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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

CNN: Pro Gamer or Addict?

CNN posted a series of articles titled "Gaming Reality" earlier this week, the first of which followed MarineKing, a Starcraft II pro gamer from South Korea. The author uses the World Cyber Games 2011 tournament as a backdrop for a discussion of gaming addiction as he takes a look at MarineKing - MKP for short - and his path to gaming stardom in South Korea. On Monday they posted a couple of followups, Blizzard's response to the original article and another which asked whether or not pro gamers should be considered athletes after some complaints about the tone of the first piece.

The original article and videos are definitely worth a look. We learn about MKP's introduction to the original Starcraft in elementary school and his parents' subsequent efforts to curtail his gaming hours. His parents eventually saw MKP's talent for what it was and decided to support his efforts to become a top pro. Interwoven with the MKP story is a bunch of information about gaming addiction in South Korea, which the video at the top of the article emphasizes more heavily than the accompanying text.

Nick "Tasteless" Plott serves as a kind of gaming community representative in the video and brings up a couple of good points. RTS games like Starcraft are akin to "real-time chess" as he puts it, requiring talent and hours of practice to master - SC2 can be a cerebral game as well as one that requires dextrous hand movements across the keyboard. He mentions that practicing SC2 for 12-16 hours per day as a pro gamer is much different than sitting a home playing WoW for hours on end, as the SC2 gamer is working to "master an intellectual sport." In MKP's case, he's also bringing in six figures a year by playing the game. It definitely seems like CNN could have focused more on WoW, or as Tasteless put it, endless games that don't have a finish line.

So are pro gamers athletes? defines an athlete as "a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill" (source). While a game like SC2 requires a lot of keyboard dexterity, a pro gamer doesn't really fit the traditional definition of an athlete. At the same time, a sport is "an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature" (source) - SC2 more or less fits the bill there. Professional athletes take sports to the next level via training and intense competition. If you jump into the pool with an Olympic athlete and challenge them to a race, you're going to get embarrassed; the same thing would happen if you grabbed a keyboard and joined a game of SC2 against MKP. We're talking about someone performing their discipline at the absolute highest level in international competition. Heck, they show the National Spelling Bee on ESPN and include highlights on Sportscenter, and 60 Minutes recently aired a piece on a chess grandmaster - given more exposure and a few years' time, we might see eSports gaining more acceptance as well.


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