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Is the World Ready for Major League Gaming?

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According to the Wall Street Journal, Major League Gaming Inc. (MLG) has received $10 million in funding to use in its efforts to elevate videogame playing into a professional sport.

Let us leave aside the question of whether playing a video game is a sport at all, let alone a potentially professional one. Rather let us ask whether the world is ready for the professionalization of what is primarily a hobby.

There is an inherent competitiveness in the mindset of most gamers. If a gamer is skilled at a particular game, then he or she wants to show off their skills. One need only spend a few minutes on Xbox Live listening to the taunts of players to see how seriously some gamers take their entertainment. Those of us who grew up with the Atari 2600 remember the Fred Savage film The Wizard and fantasized about becoming famous for our “leet” Nintendo skills.

For certain, there is an interest on the part of the “sportsman” with regards to professional gaming. Who wouldn’t like to write off the expense of their Xbox 360 when filing taxes, let alone get paid to play?

The types of games MLG will focus its competitions on, games like Halo 2 and CounterStrike, are certainly exciting games that require quick reflexes, good manual dexterity, and well-honed skills. These are features that guarantee that the “sport” will be able to develop and promote specific athletes. If they are lucky, these gamers will have eccentric and interesting personalities.

The question then becomes one of audience. Will anyone pay to watch other people play video games? If G4’s Arena is any indication, the evidence is mixed. The show doesn’t offer large prizes, it doesn’t command a large audience, and it perfectly displays the difficulty of creating play-by-play analysis of gameplay. Can MLG become a televised circuit competition like NASCAR? Only time will tell, but I doubt it.

More likely, the professionalization of video games will follow a path similar to that of professional Collectible Card Game events. The cash prizes will largely be paid by the video game manufacturers and be tied to new releases. I see the development as more a grassroots occurrence than a national one. Even if MLG becomes successful, they would do well to remember that even the most successful professional sports began at the grassroots professional level.

I don’t know if the audience is there for a league, but I am willing to watch and find out. I do know that gaming still has a lot of PR work to do in order to overcome the negative reporting done by much of the news media. A truly successful league will have to fight against negative PR to promote the sport and will face opposition from those who see gaming as a waste of time or as a contributor to youth violence.

One thing is for sure: Given my skill at most video games, I won’t be among the first generation of video game “athletes.” I would be pwnt by all but the least skilled newb. To paraphrase Breaking Away, “to many people ‘professional gamer’ is just another joke, but to me it’s another thing I can never be.”

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About Christian Johnson

  • smIF

    and that’s not all 😉

    it will happen and it has already developing in asia.

  • ivo

    will people watch other people play video games? THEY ARE U DUMBASS, WATCH THE BIG LAN EVENTS, pro gaming IS a sport that IS being watched, fucking stick ur nose out

  • WTF Chuck

    If it is treated seriously, with the games televised with the same competency and respect that is given to sporting events, then it will find an audience. Please do not mention G4 or G4 programming in any future videogame post.

  • ryan

    I’ve heard there are cable TV channels in Korea which show on-line video gaming only. Maybe somebody who knows better can give more info on that.

  • Ken Edwards

    I second the motion to never mention G4 “programming” again. It makes my eyes bleed.

  • elitie

    yes pro-gaming is happening in korea, and some parts of east asia such as china.

    it is big enough that it’s well known there, but it’s not HUGE as say..a normal sport. some managers in the korean pro-gaming scene like to compare it to the wrestling scene in the states. it’s big enough that ppl know about, but it’s not big as in every kid wants to grow up to be part of it.

    there are two cable networks that are devoted to gaming only in korea. they do have broadband online streams, but they are aviliable to paid members in korea only.

  • bouff

    if gaming becomes a professional sport, i would hate to see what games they would bring out for the fans that follow the sport

  • void pointer

    It makes sense that gaming would gather an audience as the material itself becomes more of a visceral experience. Audiences are looking for something to relate with, and while gamers have no problem relating to games, the mainstream needs polished visuals.

    It doesn’t really seem that redonkulous to imagine a scenario where opponents face off with photorealistic, or better, avatars.

  • shatterstar

    Check out in Europe, and in America. Huge membership bases (1 million +), and streaming events live. Its already happened people (yes, I work for these companies)

  • Simply, Me

    Professional Gaming is already happening [Deleted],, A league for professional and amatuer CounterStrike Players., A Professional Gaming Clan that rakes in 100,000’s of thousands of dollars every season of professional tournaments. another professional gaming clan. open your eyes [Deleted] professional gaming has already taken off.

  • [Geeks Are Sexy] Tech. News

    I really don’t think people will pay for this.. This is in no way something unique or spectacular enough to attract a big crowd.

    I remember in the ’80 when Super Mario Bros #1 was the big thing, there were competitions in every major cities commercial malls, and there was a lot of people watching… but you didn’t have to pay a dime to watch..

    Havent seen anything quite like it since then.


    [Geeks Are Sexy] Tech. News

  • Froztwolf

    In Korea there are already a number of TV stations dedicated to competative gaming so I say yes, its here and its only going to grow a heck of a lot bigger.

  • Rob F

    I’m against this. I don’t want to watch people play games, I want to play!

    More and more American’s are “graduating” to obesity every year. Shouldn’t we be encouraging physical activty rather than this?

    I hope this goes away

  • Matt Paprocki

    I agree. I can see the occasonal fighting game being fun to watch in short bursts (when I’m in the que ready to play), but FPS or Socom, etc., have zero appeal to me.

  • Lanolot

    Vote yes “GAMING IS A SPORT”

    I firmly believe gaming should be further reconized as a competitive and professional sport.

    I have to wonder how many billions the major companies make from selling games, pc’s and consols, why not take it to the next level?

    There is no doubt pc and xbox gaming is an awesome experience in a multiplayer environment.

    We have been running LAN PARTIES for the last 5 years and the competion is huge. There is a big market out there for gamers wanting to strut their stuff and become a ranked player. Team play is also developing, so where is our support to help this become a national or world wide recognised sport?

    I have been trying to develop gaming as a sport here in Brisbane, Australia. Progress is very slow and I can’t understand why people can’t see the light.

    It is almost impossible to find sponsorship or funding. Gaming it is just not taken seriously here and I would like to see that change.

    World wide people working at promoting gaming are spread thin, we just don’t really know what else is going on out there. It seems like every man for himself.

    The comments on health issues, well you can not blame the games you can only blame the individual. Improving your personal fitness is up to you. There is nothing stopping you having a healty life style and being a professional gamer except laziness.

  • AlphaZealot

    Counterstrike will never be offered by Major League Gaming, it is a professional CONSOLE league.

    Currently, for 2006, Halo 2 and Super Smash Brothers Melee are the main games, with other game potentially being added as trials later.

  • John King

    very negative, the world is very ready for MLG.

  • Kluwe

    For all of you that want to watch an interesting little movie on how gaming is growing and how it is becoming a sport. How gamers are being paid and so forth click this link.

  • Casual Gamer

    Hey in a sense this could work because unlike in other live event sports, where there is no camera or technique to show the current emotion going through the game, in video games u can do that. Once a match is done, a group of progammers watching the game could make great camera angles to capture the best moves, and shots. It could inclue sudden slow motions, pretty much make cutscenes out of it. Imagine that. Its a live event but the camera is shot around to play like a movie for the viewers. The viewer could just be seeing the actions(rather than the stats and stuff that the player would be seeing), and this way its like a wrestling show but it’s not fake only the match is reprogammed after to show the sudden intense moments, and situations.

    This is just a thought. It would be a a very good thing if somebody would use it though.

  • Neil

    Does no one remember Starcade? That’s what these wannabe’s want to research and learn from.

  • PiloT

    MLG currently has its own TV show every saturday at 10est/9c. The first episode aired last saturday and if you were to go to these events or even step into Halo 2 on Xbox live, you would see what an impact MLG has made.

  • i love gaming

    Look, gaming is a sport due to the fact that it requires skill and quick reflexes. People will pay to watch this sort of stuff. MLG IS alreay being televised on usa. Fucktards!!


    I am a major legue gamer who has won events all over the US. my “team” is sponsered by Redbull and we are funnded to make trips to MLG events. Major legue gameing is a part of the new generation and will not be understood by anyone over 40. my parents think its is a joke and say i need to get a real job but MLG has made me more then enough money. I have practiced many hours a day to get were i am. I have also been trained in skills. weather you like it or not MLG is here to stay.

    Team FearLess: Splinter, RedZone, Shadowfox, Darkwing.

  • Pro_Ceo

    As a “pro-video gamer,” I can tell you this has already been in motion. MLG, GGL, CPL, etc; are all huge organizations that set up shop for professional gamers to go in and play for some decent prizes. Known as one of the best console-videgaming teams in the world, team “Professional Skills” has brought in almost $100,000.00 since February of last year. Any avid console gamer has probably heard of them before. As well as Team3d, Complexity, Carbon, and FinalBoss. Most of these teams however, focus more on HaLo, which is why I have more respect for teams like Professional Skills and Carbon as they play a large variety of games. Check them out at if you dont believe.

    One other thing, ProSkills (hate to ride their nuts like this but I’m trying to make a point lol) have sponsors, just like many other great teams out there. When a “Video-gaming team” is being sponsored by multiple companies, you know that this is a “sport” that is here to stay for a long long time!

  • eric

    Help the World Wide Professional Gaming League! Gamers Unite!! This is not Major League Gaming, It’s World Wide and covers all console systems and PC. Check it out.

  • DeAndre

    When are you going to have a wrestling game tournament?

  • Joe

    You geeks need to go out and get a life.

  • Rage-Addict88

    hell ya mlg is the thing now yavo! im on a team not anything really right now but i think we can make it tothe big times TEAM SPAZZ FIR DA WIN!

  • deadpixel

    i can’t believe people are stupid enough to actually let this happen.

  • Johnny Elda

    Watch MLG and tell me how many (unhealthy) people you see playing…

  • NoFaithLeft

    Yes gaming is a sport, just like arm wrestling and poker.

  • Wiser

    PC & Console gaming are hobbies, not professions – nothing more, nothing less.
    Get a real job.
    I am sorry, but gaming is not a real sport. You can yell and claim its a real sport all you want, but in the end it gives only a fake sense of accomplishment.

  • Wiser

    I’m sorry kiddos, but “pro gaming” aka “Major League gaming” is a joke. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately reality does not treat people who run away from it kindly and pro-gamers do nothing but run from reality.

    Truth of the matter is that professional gaming or video gaming as a sport is a monumental joke, period. For you kids that will never grow up, get a real job and play a *real* sport like soccer or football.

  • Wiser

    Joe says it all:

    Oct 08, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    “You geeks need to go out and get a life.”