Last month, PC Gamer US issue #243: The 100 Greatest PC Games of All Time listed Eve Online in position number 12. That is a very nice feather in the cap of CCP. But as CCP's PR officer, Eldar Ástþórsson, said in an interview with News of Iceland, "Many games on this list are old and not very popular anymore, while EVE is still growing bigger and stronger, not least because of the constant development it goes through." (Emphasis mine.)
This is great news for player and developer alike. It's at times like this I can't help but feel there is a momentum behind CCP and its New Eden vision. We now have Dust, and someday, hopefully soon, we will have Valkyrie. There is a television program in the works. More has happened with the Eve universe in the past year than all the years I've played. And this keeps CCP in the news. People are noticing. Interest is growing, so it seems. But isn't there something bigger going on here?
I do not believe CCPs success is only due to CCPs diligence. Gaming as a whole seems to be coming into it's own. The winning DOTA 2 team earned over a million dollars. The League of Legends final at the Staples Center in Los Angeles sold out in less than an hour. I can watch a tournament almost any given weekend on twitch.tv and see a venue filled with paying gamers. Gaming is becoming the 21st century's contribution to professional sports.
To that end, I find myself wondering if any game company could successfully insert itself into the daily fabric of human existence as well as the National Football League or the Fédération Internationale de Football. Could we one day see game tournaments displayed on bar flat screens? Only if gaming companies stop competing where it doesn't matter. Offloading tournaments to an independent association would make the entire industry more successful in my opinion. If growth continues as it has, that will become paramount to the future success of all games that aspire to Super Bowl sized audiences.
And I'm not talking about this association being Major League Gaming. MLG is more like ESPN than the NFL or FIFA. MLG might be one of the broadcasters, but it is insufficient for promoting the sport as a whole. It is not without it's own bias. It is, after all, out to make money itself. What I'm advocating is an independent body, funded by the gaming industry as a whole and thus non-profit. It would develop and oversee the rules of competition, broadcasting, sponsorship, etc. It would be the clearing house for disputes, the coordinator of conflicting schedules and the final word, within a pre negotiated framework, for tournament (not game) rules.
Currently it seems each company goes it alone to promote their own game; using their own resources. But their agenda is the same as every other company. They want to attract fans - the players of their game. And it almost feels like they operate under the assumption each player is only interested in their game. But that isn't how we gamers operate. We all play multiple games for the most part. Some of us even play DOTA 2 while playing Eve Online... using the Eve Online mumble channel no less! How annoying is that? But that's a pet peeve. Back to the subject at hand. I myself love to watch Starcraft II tournaments while waiting for something to happen in New Eden. But I'd never play in one. I suck at Starcraft II. But that doesn't blunt my interest in it. Wouldn't it be better for the industry as a whole if we were treated as gamers in general, rather than Eve Online players or DOTA 2 players? Embrace the concept of 'and,' and it would be a more accurate reflection of what goes on in real life. Competition does not mean mutually exclusive goals.
When an infrastructure is built embracing gamers and the games they play/watch as a whole, I think it will encourage sponsors to participate more. Currently they have to independently negotiate with each company holding a tournament. Then they might have to negotiate with MLG, or twitch.tv for event advertising as well. Then there are the sponsorship contracts with the star teams. If there was a world association representing all facets of gaming, then sponsors, participants and gaming companies would only have to negotiate once to reap the rewards of consolidation. Isn't that how the NFL works? It certainly works that way for the NCAA.
Having an independent body would also give all interested parties an arbitration mechanism. Furthermore, sooner or later some player will figure out how to "dope" and gain an unfair advantage. I don't know how this would be done, perhaps neural activity enhancers like a New Eden combat booster pill, but when it does happen an association will give the industry a means for enforceable penalties. As with all sports, self-policing is vital to the future health of the industry as a whole. Current mechanisms for doing this are simply too disjointed to be effective in my opinion.
Once a unified sporting framework is established, it would serve as an anchor for all the bloggers and journalists who want to report on such events. Businesses who employ gamers and have customers who are gamers can offer League of Legend championship tickets to their best customers instead of Laker tickets - as the situation may warrant. This will likely become more prevalent as the rearguard of the 20th century retires and millennials take over business.
The only question remaining in my mind is when does Fantasy Final Fantasy take off in the office? I suppose that'll only happen if they produce a team based version of the game: something that leverages the new large scale PvP system in A Realm Reborn. I figure that'd be more likely if an independent association promoting gaming as a whole gave them a tournament framework to develop around. More important than fantasies though, this could be the feedback loop into development channels; allowing companies to stop wasting effort on unwanted content. As part of the association's mandate, it could independently poll gamers to see what they really want. For a quick guide, look at how text voting works for reality shows. That isn't done so much to determine who wins, but to guide the writers (yes, reality T.V. uses writers) on how to shape future episodes. The same mechanism could be invaluable to game companies who seem to miss more often than they hit.
Yes, gaming has come a long way since my nerd friends and I gathered at the bowling alley to best each other in Star Castle. Back then we were looked down upon as weird and possibly mental. But the best of us from then might earn thousands of real dollars today with the skills routinely ridiculed by our teachers and classmates as a waste of time. However, the industry needs to mature a bit more for full realization of its potential. It needs to take that next giant step for gaming. No one owns the game of football - either version. The gaming industry needs to not own online gaming in the same way. I think they're getting there, just a bit slowly. So hurry up would you. I'm not getting any younger.