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Vol. 2, Issue 2
November 17, 1999

Game, Set, Match!

The Brave New World of Online Gaming

by Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman




nline competitive gaming. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? People go online, and play competitive computer games. But when you factor in the people, organizations, egos, and money involved, the world of online competitive gaming gets very complicated.

At the heart of online gaming are the people who log on every night and hangout playing whatever game they play with their friends online. You can find them on ladders like the Online Gaming League, on services like HEAT.NET, and playing in online tournaments. What is it about gaming that keeps them coming back, upgrading their computers to make them better at the games, shelling out wads of cash for the fastest possible Internet access, practicing for hours on end to get that perfect rocket jump?

Then there are the gamers who have earned the tag “Professional” or “Cyberathlete.” They have made something of a career out of winning tournaments both online and off, and are now sponsored gamers, paid to play. There aren’t many of these people, the most well-known being Dennis “Thresh” Fong, but thousands are trying to join him every day, every time they start up a match. A few years ago Thresh seemed as amazed as everyone else that he was making a living playing games. Now it’s just part of a day’s work. What is the life of a “Professional” gamer really like?

It all started a few years ago, when this curiosity popped up on the horizon. It was called the Professional Gamers League, and for a small fee, you could compete in their online league over a gaming service called TEN. The league finals would be held live, with finalists being flown in to compete. And there would be prize money for the winners. Not just prizes, or a new computer...this was a chance to win cold hard cash. Theoretically, the PGL pointed out, if you won every "season" (the idea being there would be four a year), you could live off of the leagues. Hundreds of people signed up and competed in the events. But TEN wasn’t exactly the best of services, and paying a fee to play was restrictive to a good number of people. People stopped paying attention to the PGL, to the point that their last event came and went without many noticing. Then TEN shut down, or turned into POGO.com, an entirely different kind of online gaming service, and certainly not one that would run servers for games like Quake (the game most commonly used in these events).

Rumors flew about the PGL being closed, about it not being possible to run a business doing these events. loonygames spoke with PGL Press Secretary Garth Choteau, who assured us that the PGL is not, in fact, closed, and that they will even be at Comdex this week with sponsored players Kornelia, Sybek and K9-Gloucester playing Quake III: Arena in the Acer booth. The league itself is currently on official hiatus, and the PGL is looking at “a number of prospective partners,” presumably other online gaming services. The PGL is, by league design, dependent on online gaming services to provide servers for their games to be held on. Will the PGL find a suitable partner? Or will the PGL be forced to change format or fold?

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Game, Set, Match! is © 1999 Stephanie Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you dolt.