Pro gamers recognized as pro athletes

The US has officially recognized pro-gamers as ‘professional athletes eligible for a P-1A visa’. Well, I don’t think anyone taking advantage of that will be coming to Historicon any time soon…but among the Massive Online Gaming Community, those with elite abilites are starting to achieve rock star status.

The business model that has emrged is the “free-to-play” entry – but incorporating micro-monitized enhancements to aid better players to play even better. Noobs can play at pedestrian levels with their friends in a typical social interaction focused manner, but when they “get good” they can open thier wallets to try to compete to get in the “next tier” of ability, which then opens the next tier up..until you climb the ladder to elite status.

And I mean LEET!

The League of Legands Word Championships attracted 32 million VIEWERS (not players – but just looky-loos watching on It also SOLD OUT the Staples center in LA. Game seven of the 2013 NBA finals had 26 million viewers… In Japan, Korea, and increasingly China, its even more wildly popular.

And LoL is just one of over a dozen MMOGs that pull in over 100M$ a year. I am probably over 100$ a year over 6 years now playing World Tour Golf (I’m a Tour Master, but not “virtual Master’s” material (they have $100,000 dollar purse this year)…). My set of virtual clubs set me back 50 real dollars…and I need a new putter (15$!). But anybody can have fun in the game with “free” clubs and balls, you just hit “normal guy” 220 yard drives and guestimate the “pitch and roll” while my sticks puch out 300+ yards and my wedges let me hit the green safely and “pull the string” to roll back 4 or 5  yards for an easy bird 🙂

I stayed away from World of Warships and World of Tanks so my daughter could go to college 😉

So, enough about my virtual golf skillz…one of the big problems with professional wargaming is the long blocks of time that have to be allocated to play games of suitable length. Is there anything to be learned from MMOG gaming business models that could incentivise and “keep bringing back to the game” personnel you want involved in a long term gaming project? Is there a”professoinal development point” system you could use to incentivise play? A way to structure game play so meaningful contributions could be made in an hour or less of real time? Is there a correlary to the micro-monitization to “keep the riff-raff” out of the higher tiers and both reward high achieving players AND find a way to demonstrate ROI to keep such a project going?

Or can such games be used to examine issues of decision-making under intense time pressure and risk of public humiliation (as a surrogate for wartime violence)?

Can we learn anything from watching people from other cultures play? Or are twitch-and-click fests a universal arena that transends cultural boundaries?

Food for thought…

…and if you fancy yourself a virtual golfer…I’m pveb on!

About Paul Vebber

"If you read about something, you have learned about it. If you can teach something, you have mastered it. Designing a useful game about something however, requires developing a deep understanding of how it relates to other things."
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