Saturday, March 8, 2008

Images from Screenburn

Walked a bit around Screenburn Arcade an open platform of exhibitors and tournaments, part of SXSW's presentations on the newest developments in the gaming industry.

I'm glad to see that SXSW has a gaming element to it. (This wasn't much a part of SXSW when I attended in 2000.) The convergence of new media and online communities in the gaming industry makes it a natural for SXSW.

The panel on Pro Gamers: New Extreme Athletes of the 21st Century brought up a few interesting issues. From the Screen burn site:
SXSW Interactive’s [...] panel brought together catalysts from the burgeoning world of e-sports this afternoon to pontificate on the current state of professional gaming. Xfire’s Richard Boyden moderated discussion between LA compleXity founder Richard Lake, Team Pandemic founder Chris Lemley, Team 3D/E Sports Entertainment founder Craig Levine, and FIFA Interactive champion Matija “Jevrej” Biljeskovic. So ARE pro gamers really the new extreme athletes of the 21st century? Most everybody on the panel concurred that as American life becomes more and more wedded to technology, our digital age calls for a new digital sport. With the gaming industry’s well-documented meteoric rise over the past few years, an entire generation of kids now truly turn to gaming for entertainment rather than traditional organized sports, pointed out Lemley: “We’re going to pass on videogaming to them like we passed on football and baseball. This is our generation’s sport, this is what we have to offer, and it’s only going to change and grow.” Though gaming has made the breakthrough to TV on SpikeTV, ESPN and the Championship Gaming Series on DirectTV, the next few years will be a make-or-break time for that aforementioned change and growth, since key corporate advertisers with sufficient dollars to advance the sport “just don’t know what to do with it” yet, said Levine. Generally speaking, “people who play games aren’t watching TV and people who watch TV don’t play games, so if you put something on tv about gaming, who’s watching it?” But the puzzle of watchability might just be trumped by videogames’ all-consuming popularity, according to Lake: “Television advertisers are begging for a new medium, and gaming is that medium. This generation does not watch television. Gaming is the best way to hit this generation.” While the pioneers of pro gaming push to establish their leagues, their visibility and their livelihoods, at least they know they can look forward to a bright future if Asia’s embrace of pro gaming is any indication: “I need to hire security for my gamers when we go to Asia,” said Lake. “They wanna rip their shirts off like a pro basketball player or a rock star.”
As gaming seeks to enhance compelling stories while providing an environment for competition, might the watchability come from the unfolding of the story in the same way that reality television keeps so many Americans glued to their seats? Only this time, you might also be able to be part of the action? I think this will be an area to watch, considering the convergence of film, music, technology and community.

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