Only a few short years ago, video games were seen as toys adolescents wasted thier summers on, but as an entire generation has grown up, so have their video game tastes. Now, gaming is ready for prime-time and has warranted the creation of Major League Gaming to represent the popularity of the professional gaming circuit here in the States.
I gathered a group of my friends and fellow StarCraft II fans and we attended the MLG season opening in Dallas this past weekend. We headed out expecting to see a full-throttle, professional StarCraft experience, but instead ran into a poorly organized event that left us all wishing the MLG and Activision-Blizzard took professional gaming more seriously.
When we arrived on Friday, everything ran as smoothly as expected. We saw some intense SCII action as the pros battled it out against each other to determine seating order in the tournament brackets. The commentators, DJ Wheat and Day9 were in rare form as they both entertained and brought excitement to the matches on the main stage.
We got up on Saturday talking over breakfast about the matches from the previous night and how we were going to attempt to emulate the strategies we saw into our own games. We whipped ourselves up into a mad whirlwind of pure StarCraft hype and could not wait to return. After spending lunch playing arcade games at Dave and Busters, we headed back to the Dallas Convention Center with just enough time to nab some good seating for the main stage.
At 5pm, when the professional tournament was scheduled to resume nothing happend. After 6pm rolled around with absolutely no word about what was going on, we were left to wonder and speculate with the other fans as to the problem. We contained ourselves for a few more hours as the commentators livecasted some replays until when at around 9pm, they finally brought up a live match on the main stage. We were pretty ravenous for some StarCraft II at this point and instantly forgave the MLG for leaving us out to dry for so long.
The players began their match only to be stopped a few minutes in due to lag. They tried to resume, but the lag still persisted, so they were forced to cancel the game on the main stage and move it to one of the other stations. We were outraged. It was only the second day of the tournament, we had been forced to wait for several agonizing hours, and there was still absolutely no communication from the MLG as to what was going on. Rumors circulated about how the ISP they were using was having problems, but no official word ever came out.
The real problem here is that StarCraft II has no LAN support. You are forced to keep an open internet connection so that the game can ping Battle.net every so often and if you should lose internet connectivity, the game will either lag or pause completely depending on how long you lose it. So, even though you own the game, Activision-Blizzard will not let you play it if you can’t constantly ask them for permission.
We had waited all of Saturday for the real tournament to begin only to be subjected to the technical difficulties of the MLG unable to comply with Activision-Blizzard’s absurd Battle.net policy. And this was not the first time. Last year, the championship match also experienced the very same problems. You would think the MLG capable of taking itself seriously enough to have these types of problems worked out, but apparently not.
What promised to be a fun weekend excursion devolved into waiting for nothing. After spending a decent chunk of money on gas and hotel rooms getting to Dallas, this was unacceptable so we went to politely ask for a refund. All the MLG said to us was ‘sorry about that’ before they refused to refund us our ticket prices.
Lets trace the chain of events here, shall we?
Someone at Activision-Blizzard says, “Hey, we need to have complete oversight whenever someone plays StarCraft II. I know! Let’s forget taking the 15 minutes to create a LAN mode and make everyone connect to Battle.net! Plus, they will love having to connect to yet another social network!”
Then someone at MLG says, “We need to have StarCraft II at our events. We will need to have constant internet connection, so we will just trust our ISP and local network infrastructure to handle itself without really testing anything.”
Then when the event comes up and the MLG network traffic gets slammed so hard that SCII games start lagging, the MLG guy says, “It’s not our fault! It’s the ISP! Besides, its only a video game. No harm, no foul, right?”
I realize that there are a lot of factors here that stopped the MLG from broadcasting a game from the main stage, but seriously, they need to take their pro circuit more seriously. Video games are not just toys anymore. They require a tremendous level of skill that many of us will pay to watch those who have mastered it.
As it stands, the MLG and Activision-Blizzard need to work together to resolve these issues with StarCraft II. Both of their reputations will be hurt if they continue to let these kinds of failures circulate around. I know that I will not be going back to a live MLG event and if you were considering going, be aware that they may not treat you with the seriousness you deserve.
We are gamers and our professional events deserve all the attention and care other sporting events get!