Amazon recently announced it was paying a billion dollars to acquire Twitch, a social network built around people watching other people play video games online. Commentator Luke Burbank is not sure what to make of this:
Let me start off by saying, I've always been really bad at video games. Growing up, I'd spend hours watching my friends finding the princess, racking up points and extra lives. Meanwhile, when it was my turn, it was pretty much "game over" as soon as the first weird mushroom Goomba man showed up.
So if there's one thing I have a LOT of experience with, it's watching other people play video games. And let me tell you: it's boring. Extremely boring.
That's why I was so shocked to read of Amazon's recent acquisition of Twitch, a wildly successful online service that allows people to basically re-create the trauma of my childhood, by watching other people play video games . . . all day long.
- Video games come of age as a spectator sport
- Amazon aims to become ESPN of video games with Twitch deal
- The new face of video gaming: Women outnumber teenage boys (CBS News, 08/23/14)
And it turns out it's not just Twitch -- there's actually a huge and growing market for video games as spectator sport.
Live tournaments can sell out arenas, like the Staples Center in L.A.
Childhood issues aside, here's the part I don't get: If video games are themselves a notorious time-waster, why exactly would someone want to watch someone else waste their time?
What's next? A network that lets you watch other people scroll through their Facebook news feed? Or binge-watch "Orange Is the New Black?"
The amazing thing about this digital age is that it allows us observe all kinds of things, all around the world, that we otherwise wouldn't be able to see. And if we squint hard enough, it almost seems like it IS the real world. But isn't. And I think we've got to remember that.
The real world has a smell and a feel to it that still can't be recreated online, or in any game.
And here's a fun fact: Did you know the real world is broadcasting in 3-D? All the time? I know, amazing!
The hard thing about the real world is that there isn't a controller for it. You can't just move people around with your super strength, or jump over things if they're in your way. The real world is a game you spend your entire life trying to master -- and probably never will. It's full of heartbreak and triumph and genuinely terrifying moments.
And it remains, for now anyway, the most interesting game any of us will ever play.
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