Championship Gaming Series Kicks Off E3 Week
Editor's Note: In the next few days, Post I.T. will become home to E3 coverage. @play columnist Mike Musgrove and guest blogger John Gaudiosi will file updates from the show in Los Angeles.
DirecTV unofficially launched the E3 Media Summit festivities with the first-ever live broadcast of a professional video game tournament. For the month of July, the Championship Gaming Series (CGS) has set up shop in Hollywood's Raleigh Studios, home to CSI: Miami and countless films. I had the chance to watch the tournament broadcast from every angle last night -- both from backstage and in one of the two brand new state-of-the-art satellite trucks (these are the same trucks DirecTV uses for NFL and NASCAR live sports events).
Although there were a few glitches, and in my opinion a little bit too much Counter-Strike: Source gaming (although hard-core PC gamers might disagree with me), the show was a success. It was also really hot in the studio and this had an impact on the crowd's intensity over time.
Overall, the show was impressive. The amount of manpower that went into this show, everything from creating the cool stage to the live play-by-play, to the gamers that followed the action with virtual cameras to bring the audience inside the Counter-Strike game world (team player avatars wore their actual jerseys making it easy to follow them in the game) was similar to what you'd see at any real sporting event or game show.
With a young crowd of 250 kids filling the stands and making noise with their blue DirecTV inflatable bam sticks (the same ones used at NBA, NHL and other sporting events), DirecTV did a good job of turning video games into a live sporting event. There were huge screens everywhere showing the in-game action as four of the six U.S. teams competed for more than two hours in popular Xbox 360 games like Dead or Alive 4, FIFA 07, and Project Gotham Racing 3, as well as the aforementioned Counter-Strike: Source PC game.
For the first live show, I watched the New York Team 3D take on the Los Angeles Complexity in all of these games. The two teams actually sprung from the pro gaming circuit and have had an intense rivalry for many years (long before the CGS was created). Team 3D won the match 24-17, which took about an hour-and-a-half to play, as each team member faced off in both single-player and team-based competitions.
While the fighting, racing and soccer games went quickly, the Counter-Strike games took some time. Any non-gamers would probably quickly turn the channel on this part of the show. Hardcore PC gamers, though, most likely loved it.
The second match of the night was between the San Francisco Optx and the Dallas Venom. San Francisco, which is coached by a female gamer, Kat Hunter, and features two female gamers, Vanessa Arteaga (DOA4) and Erika Galegor (PGR3) beat Dallas 25-18. It's good to see female gamers not only represented -- Arteaga was the number one pick for the league's draft last month at the Playboy Mansion -- but beating the guys at games like DOA4.
It was obvious that DirecTV was aiming for the male demographic when looking at the referees, who wore short shorts, tight shirts and black boots and introduced each video game match. I also thought Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel did a good job of explaining the games to the audience. He's being positioned as the John Madden of the league.
This season, as the CGS adds the city-based teams and will pay 60 gamers about $30,000 a year to play (for a total of $5 million in roster), as well as offer additional cash prizes, it looks like it could create the type of drama that can turn this into something. As gamers continue to spend more time playing games then watching TV, this may be a new way to try to lure them back to television programming.
-- John Gaudiosi
John is a freelance journalist covering interactive entertainment and the video game business for more than a decade for The Washington Post and other online and print publications.
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