Video Game Voyeurism

I’ve always liked to spectate people playing video games, ever since the ability was added in online games.  Guild Wars World Championships were to me what the World Series was to a baseball fan.  I would watch and chat with other players in observer mode  focusing on the intense Guild Versus Guild battles between the best players in the world.  Or there was that one time Nihilum did a live Sunwell Plateau (World of Warcraft) raid from four different vantage points.  Even a quick break in Team Fortress 2 to spectate a spy taking down five cart pushers can be entertaining while I chew down some air-travelled White Castles. 

I had an all-time high (or low) this weekend amassing hours of video game voyeurism via X-Fire’s live video streams.  A gamer with a good connection and computer can stream in real-time the game he or she is playing, while a chat room is created so that viewers can chat with the player and create a running peanut gallery.  This past weekend I vicariously “played” Prototype, Mass Effect, and even Darkfall.  I have never experienced any of these games, but I am already planning to buy Mass Effect.  I also have a much better feel for Darkfall watching a live stream than any “professional” reviewer can give me.  The streaming gamer is a personal performer, demoer, and spokesperson for the game.  Developers couldn’t ask for better advertising.

There was one small hitch.  The most popular and most numerous live streams seem to be World of Warcraft arena PvP.  I don’t understand this because the information to noise ratio is pitifully low when watching World of Warcraft PvP via the lowered-resolution stream.  I can only surmise that the live streams become some sort of PvP community in and of themselves.  This is not necessarily the hitch.  The hitch is I did want to see some World of Warcraft raid or dungeon, but I had to pull up each World of Warcraft stream in order to figure out what the player was showing.  Requiring a little description for each gamer’s stream would help greatly (e.g., Mass Effect just starting, WoW arenakekeke, L4D noob watch me suck).

The service is still in beta for X-Fire users, but I expect that whole communities and services could occur around this feature.  Instead of game companies performing demos at E3 for journalists, the developers could bypass and give a demo straight to the masses.  New guildies could be tutored on a raid.  Personal vendettas could be resolved.  The list is endless.  I am pretty excited about this, and maybe I will find something worthwhile to stream in the future.

on the arm of a blind man

7 thoughts on “Video Game Voyeurism”

  1. What an amazing thought for anyone thinking of buying a game, any game? Thank you Ravious!
    It’s one of those “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” things…

  2. Another incarnation of the same phenomenon is the Let’s Play videos and stories, which allow you to experience the game from a sometimes surprising point of view and without stringent requirements on your own time and/or skill. Personally, I prefer watching videos of hard platforming games, like I Wanna Be The Guy, La Mulana or the various Super Mario World hacks.

  3. You forgot to mention the EvE Alliance Tourney. It’s by far one of the best uses of gaming spectatorship out there. Definitely worth a look.

  4. If they could just find a compression program that would make this stuff possible on the iPhone over the 3g network…

  5. This is a planned feature for OnLive. Since even the game you’re playing is just a video stream, feeding you the video stream of any other player is fairly trivial.

    Also didn’t Blizzard recently partner up with ESL to offer live Arena PVP matches?

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