E-sports and game streaming: Twitch kills it at E3, Xbox One gets Major League Gaming app

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When the World Cup started last week I saw a lot of pushback in my social media feeds. Now I'm a geek and most of my friends on social networks are geeks as well, so I guess it's somewhat understandable how a sudden deluge of marketing surrounding a sporting event could put them off. These friends of mine tell me they just don't get the appeal of sports.

What's strange to me, though, is that a lot of them love Twitch.tv. Twitch, if you're not familiar, is a streaming video site dedicated to watching people play games, sometimes casually and sometimes in formal e-sports competitions. Now it's my turn to say I don't get the appeal. To me video games are meant to be played, not watched. Others disagree and e-sports seem to be here to stay. In fact Robert Morris University in Illinois has just added League of Legends to its varsity athletic program and in fact if you're a good enough LoL player you might get a scholarship (up to 50% tuition and 50% room and board) out of it!

I have to be honest and say that this kind of baffles me as I'm still struggling to accept e-sports as an activity. That doesn't mean I'm not a fan of Twitch though, because I am. I just am drawn more to streams that are about gaming, rather than streams of games.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, so let me give an example. I'm not interested in watching a League of Legends match, but I'd be really happy to tune in to listen to the developers talk about some of the design decisions behind LoL. Another example? During E3 I was watching developer interviews and game demos on Twitch constantly.

Apparently I was in good company. Earlier this week Twitch released the following infographic about viewership during E3. Now not all the traffic reported was for E3, but Twitch's PR Director told me about 40% of the content being streamed from June 9th-12th was E3 related.

I was just happy that Twitch stepped in to take up the slack now that TV coverage of E3 is drying up (in past years Spike TV, and before that G4TV, would offer days of E3 coverage).

twitch_infographic.jpgSource: Twitch.tv
Twitch viewing during E3

I have tried to 'get into' e-sports but as mentioned, so far haven't had much success. I think part of the problem is that I just don't understand the nuances of the games being played. That issue applies to all sports though. If you don't understand the rules and strategies of any sport it just looks like chaos. (As someone who recently starting watching cricket I speak from experience.) But the other part of the problem is scheduling and consistency. I think for me to latch on to an e-sport I need to find a team to be "my team" and cheer them on, and I find that difficult on Twitch where matches seem to be played all over the place; on different Twitch channels and at seemingly random times. (I'd love someone to correct me here and point me to a schedule for e-sports on Twitch.) But now I have a new plan to get myself hooked on e-sports. Yesterday Microsoft announced a Major League Gaming app for the Xbox One (the app is also available on the Xbox 360). They've timed this release to coincide with the Major League Gaming Championship where $150,000 in prize money is up for grabs, and for noobs like me a schedule of the competition is available. This is just what I've been looking for, so this weekend I'm going to check out some of the Championship competitions.

This is all new ground for me. If any of my readers are e-sports aficionados I'd love some guidance. Is Major League Gaming the place to watch, or are their better leagues out there, and if so when and where can I watch them?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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