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Why People Watch StarCraft, Instead of Playing

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the they-enjoy-wrists-free-of-carpal-tunnel dept.

Real Time Strategy (Games) 122

generalepsilon writes "Researchers from the University of Washington have found a key reason why StarCraft is a popular spectator sport (PDF), especially in Korea. In a paper published last week, they theorize that StarCraft incorporates 'information asymmetry,' where the players and spectators each have different pieces of information, which transforms into entertainment. Sometimes spectators know something the players don't; they watch in suspense as players walk their armies into traps or a dropship sneaks behind the mineral line. Other times, players know something the spectators yearn to find out, such as 'cheese' (spectacular build orders that attempt to outplay an opponent early in the game). Rather than giving as much information as possible to spectators, it may be more crucial for game designers to decide which information to give to spectators, and when to reveal this information."

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First post (0, Offtopic)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143096)

And by "post" I mean ZERG RUSH!

People Don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36144000)

We don't watch starcraft because it's a a good sport. We do do it because Day 9 is hilarious.

Re:First post (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145956)

Mods, really? How the hell is this offtopic?

"Welcome to the 4th annual cider making conference, hosted at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA"

"I brought some apples."

"Sorry, those are offtopic."

Really? (5, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143102)

Or maybe it's like any other competitive sport, there are people who enjoy watching it being played at a higher level than they themselves are able to participate at?

Re:Really? (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143380)

Not to mention that sometimes it's nice to sit back and watch the big picture. When you're playing it's easy to get caught up on minutiae and miss important story elements, complex action sequences, or beautiful scenery.

Also, many players add a fun commentary track. [lparchive.org] A good "Let's Play" can add a lot of humor and personality to any game, and IMHO is usually more fun than playing the game itself.

Re:Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36145820)

This isn't about "let's play" (a bunch of idiots poorly playing a game and making dumb jokes over it), this is about "e-sports" - watching very skilled people play video games competitively. In a very real way, you can see parallels between people watching StarCraft and people watching "real" sports.

That site you linked to is just depressing. These people really have nothing better to do than record themselves playing a single player video game?

And then someone has nothing better to do than to ARCHIVE that shit?

I mean, if there's one problem with single player games today, it's that they're TOO INTERACTIVE. I'm glad there's a website dedicated to solving that problem.

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

fhuglegads (1334505) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143526)

Or maybe it's like any other competitive sport, there are people who enjoy watching it being played at a higher level than they themselves are able to participate at?

I feel like this with League of Legends. The top players streaming is a completely different game than when I play. The strategies are very different and the games have a more natural flow to them. When I play as a "baddie" the games are often just a lot of discord.

Beyond that, there are players who don't like each other and sometimes they end up on the same team. It probably wouldn't work if the players were all anonymous and I didn't know who I was watching. Beyond the soap opera and the drama it's a good way to learn and see my deficiencies so then when I do play I have a point of reference to base my play against in an attempt to improve.

Re:Really? (2)

ect5150 (700619) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144234)

I like watching some Street Fighter 4 (or SF3) matches. Some of the things these guys pull off are amazing.

And there is always the famous Daigo vs Justin Wong match.

Re:Really? (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#36146136)

I have to say, I love watching others play. No matter if they are highly skilled or not. It's great to watch people's reactions to situations, maybe learn a little in the process. I've always enjoyed watching quake rolls, raid run downs, and the like. Having gamed for over 20 years, once it's in your blood you kind of enjoy everything about them.

One thing I find is it's hard for traditional media to cover events that have more than 2 players. Switching between 8, 16, or even 32 players would give anyone a headache.

Re:Really? (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144434)

I especially liked this about some of the commentary from people like Day[9]. I loved the way they commented on the meta-game, or on fundamental concepts of the game that aren't really visible to scrubs like me until (or unless) we go looking for them.

Thinking way too hard (5, Interesting)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143104)

Like most academics, I think they have put way too much thought into this.

Outside of Korea I imagine people for the most part watch this stuff because it’s awe-inspiring to see someone playing who has literally dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the game and as a result is mind blowing skilled at it. Inside of Korea they watch it for the same reason everyone else watches hockey, soccer, football, etc

These guys really do treat it as a professional sport in Korea... with training camps, massive salaries, licensing and a _draft_. Spectators are just a part of that. Whether or not you take the “esport” seriously, it’s still something to see at least once, even as just a novelty.

As for playing vs watching, I assume it’s the same as any other “sport”. I can play hockey with the guys at work, and still enjoy watching professional hockey players who dedicate way more time to the game and are better at it then I’ll ever be. One can play starcraft with their friends while still having an appreciation for people who take it seriously.

Re:Thinking way too hard (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143548)

"Outside of Korea I imagine people for the most part watch this stuff because itâ(TM)s awe-inspiring to see someone playing who has literally dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the game and as a result is mind blowing skilled at it."

But there must be more to it than that. How many people watch World of Warcraft? Or Command & Conquer, or Team Fortress 2? Far fewer than Starcraft.

There is something about Starcraft that makes it more fun to watch. IMO it's one of the rare games with both lots of strategy and action - the perfect "sport". The asymmetry argument is a bit odd, but i agree that does make it more fun to watch.

Re:Thinking way too hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143822)

Not necessarily. In WoW I imagine you see high views for new content videos from world firsts and the old arena pvp system & associated videos had its share of fans.

All of those games you mentioned are far less competitive with a smaller number of players... even WoW considering 95% of the content is PvE scripted. Sheer numbers don't really matter to discover why people watch.

If you went back to games like quake, people used to watch demos of players like thresh, u4 vs dr, the international matches, etc. They watched to see first hand what happened in matches, how these players were at the level they were, and tricks (like jumps to shorten paths to powerups, etc.). Esports in america have probably died down from the giant quake tourneyment days. Probably partially because of the economy, but I'd imagine mostly because the next generation of gamers are thumbsticking their way through random match games with 13 year olds all day which doesn't really foster a community, nor do you get pockets of people that are as incredibly good through stuff like college lans, really good pub servers, lots of organized playing, modding, etc. Games like CoD and closed platforms are killing that competitive community community aspect off to dumb things down for the masses.

Personally I cant stand watching starcraft replays or any other RTS game replay, they are boring.

Re:Thinking way too hard (1)

Incoherent07 (695470) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145124)

At BlizzCon every year, Blizzard puts on a SC2 tournament, a WC3 tournament, and a WoW arena tournament. The SC2 tournament is well attended most of the convention, and packed for the big matches (as in, you're not getting close to a chair unless you've been camping one all day). The WC3 tournament would be fairly sparsely attended if it weren't in the same place as the SC2 tournament, so people will be camping out there and either lamenting how boring WC3 is to watch or getting someone to hold their seats so they can go get some food. The WoW arena tournament is... not well attended; there were chairs available for the final (which last year went past the "closing ceremony" so there was literally nothing else going on).

There really is something about a game that makes it more or less watchable. WoW arenas are not all that fun to watch because there's a high density of important things happening at the same time, so it's difficult to understand as a spectator, and unless you're already a fairly high-level player you have no idea what those things are, so that locks out most of your potential spectators. On the other hand, a bronze-level player can understand what's going on in a pro-level SC2 match, even if the pro is chugging along at 200 APM.

Re:Thinking way too hard (3, Informative)

Tasha26 (1613349) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143794)

There are two popular Youtube channels for SC2: HuskyStarcraft [youtube.com] and HDstarcraft [youtube.com], both americans and they rack up views of between 50K to 100K for each cast. I watch them for strategies or nuke drops.

Irrelevant (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147110)

in turkey sc community, in between 1998-2005, we have watched a lot of games of our fellow players, and rarely these were better than us.

There is a magic to watching it than playing it - first it saves the hassle, second, its good to see people use their brain and wits to match against other. and indeed, there can be a lot of humor in between spectators while watching.

Re:Irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36147988)

I look forward to the first Turkish SC champion in the Korean leagues with much anticipation.

Re:Irrelevant (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#36148012)

sarcasm aside, dont. koreans play it with a religious fervor. that being said, we indeed sent a qualifier to world championship once. but later the guy, like any others, graduated college and took a normal job.

Real Reason (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143120)

It's actually because starcraft has a horrible user interface and AI engine so it's more entertaining for some people to watch play at the expert level than try to actually play and accomplish nothing because they aren't fast enough

this is a phenomenon unique to starcraft, and absent from more strategic and better designed RTS games where playing the game is much more popular than watching experts

Re:Real Reason (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143292)

Well, isn't everything more popular than watching experts play other RTSes? Honestly, I know you are trolling here but how you got modded +3 interesting is beyond me. Starcraft is the best RTS of all time. Do you think Korea just missed these other "great" RTSes while they devoted their lives to Starcraft? Face it, Starcraft is the best balanced RTS out there, and other RTSes might be more fun for you to play, but thats because you're bad and haven't found the One True Way that is unbeatable and makes the game boring for good players.

Re:Real Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143468)

So Starcraft is the "best" because you really like and are good at it, and a lot of Koreans play and watch it? And GP doesn't like starCraft because he/she is a bad player? Yea, and SC fanboys wonder why a lot of us think you are all a bunch of toss pots. The flame wars over MBS (Multiple Building Select) was fucking hilarious.

Your definition of best is not my definition of best.

Also the GP was modded interesting. I know i will mod something interesting, if the viewpoint is interesting or may result in interesting on topic discussion. It does not need to be correct or "right".

Re:Real Reason (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143848)

So Starcraft is the "best" because you really like and are good at it

No, thats not what I said. Can you read? Specifically this part:

Starcraft is the best balanced RTS out there, and other RTSes might be more fun for you to play, but thats because you're bad and haven't found the One True Way that is unbeatable and makes the game boring

What that means is RTSes that are often times called more fun than Starcraft are only fun at the low end of the skill tree. I am also at the low end of skill, but I can at least recognize that starcraft is competitive at very, very high levels, and the professionals play very differently. In most other RTSes, good players will unearth a single good strategy that dwarfs others. Think Tic-Tac-Toe. When you are young and don't understand the game, it may be more fun than chess. However, there is a way to force a tie every single game once you figure it out. Chess does not have this limitation, or at least it is very difficult to reach that point of understanding in the game. Starcraft is more like chess, most other RTSes are like Tic-Tac-Toe. Once you figure out the trick to it, its very boring. Maybe you haven't reached that point with them and its fun for you. Great. There is a reason why the best RTS players in the world play Starcraft though, and that is why Starcraft is the best. It has the most depth and remains coherent and balanced all the way through.

The reason I think the modding of interesting is inappropriate is because it seems a lot like trolling to me. This isn't like WoW where it appeals to casual gamers. People in Korea play to the death (literally). Its hardcore, and an AC comes in here alluding to "more strategic" RTSes without naming names? That smacks of trolling and just being factually incorrect. Not to mention its a very shallow thought process.

Re:Real Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143512)

Starcraft is the best RTS of all time.

If that's even true it doesn't mean much. It just mean the entire RTS genre sucks. Being marginally better doesn't make it magically great.

Re:Real Reason (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143858)

Starcraft is the best RTS of all time.

Starcraft wasn't even the best RTS of its own time. But hey, I clearly value different things to you.

Do you think Korea just missed these other "great" RTSes while they devoted their lives to Starcraft?

Sorry, we're talking about a country that went insane over Lineage II? Forgive me if I don't share their cultural background and enthusiasm for twitch micromanagement attention to detail boring clickfest nonsense. It fails my 'fun' test.

Re:Real Reason (1)

rekenner (849871) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143364)

Starcraft 1, maybe that's true. It was great, at the time (and I've played a lot of RTSes) ... but that is far from true for Starcraft 2. Then again, even RTSes that are focused on macro really do anything like what would be needed to really have a "strategic" game. SupCom came close, but still fell way short.

Re:Real Reason (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143534)

It would be good for Starcraft to receive an update. Monitors that work at 1600x1200 or 2400x1800 are rare, and controls could be better.

Oh, you might say "but there is one". Sorry, I mean one that is capable of network play. As long as Starcraft 2 has no reliable and low-ping way of playing, it is unfit either for serious competitive play nor for a number of home setups.

Re:Real Reason (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144562)

Monitors that work at 1600x1200 ... are rare

Used to be a fairly common resolution from the late 90s thru mid 00s until HDTV came along and ruined it.

Re:Real Reason (1)

McLoud (92118) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143446)

this is a phenomenon unique to starcraft, and absent from more strategic and better designed RTS games where playing the game is much more popular than watching experts

It is not. I've seen many times in many games. I've done it myself for a variety of reasons. Seeing someone pretty skilled at RTCW:ET was very entertaining to watch in a Saturday afternoon (sometimes with a big cup of coffee on cold days where your fingers could barely move).

Re:Real Reason (3, Interesting)

naroom (1560139) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143598)

Parent is correct that there are many RTS games with user interfaces that are far superior to Starcraft.

For example, Supreme Commander:
  • You can queue up units to be produced on a loop
  • You can zoom out to see as much of the map as you want to get a good overview
  • The minimap uses glyphs that represent specific units
  • You can issue a hundred orders to a worker, and it will carry them out in sequence
  • You have several options for moving your units in formation

Whereas in Starcraft:

  • Queueing units costs you resources, so if you're using the queue, you're playing badly
  • You are limited to one screen worth of information. For example, you can't look at your main base and your expansion at the same time.
  • The minimap just has colored blobs on it that give very little information
  • Like queueing units, queueing buildings costs resources, so micromanaging is essential.
  • Units will automatically move and attack in the worst possible formations; it is up to the players to manually correct this. See Mutalisk Magic Box [youtube.com] for an example. You have to fight the game's UI.

This does not, however, make Starcraft a bad game. User interface efficiency is not the most essential component of a game. If it were, World of Warcraft would be a spreadsheet in which players would replace "Level 1" with "Level 70" instead of all doing that inefficient crap where you kill small animals in the forest for months.

Re:Real Reason (1)

TheSambassador (1134253) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145274)

I would argue that the user interface was a conscious choice by the developers. When your tools are limited, there's a much higher "skill ceiling" (the best you can get) than when simple things are handled for you. In Starcraft, you have to make conscious decisions on what to focus on. Do you want to make sure that your economy is strong and that you're constantly producing fighting units (macro)? Do you want to manage your units and get the most efficiency possible out of them (micro)? Do you want to focus on harassment, positioning, laying traps, etc? Can you do all of these things at once?

There are even Starcraft players who think that Starcraft 2 makes things TOO easy. While this [sc2promod.com] is an April Fools joke, there are plenty who actually would WANT the game to be this hard. Sure, it would be nice to be able to tell a Barracks to "constantly make marines, but don't take money until you need to start a new one," but then Macro becomes obsolete, and there is no skill to being able to make units. Some people are great at Macro, some are great at Micro, and some are good at plenty of other things, but it's this diversity in HOW individuals can be skilled that makes Starcraft interesting. Some people actually ENJOY it.

I think that Starcraft, while being a strategy game, has a lot in common with twitch-based games as well... enough so that it's "more" real-time than other RTS games. Some people prefer slower-paced more strategic games, and that's fine, but they're not "better" any more than Chess is "better" than Starcraft.

As to why people like to watch it... well, I think it can be a combination of things. I watch the GSL [gomtv.net], and I've even gotten my girlfriend into it. While I enjoy it because I know the sort of skill that the game requires, my girlfriend really enjoys the casters (Tasteless and Artosis), who are quite funny, and the players (along with the rivalry and ceremonies after the game). She doesn't really understand the strategy, and probably can barely identify a "6-pool" (an extremely early opening that aims to do tons of early damage), but she still enjoys watching it because the game is just straight up entertaining to watch. I also expect that a lot of the appeal is in HOW popular it is now, and how it can be fun to watch something with a group of people and cheer when other people to cheer (my response to football).

Cheese? (4, Funny)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143146)

"Such as 'cheese' (spectacular build orders that attempt to outplay an opponent early in the game)."

I'm going to start canon-rushing just so I can quote that line when I get raged. "Sorry you were no match for my spectacular build order, NOOB".

Re:Cheese? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143352)

'spectacular' doesn't mean awesome, it means 'creating a spectacle', 'an event with striking effects', 'dramatic and eyecatching'. Cheese is 'spectacular' because it completely changes the the early game from a slow build up to large armies, into an edge of the seat, do or die confrontation with minimal forces.

Really though, the odds of success in pro games is pretty low for those kinds of plays, opponents are too good at scouting them and deflecting them; I suspect that pro level players continue to mix them in primarily so that their opponents have to waste time in every game scouting them and preparing for them. It's like opening a football game with an onside kick, even if it doesn't work the opposing team (and opposing teams in future games as well) is going to be extra watchful for it at the expense of something else, even if it is only a fraction of a second reaction time. Even as a platinum player I can tell you that 20 seconds lost checking your base for cannons can be more than enough to spell the difference between winning and losing.

Re:Cheese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143872)

Does that mean 'craptacular' means 'creating a craptacle'?


Re:Cheese? (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145690)

Yeah. I actually enjoy getting cheesed. As a lower-tier player, I find it to be a good exercise. Instead of getting mad, I change gears. My "success" metrics turns into "thwart the cheese". Even if I lose the match in the end, I have gotten some good practice in.

Re:Cheese? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144792)

Look up "When Cheese Fails" these are fantastic videos, of people who try to cheese others and fail.

Re:Cheese? (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145560)

The funny part is that cheese is normally associated with people who have no skills to play a longer game. They just do the same build over and over, and manage to get like diamond or masters in ladder... But in actual tournament play, doing repetitive cheese just means you lose game 2 and 3.

I wish they would include that in more games (4, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143164)

I wish they would include a "spectator" mode in more online games. I'm not very twitch quick, but I do enjoy *watching* a lot of FPS multiplayer (where you can see the really quick and clever guys pull off some amazing stuff). I wish there were more games with a mode that let me walk around as a "ghost" in the game, just watching without having to worry about getting killed and tea-bagged over and over again by 14-year-olds.

Re:I wish they would include that in more games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143258)

Dota 2 is rumored to have full-blown spectator capabilities...

Re:I wish they would include that in more games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143278)

Watching a TF2 match is a lot like watching an episode of Tom & Jerry. And I used to be an old classic TF player in the 90s.

Re:I wish they would include that in more games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143758)

yeah QWTF was where it was at! Represent!

Re:I wish they would include that in more games (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143420)

I wish they would include a "spectator" mode in more online games. I'm not very twitch quick, but I do enjoy *watching* a lot of FPS multiplayer (where you can see the really quick and clever guys pull off some amazing stuff). I wish there were more games with a mode that let me walk around as a "ghost" in the game, just watching without having to worry about getting killed and tea-bagged over and over again by 14-year-olds.

Heh, Left 4 Dead is good for that... actually it's sort of integral to the learning experience. When you die you're sort of forced to spectate so you can take some time out to watch how the rest of the team handles things.

It's also one of those games where there's much less stress on twitch reflexes, and more on learning the game mechanics and how to handle particular situations. Wish more games were like that... (Tribes 2 also comes to mind... where you can kinda see the opponents coming long before you're actually within practical range to do anything about it)

Re:I wish they would include that in more games (1)

nappingcracker (700750) | more than 2 years ago | (#36147024)

Even better would be if you could be turned into an npc that could do a little harassment but not enough damage to hinder the game. Kind of like the bob-omb in Mario Kart 64, but less of a threat to the game outcome.

Or maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143176)

it's because some of us like the game and enjoy watching people who have mastered it.

And the TL streams.... (1)

Talennor (612270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143212)

So there are also these things where you can watch other people play. There is no "information asymmetry". And thousands of people watch those, too.

Re:And the TL streams.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36144734)

It's the difference between 1500-2000 people watching the best players in the world play ladder, and 50,000 people watching the TSL finals last night. It's pretty obvious more people are interested in the casted games with the spectator-mode type camera than just Artosis playing on the Korean ladder.

Re:And the TL streams.... (1)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145332)

This is a valid point. Tens of thousands watch tournament games every single night, whereas you'll be hard pressed to find streams that reach 5K viewers. Even the ones that do often feature players who discuss the game and their decision making which provides an alternate avenue for entertainment than just watching with excitement while waiting to see if the Protoss saw the medivac or if the Zerg will respond to the Dark Templar in time.

yarp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143228)

I watch because its interesting seeing a much higher level of play than I will ever be, learning about the game and strategies,
  and sometimes for the great commentators such as LAGTV.

Any game can be interesting watch. Depending on the player,
it could be a great movie or a retarded painful mess to watch.
This is especially true with assassins creed.

Similar to Poker (4, Insightful)

ELitwin (1631305) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143240)

This seems similar to watching poker on TV where the viewer knows what cards all the players are holding. There is still suspense with regards to the flop (and turn/river) and whether the betting/bluffing strategies will work.

Some differences between Starcraft and Poker (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145712)

Your statement stands for observing, but here are some other thoughts on the two games:

Speaking as someone who played in a reasonably high level in both: Made the first Blizzard world championships in Brood War, and made 1000x my initial bankroll in Poker:

In Starcraft, you will only win tournaments if you're really good. In Poker, you don't need to be the best to win tournaments.

Because you need to be really good in Starcraft to win, there isn't much money for players who aren't top 1000 players.
Because anyone can win in Poker, sometimes you play perfectly and still lose.
If you're a top 10000, but not top 1000 player in Poker, you'll still make money just beating up on people worse than you. There is no such money to be had in Starcraft.

In Starcraft the ladder ranking system makes you a 50% player unless you're top 10 on the server, or you're at the bottom of the ladder. In Poker, it is pretty easy to find people worse than you and get over 50% rating when you're not top 10 in the world.

Some people just like to watch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143248)

a quick visit to any porn site will tell you this.

Being a spectator is less stressful (1)

Fahrvergnuugen (700293) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143252)

I love StarCraft 2, however it is extremely stressful to play. Sometimes I just want to chill, so I bring up the teamliquid.net stream list and watch my favorite players instead. Note that this is different than spectating a match as an observer/referee because you are essentially looking over the players shoulder and aren't privy to what his opponent is doing.

That being said, watching live cast games from the observer point of view (such as the recent TSL3) is a lot of fun as well. It really amazes me how much production value these tournaments have.

Re:Being a spectator is less stressful (1)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143464)

I only skimmed the article, but I didn't see any mention of watching "instead of playing" as the Slashdot article is titled. They listed 9 types of spectators, but none of them were people who liked the game for a while, but find it more enjoyable to watch than to play, due to the stress. I think part of the reason I stopped playing is because a single mistake can (and often will) cost you the game. Not many games are that unforgiving.

There's always the other explanation for Korea... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143310)

Remember that article put out recently about how Koreans have higher rates of autism than other counties?

That's easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143376)

Why do people watch football? Because playing the game isn't nearly as fun as it first appears. It's hot, exhausting, boring, routine work. The only upside is in pitting your "wits" against equally determined players. In other words it's only rewarding at the extreme levels.

Re:That's easy. (1)

fhuglegads (1334505) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143614)

I love to watch (grid-iron) football and I love to play. Getting 22 people for an 11 on 11 game of football is hard to do so any version of football I play is incomplete and a pale representation of the game itself. Being able to watch the game the way it was meant to be played by the best players in the world is great entertainment. Playing 3 on 3 or 5 on 5 is a great activity. There is no line that divides playing and watching into 2 sections where you must only choose one.

Re:That's easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143832)

I'm sorry but if you haven't ran flat-out for 2 hours in 100-110 degree (fahrenheit) weather with a full set of smothering pads 3 days of every week then you have no idea just how intellectually dull and tiring the game really is.

I stopped playing once I hit high school, at which point I discovered how many more fucking fun sports there actually are. Football is a terrible sport.

it's a strategy game, but not for me (1)

mjeffers (61490) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143394)

As a Starcraft player, I suck.

At my level (bronze), Starcraft is primarily not a strategy game, it's a "push buttons faster" game. The best thing I could do to improve my play is to make more stuff and spend more money. At low levels it's a game of who can make the most stuff (almost ignoring what that stuff is). If I had perfect macro, made only marines and did absolutely 0 micro I'd probably at least move out of bronze and maybe further.

Watching Starcraft is the only way I get to enjoy the game as a strategy game. When I see a player, for example, cancel a hatchery after having it scouted and then build a baneling nest on the remaining creep I can enjoy what a brilliant strategic that is. If I were to try that at my skill level I'd probably screw it up or my opponent wouldn't know how to react even if they fell for my trap.

The game I watch is almost a totally different game from the game, at my skill level, that I play.

Re:it's a strategy game, but not for me (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143642)

First of all, it's a bit hard to get into it but you should try using the full array of game controls and you'll boost up to Gold level easy even if you have low APM (Actions Per Minute). Simply putting your buildings on a hot key does wonders. Heck, there are players in the pro-level that have a mediocre APM (Axslav for example has ~80 APM), they just have well-thought out strategies and know what they're doing. Bronze yielded me some good games since everybody's trying stuff out, Silver and Gold is for cheesers and griefers it seems like.

Re:it's a strategy game, but not for me (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143702)

same here, its like watching professional soccer on TV , you want to play like them!!!

Re:it's a strategy game, but not for me (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144790)

While i agree with your general point as to why watching the game can be more interesting than playing, in bronze it is anything but a push buttons faster game...the strategy is all that matters.

I got my wife to gold just by telling her what strategies to do. You could do it without using the keyboard, no shortcuts, no hotkeys, just the mouse... because the core strategy is so important at that level.

I'm platinum at the edge of diamond, and this is still true. I have trouble against diamonds, but if my friend (a master level player), sits next to me and tell me what to do, I will crush anyone up to top diamond, easily. The APM doesn't really matter at that level.

APM -will- help you get away with not using strategy, by making your units more powerful than they should be, and by making mistakes more forgiving... but that only gets you so far.

Why I watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143450)

I watch rather than play for a couple of reasons. 1) I haven't shelled out the 60 bucks for it because of 2) I have very little guaranteed uninterrupted time (I have 2 small children) so I can't play games reliably. However I can watch day9's Funday Monday and laugh my head off, or listen to Husky spaz out in glee at something amazing that a pro has done or watch Total Biscuit berate himself for making stupid mistakes in real time. It's like watching any other sport.

Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch football) (1)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143452)

It is interesting what people like to watch and why.

It always intrigued me that a whole bunch of people who don't play football or baseball watch those things on TV.

Yet not many people watch live chess matches, etc.

Re:Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch footbal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143576)

I believe this is because Chess, while interesting to an educated viewer, is probably excessively dull for anyone who doesn't know quite a lot about chess. I'm a pretty smart guy, but I would not watch a chess match, because I would not understand anything of what they are doing and why.

Starcraft differs from this, in that there is a lot of fancy graphics and action. There is a lot of goodies going on for the people into the game, but an uneducated viewer could also enjoy it because there is a lot of action, and it's easier to "get" at minimum knowledge of the game.

Re:Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch footbal (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143588)

Chess is relatively "boring". It's gameplay is very abstract and doesn't involve a whole lot of action since it's Turn Based, it's also very focused and can be completely cast with a single camera. StarCraft is a Real-Time Strategy Game with a huge area of play, lots of possibilities and a lot more things going on at once and every caster can bring their own viewpoint, change camera's and it will be a completely different cast every time. Chess also has very few 'units' and not a whole lot of animation.

Re:Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch footbal (1)

lpp (115405) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143592)

Ordinarily I would say this is because when we sit down for entertainment, we expect a minimum rate of feedback per unit time. Things don't necessarily have to constantly be happening, but things have to happen fast enough. And even when things aren't happening for long stretches, that's why we have color commentary.

For chess, unless you have timers set short enough to speed matches up, there's not going to be that rate of feedback most folks want. Yes, some would still find it entertaining, but you have to achieve a critical mass before it becomes popular enough to warrant significant attention.

Also, there's a lot more to be gained from watching these esports than what you would get from a summation of the win results. The "box score" might say you had a 1.7:1 kill ratio, with a much higher resource capture rate, but it doesn't show how you managed it. That brilliant move in the middle game of your chess match, the one that blew open your opponent's defense? I'm going to see that in the move summary. They even have a notation for particularly unexpected moves. In essence, I can capture the bulk of the match, not only the what but the how, by looking at the equivalent of the "box score".

Re:Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch footbal (1)

bleh_fu (870974) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143790)

Not really the same thing. With the fog of war in Starcraft, information is a resource just as valuable as anything else. Come to think of it, though, adding fog of war to football and chess would prove interesting indeed...

Re:Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch footbal (3, Insightful)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143926)

I've been to a chess tournament with some of the world's top players (Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik included). The hall was packed pretty full of people watching the game boards on the big screen. So yeah, people watch even chess.

Of course chess doesn't really make a good spectator sport. One problem is the speed - a single move will take several minutes, can take half an hour even, that isn't exactly fun to watch even if you're into chess. The other problem is the level of skill involved. You have to be a very skilled player to see the reasoning behind Kasparov's moves. If you're an enthusiast, 90% of moves at that level will leave you clueless as to why they were made. This is rather different from Starcraft, where a bronze-level player may understand what the pro player is doing, or from football, where a fan can appreciate quality passing without being able to do anything remotely similar.

Re:Yet people don't watch Chess (yet watch footbal (1)

unclei (55647) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145368)

In chess, there are no psychic commandos shooting nuclear bombs.

Frustrating to Lose (4, Interesting)

DigitaLunatiC (452925) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143486)

I think another key issue is that StarCraft is one of the more frustrating games to lose for some people. When I play a game of Ultimate and my team loses, I can usually understand what mistakes we made, what plays we let go that we should have stopped and where we were outplayed. It's still disappointing to lose, but it's readily understood when it happens.

SC2, in particular, has a lot of information asymmetry between the individual players, not just the spectators and players. When I lose a match in SC2 I feel dumb. I still know there's something I should have scouted, a change I should have made in my build order, somewhere I could have had some better micro, or even when I fell behind on my macro, etc, but I don't really know what, at the moment of my defeat, I should have done differently. So I go back, and I watch, and I see all my mistakes, and I see my opponent's mistakes, and I think, "Why didn't I push then? Why did I leave this point undefended for so long? Why did I make unit x instead of unit y?"

One figures out why one lost, but one has to go through the process of watching it all over again, and watching all one's chances to win just stroll on by.

Re:Frustrating to Lose (1)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144416)

I play very little SC online, but have played other RTS games more (and now play Company of Heroes, best in the genre IMHO), and this appears to be rather common to the genre.

The key, of course, is that this is exactly how you become better. At first you're completely oblivious as to why you lost at all. Then you pick up on those things, and after a losing game are usually able to quickly identify the main reason you lost, even if you need to see the replay for subtler elements of the loss. And then eventually, you develop a good sense of when to push, of when your opponent is weak and vulnerable. As in, you learn to both actively identify those weaknesses (through scouting or whatever), as well as feel them intuitively.

The RTS genre can be frustrating because it takes a while to learn, and RTS games tend to become much more fun once you've become somewhat decent at them. For instance, I suck at SC2, and consequently the games are usually not much fun. One player launches an attack with all he has and either wins by killing the opposing army, or loses his army and then immediately loses on the counterattack. So there's typically one big attack per game and it either wins the game or leads to a loss a minute later. More fun parts of the game, like creative special ability use, constant expo harrassment and sneaky troop drops do not tend to appear until you reach a higher level (in SC2, my experience is that you need to be in Gold for the fun games to begin).

Poker (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143496)

You can probably describe the same thing in TV poker. Everyone watching can see all the players hands, and can see a train wreak coming. Players also like to think how they would react to the same plays given the amount of information.

I own the game, but play rarely, mostly because I suck.

PeepMode: SC2 mod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143596)

Interesting timing for this article. I just released a Starcraft 2 spectator mod that builds on the features of the most popular observer maps on Battle.net (currently 1v1 Obs by Slime and iCJug by Rodrigo). I am hoping to form a partnership with iCCup to apply this to pro-level ladder maps. I love watching SC2 matches, which inspired me to spend my weekends for the last few months working on this, and I am committed to adding features on an ongoing basis.


Why are they researchers if they only theorize (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143602)

I can theorize as well. Their methodology doesn't seem much more accurate than an educated guess.

As for the topic itself, from personal experience, watching has not much to do with the additional info that the audience has, because most live streams aren't good enough at highlighting such things. The players themselves are much more attuned to the timing and rhythm of their game and even if one player can't see what the other is doing directly, he is usually more expectant of it happening than the audience can be. In many cases, he knows exactly what the other player is doing with high probability be being correct without having direct knowledge of it.

To me, watching is fun because I know how to play the game. And I know that everything the pros are doing on screen takes tons of research and practice to get right. Some are physically impossible for me to do (the speed of their clicks and key presses, for example). From playing the game, I've learned to appreciate what goes into every little action I see on screen.

Re:Why are they researchers if they only theorize (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143682)

Also most people don't watch and hope for cheese. They watch hoping for a good show - some new variation on a well known strategy in the current metagame or some novel response to a build order. They want to see mind games going on without the players directly communicating with each other. None of that is information asymmetry.

Last point is, playing at anything above diamond level is exhausting. After a few games I just want to relax. Then sometimes I'll play less serious formats like custom games or 4v4 games. Other times it's good to just put on a youtube video of a game and see how pros played the build order that I or my opponent had played.

Huh? (1)

greymond (539980) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143660)

People watch people play Starcraft? Oh this is just a Korean thing...they have weird fascinations with games that other cultures don't.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36143920)

While the biggest scene is currently in Korea, Starcraft 2 has a pretty decent viewer-base outside of the country.
Last weekend's TSL finals were watched live by over 50.000 players; and was played between two Swedish players, the Koreans in the tournament were rather swiftly dispatched off.

While Starcraft is pretty much a Korean thing nowadays, this is mostly due to the Korean players having grown so much better than 'foreign' players that it's pretty much impossible to get into. Starcraft 2 is still bigger in Korea than anywhere else (IT's still eclipsed by the first game there), but the skill disparity between Koreans and non Koreans is far less significant, if not on par.

This means that there's actually interest in non-Korean games, with proper English commentary; And non-Korean tournaments with decent prize money and production value.

Re:Huh? (1)

gauauu (649169) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143954)

People watch people play Starcraft? Oh this is just a Korean thing...they have weird fascinations with games that other cultures don't.

Nope, not just a Korean thing (Although moreso a Korean thing). Starcraft 2 actually has a pretty big following of people watching it (For a video game). There's a North American [nasl.tv] pro league, a good number of English-language casters on youtube who get over 100K viewers per game they cast (like Husky [youtube.com]), and people like Day[9] [day9tv.blip.tv] who get a huge following casting games and talking about strategy.

Sure, it's small compared to mainstream things like real sports, but it's gotten surprisingly big.

Re:Huh? (1)

FrangoAssado (561740) | more than 2 years ago | (#36144438)

People watch people play Starcraft? Oh this is just a Korean thing...

Actually, a lot of [youtube.com] people [youtube.com] watch [youtube.com] other people [youtube.com] play Starcraft 2 professionally and non-professionally outside of Korea. Look at the number of views in the videos in these channels: most of them have tens of thousands, some exceed 100,000. These are just some of the biggest channels, there are many others in youtube.

Not to mention the SC2 competitions outside of Korea: MLG [majorleaguegaming.com], NASL [nasl.tv] and IPL [ign.com] -- these are the big leagues, there are many other smaller competitions going on every week.

And the dozens of SC2 streams in justin.tv and other streaming sites (TeamLiquid [teamliquid.net] has a list on the right side of the page).

It is Fun to Watch if You Know How to Play (1)

oakwine (1709682) | more than 2 years ago | (#36143786)

And I'm not that good at it; not the sharpest tool in the shed, indeed not even in the shed! But if you know in general what the pro players are doing it is fun to watch even if you do not understand why they are doing what they do. Besides which all that APM hurts my fingers!

Maybe It's Just Fun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36144056)

I remember someone asking me once why I care about football. I thought about it for a second and replied, "Why does anyone care about anything?"

Dramatic Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36145128)

I think they just rediscovered dramatic irony. Good work!

Meh (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145240)

Or, you could, you know, play League of Legends, where watching what your teammates do is actually part of the game, and thus, it appeals to both, and being a good spectator can actually help you in playing the game?

I was thoroughly unimpressed with Starcraft 2, because the developers seem almost hell-bent on refusing to innovate. If you really want to see something amazing and you're pointing your eyes at the RTS industry, be sure to take a look at the mod developers, because they've done far more impressive work.

Definition of Cheese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36145344)

That definition has to be the most positive take on cheese ever.

Commentators (1)

gratuitous_arp (1650741) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145628)

I've never played SC2, but I enjoy watching it sometimes because a talented commentator can bring so much life to the game. Having played other RTSes in the past, I can understand what's going on to a degree by myself, but a great commentary to go with a game adds so much.

By the way, it's amusing that this should be posted on FUNDAY MONDAY: look up "day9 funday monday" if you need a compelling reason why SC2 can be fun to watch.

funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36145732)

I think its funny when people watch me play. i know its whom ever i am playings friends who are on the phone with them telling them what i am building. its called cheating...duh. but i usually still win...no cheese here.

Tying It All Together (1)

SilasMortimer (1612867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36145900)

And this is why developers need two monitors. How better to keep your skills sharp than to both play and watch at the same time?

Keep your pants on. He'll get back to coding in just a minute.

Re:Tying It All Together (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 2 years ago | (#36146482)

i just watched my first ever match on justintv or something... was impressive: guy was playing sv, listening to music, streaming his game, chatting with people via IM's and on 3 websites lol. I couldn't stop cracking up when he'd switch from the game to the other screens. So, definitely having a second monitor is a big plus for this. I run no less than 2 at work and at home.

Starcraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36146266)

The key word here is Starcraft

Everyone knows no one is watching or playing Starcraft 2. Especially the Koreans.

One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36146890)


Best damn color commentator ever. Shoutcraft is one damn interesting show to watch.

Let's Play (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 2 years ago | (#36146964)

It's not just Starcraft tough. I'm not the only one who enjoys watching other people play games, that why the entire genre of "Let's Play" exist.

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