Most of us are now aware, especially after the media coverage of Blizzard's Starcraft II announcement in Korea at their Worldwide Invitational event, that competitive gaming is a big deal in other parts of the world. Watching footage from this event and other similar events definitely proves that competitive gaming could potentially takes its place in the world as a very popular and bankable industry, with its own stars, endorsements, fanbase, and culture.
Of course, efforts have been underway for quite some time to get the U.S. more interested in competitive gaming. There are a variety of leagues, a star (Fatal1ty), and even some sporadic television coverage on cable.
Last weekend marked a pretty significant milestone, however, as the World Series of Video Games was alotted a half-hour time slot on CBS.
What interests me is why exactly it has been such a struggle to get the American audience interested in competitive gaming. I know that Korea has far better broadband penetration than the U.S. and naturally this has been successful in spreading game culture. I think one also has to consider cultural and social reasons for resistance to gaming, however.
I am thinking particularly about the American view of competition and dominant forms of masculinity which govern it.
Perhaps what keeps the U.S. from embracing gaming as a competitive pursuit worth following or venerating is that it does not fit into traditional conceptualizations of masculine sporting activity. I have been desperately seeking some studies on Asian, specifically Korean, masculinity to confirm these differences.
I have also been problematizing my own perspective given the immense popularity of poker as a form of competitive gaming. Why is poker, a similarly mental non-athletic activity, accepted as a suitably masculine pursuit and not gaming? I would assert that poker player, as opposed to the stereotypical introverted nerd gamer, is culturally associated with men's men like cowboys and gangsters.
So will things change? Can gaming overcome its geeky roots in the American imaginary?