Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Glory Hole: BB40

“There is no finer spectacle in the universe of EVE Online than the explosive dance of weapon-laden spaceships in combat. The yearly Alliance Tournament is the jewel in EVE Online’s eSports crown and the upcoming New Eden Open  should deliver the same gladiatorial entertainment showcase.

Given the scope of the sandbox, what part should eSports play in EVE  Online and what other formats could provide internet spaceship  entertainment for spectators and participants alike? ”

Admittedly, the title for this post has very little to do with the topic at hand. It was more for the sake of provocation, and to scratch a minor item off of my bucket list which was to do a post with a shamelessly pornographic title. Then again, maybe the idea of a contrived spectacle in which peens - 'e' or otherwise - are being shoved in someone's face isn't all that misleading after all. Either way, you're reading.

I watched with great pleasure the alliance tournament this year. It was the first time I had followed the event even casually. Watching different setups and tactics at work against each other was fascinating to me as a burgeoning FC and as a pilot ever more frequently exposed to group PvP. I have a few years in game now, but with my move into sovereign nullsec the ability to fight effectively against a variety of opponents using a revolving door of ships and pilots has become an exponentially more valuable commodity. The ability to direct my alliance mates in the heat of those moments even more so and so I sat glued to the screen, cursing the lag-tastic presentation and taking mental notes I was sure to forget a short time later.

This opportunity to watch and learn in real-time, however, was where my fascination with the tournament ended. The names on the jerseys weren't important to me. I didn't care if Pizza or RvB or PL or Rote Kappelle or anyone else won. If the event had been titled "PvP Showcase: Small Gangnam Style" or something equally goofy I would have been just as attracted to the broadcast. The fact is, EVE doesn't need to sponsor a competition to engage me. EVE IS competition. 23/7. Always on. Always live.

eSports have been around for a long, LONG time. They go as far back as the days of Pong and Donkey Kong being on tap at the local coin-op arcade. Only in the last 5 years or so have they accelerated their evolution toward professional events replete with corporate sponsors, significant prize pools and media coverage being noticed and more importantly being accepted by a mainstream audience. Such periods of expansion tend to reward earlier adopters more handsomely, as Blizzard has discovered with Starcraft in Korea and EA Sports is finding out with its Madden franchises in the US.

However even if the current expansion eventually reveals itself to be merely a bubble inflated by corporate hype machines, CCP could be forgiven for trying to participate and position itself as the proprietor of such bloodsport. Successful events like the Alliance Tournament create a healthy and lasting impression in the minds and imaginations of potential customers and as we have all observed at one point or another, EVE needs all the new blood it can get.

So if eSports have a place outside of EVE, how about inside? In a word: sure. I don't think it is unreasonable to suppose that the types of gamers drawn to compete in such events are found in greater proportion in EVE than they are in other games. What was that famous demographic that Mittens is so fond of mentioning? "Hyper-competitive, college-educated thirty somethings..." That one. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think that was a fairly accurate description of the majority of capsuleers. "We are EVE players..." we tell ourselves. We're snarling beasts in spaceships, just waiting to unleash hell on anything that gets in our way.

Competitive people will necessarily seek contest. The added allure of an indulged ego and the reward of some sweet hangar queens for a victory in a relatively high-profile competition is naturally going to find widespread support among us. Even among those of us who don't seek out such conflict, though maybe for different reasons.

So what other formats might also find an engaged audience and willing participants? I really couldn't tell you other than to say that if I can learn something from it, I'll probably watch it. After all, when it comes to spaceship porn, for me, EVE is kinda like Playboy. Mostly, I just read it for the articles. 

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