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Game, Set, Match!
The Brave New World of Online Gaming

By Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman
Vol. 2, Issue 2 
November 17, 1999 

Other competitive gaming organizations use different formats. The Cyberathlete Professional Organization, the PGL’s chief competitor, recently awarded a $10,000 prize at the Frag 3 last month. At that event, CPL Founder Angel Munoz announced the largest prize yet to come, $40,000 to be awarded to the first place winner at an event to be held in Los Angeles. i2e2, launched by former PGL and CPL founders Joe Perez and Frank Cabanski, is taking yet another approach, seeking to hold events both “professional” and “amateur”, as well as online and off. To look at this in the coldest way possible, these organizations exist to make a profit off of people playing games they didn’t create. To make money off of gamers. Is it really possible?

And what about the companies making these games? id Software jumped into the competitive gaming ring this past summer with QuakeCon ’99 (held entirely offline), and Microsoft recently gave two Harley-Davidson motorcycles away at a MechWarrior 3 tournament (held both online and off). Microsoft’s Gaming Zone is a study in how to run a ultra-successful online gaming service, but not exactly the premiere place for serious competition (but if you’re looking for a mean game of Hearts, it’s the best around), the MW3 tournament aside. Starcraft, Total Annihilation, Half-Life, Tribes, Age of Empires...all these and more have been used in competitive gaming events. With the Dreamcast’s multiplayer capabilities, other games may soon be entering this arena, bringing other types of gamers with it. How do all of these developers feel about companies starting up to organize people playing their games?

Of course, there is also the issue of bragging rights. How do you really know who is the best player, when so many different formats are being used? Will someone, some organization, create a standard for ranking online gamers?

Then there is the most important question of all. What effect will all this ranking, paying out, and partnering have on the gamers themselves? We pretty much take for granted the ability to jump on a server and play without a rank or registration. Is that time nearing an end?

I don’t know the answers to the questions raised here. But this column will seek, if not to answer them, at least to explore the complicated issues surrounding them. At its most fundamental level, online gaming is about you and me. I am a gamer. I like being able to play, competitively, online. I like the rush I get when I’m winning a game of Quake, and nothing is like the hopeless despair of losing a hard-fought match. It’s a wonderful, exhilarating experience, and what fuels all of these companies, all of these organizations, all of us. Ultimately? We all just want to kick some ass. It’s the fact that we need so much structure (and cash incentives!) to do it that makes it so interesting.

I like to think I know the online gaming world fairly well at this point. This past year, I co-organized the Female Frag Fest '99, an all-female Quake 2 tournament sanctioned by the CPL, and I am a member of the Quake clan PMS. I also currently play on the OGL ladder (Quake III open division), and have participated in a number of other ladders and tournaments, including the PGL. So while I try to answer these questions, I will be doing it, not only from the perspective of a researcher and a writer like everyone else, but also as a former tournament official, and a gamer.

Let me add this. Online gaming is a very confusing, very complicated issue. I've pretty much laid out what I intend to cover in this column. If there is anything not mentioned here, any organization worth looking into, something confusing, please let me know. Online competitive gaming is ultimately about the gamers, and this column will be the same.

 

- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman needs to come up with better taglines.

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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.