Salem’s Fire #44: Digital Olympics


The day will eventually arrive when a mere computer game will qualify as an Olympic event. It is as inevitable as curling becoming a cult hit in the United States and beach volleyball receiving prime television time slots. Somewhere in some subcommittee of the International Olympic Committee is a scheme to bring the Olympics into the modern era with an event that will bring the attention, media coverage, and gamers. And I think I know what that event will be.

Think about the typical Olympic event. The events tend to have a few basic characteristics. Namely, they are accessible to many people around the world, and they are pretty fun to watch. Water polo can be played at many colleges across the United States and is apparently rather big in Eastern Europe. Gymnastics clinics seem to be about as popular as youth soccer fields in the United States. Where there is deep water, there is swimming. You get the idea. With a few exceptions (such as sailing), just about anyone just about anywhere could, if they really wanted to, find a way to participate in that particular sport with out going too far from home. Any digital event must meet that standard. It must be playable by anyone with access to the equipment. This is even more important in the case of the first digital event. The more people who play it, the greater the number of people who will take it seriously as an Olympic contest. Access is important.

And so is the spectator enjoyment. The event must be rated PG-13 or less. Any game containing blood and gore would probably have to be a little less than realistic to qualify. Most games let you set this to some extent, at least as far as how much blood splatters when some poor zombie finds itself missing its left shoulder. But beyond the icky factor, the game must be fun to watch when played well. Any game is boring to watch when both opponents are terrible. Likewise, nearly any game is great to spectate when both opponents know their stuff. But some are better than others. The first digital game will have to be at least as much fun to watch as curling or beach volleyball has proven to be.

With the criteria set, we can know start the process of elimination. All real time strategy do not make it out of the qualifying rounds. The entire RTS genre looses as a result of the spectator criteria. Base micromanagement does not evoke cheers from the beer drinking crowd at home.

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