

More people playing games means more events, tournaments and channels for other gamers to spectate. I really believe that gaming has the potential to supersede more traditional forms of media because of its inherent interactivity.

Open-mindedness is a great trait to have as a gamer. Pessimism may protect you from horrible games but it could likely obscure diamonds in the rough.

Am I off base or do you agree? Let me know in the comments.