First blog entry from me, so stay patient. It's going to be a long one and prolly not very well structured.
I've been following StarCraft for a long period now. And I do mean a long period. At first I didn't liked the game to be honest. In my mind, I had this idea that all RTS games should be about knights and mages, orcs and goblins and all that sort of rubbish. I did played WarCraft I : Orcs vs. Humans and both WarCraft IIs, and they're mainly at fault for this perception of mine. I have touched Dune 2 briefly. Enough to beat the game and move on basically, since it had no way of competing in it. But like I was saying - StarCraft didn't really "moved" me, the first time I touched it. I just beat the campaigns of the original ones and moved on. Went on to play other games at that time.
Eventually the expansion pack came out and I was stunned how difficult and hard it was. I mean the missions themselves. Keep in mind that this was long time ago, so I was still a young noob, playing mainly with my mouse and barely touching the keyboards. It almost made me angry at the game.
So I went out to vent and met up with some of my friends. We sat down, ordered some refreshing drinks and I started complaining about Blizzard ruining the whole genre with their latest creation. My friends were also very passionate gamers and PC games were usually our main topic of discussion during our little meetings over coffee and coke. One of them bugged about how much of a noob I am, since I can't even beat the Brood War campaigns. In truth, I was somewhere close to finishing the Protoss campaign at that time, but was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of units the AI kept sending my way, so I quit trying.
I knew I was a noob, but that friend of mine was someone I typically beaten on every type of game imaginable out there, that had some sort of multiplayer in it. You name it - from FIFA to Colin McRea Rally to WarCraft I and II to whatever else comes into your head. So I took it seriously. One simply does not call me a noob if he has had his ass kicked gazillion times by me. Kinda obvious.
I issued a challenge to my friend, to meet me in one week time in a nearby game hall (something simliar to Internet cafe or PC Bang) in a "deadly" 1v1 on StarCraft Brood War. Our friends helped us settle the map quite quickly - The Hunters, so I knew what I had to practice on. I was surprised that they even knew the name of a map in that game. It turned out that they were playing it via dial-up modem connection back then.
The day came rather quickly. I was playing only vs. AI for my practice, but I've started using hotkeys and all that fancy stuff. My APM was prolly still about 30, but whatever. At least I knew what key the Dragoon Range was. I barely managed to scrape the win and that made me realize that this game is hard for a reason. It takes effort and skill to be good at it. And practice too ! By accident alone, I was able to figure out my opening build order back then. It was 8-Pylon, 10-Gate and then 12-Gate.
Anyways, back to the main point - eSports is made out of skill and effort. And that's why we love it.
But you see, RTS ain't my main thing to be honest. To be frank, I play more Sports game like Virtua Tennis 4 and FIFA/PES then RTS games. My main passion however are the Racing games. The proper ones - the sims. The ones that require a lot of skill and effort. Hardware too.
So, can virtual sim-racing be enjoyable and something people would watch, even if they're not madly passionate about that game type ? That is my main question. And to quickly clear things - I'm watching a lot of SC:BW, SC2 and HoN streams and I've stopped playing the StarCrafts because they require a ton of time to master. I can't play these two like I play PES for example - just for fun. There's something in that competition there, the ladder or iCCup's ranking, that is just forcing me to want more and more and more of it. Ladder fear is something I've never had. Much rather the opposite case with me - once I see some sort of competition, I gotta have a go at it. And to enjoy those two, I'd need to master them and that requires inhuman effort out of me, so I'm just sticking to watching them as a spectator.
But sim-racing ? Oh yeah ! That can be fun and challenging at the same time. The point is - can it be a valid eSports, just like SC ? Or do you have to be strongly attached to it and a fan of the genre, to be a regular viewer ?
With the recent boredom that comes out of Formula 1, the WRC and pretty much every other racing series, with all their restrictions and regulations and safety measures, I recon virtual sim-racing has a proper shot at gaining audience. With the infinite safety net that no one can be killed or injured during a virtual race, people that are racing, are pushing themselves to the limit ... and then some more. With the lack of real cost to run in these leagues, drivers can be sure that they will have a spotless car each time they leave the pits and not wonder "Hey did that guy tighten my wheel nut all the way or ... ?!".
To those that say that this is nothing more then a sofa-driving - just don't even go there. In recent years, the technology has come along leaps and bounds. Even the cheapest wheel nowdays has proper FeedBack, which gives quite the realistic feel. And you need to feel that feedback, coz if you don't, you won't know when you're about to loose control of the back end of your car and you're going to crash. And then comes the endurance factor. 12 hours at Spa ? 24 hours at Le Mans ? Yep, those races exist in their real time format equivalent over at the sim-racers. And there's even more of that kind.
But even if that's not enough to convince you into the blood and sweat that is put in by the sim-racers into those competitions, just try an hour long race yourself, even with the aids turned on and driving with your keyboard. Oh, and driver aids are banned from online competitions, so ... I hope you get the picture.
So, the skill and the effort are there, on equal pairing. Same goes with the practice as well. The only thing lacking is the casting then. Or is it ?
I actually has been there for quite awhile now and I'm a bit surprised how these communities have managed to grow it, without being in direct contact with each other. Sure, the pure amount of SC casters has helped SC casting to grow on itself quite successfully, but that's not the case with sim-racing. Maybe it's a bit of a problem. But I'm sure you'll quickly forget about it after you watch a race or two and you start to enjoy yourself, watching some excellent driving, overtakes and compete fuck ups by the competitors.
Here are some "small" examples of what I mean :
+ Show Spoiler [A race highlight video] +
+ Show Spoiler [Full race broadcast (Championship deci…] +
So can sim-racing exist as an eSports or is it just for "sofa-driver-nerds" ?