Essence of a Spectator Event
It's not always polite to get all philosophical and shit...but one must ask...what is a spectator sport? What are the inherent and ubiquitous requirements for something to be regarded as a spectator sport?
Well, you need a competition and you need spectators. That's about it. In its base form as long as someone is watching a group of somethings or someones engaging in some sort of competition than yessiree that something is a spect sport.
Take this game known as "Pooh Sticks" from the smash hit television show Winnie Da Pooh,
Pooh Sticks Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q0gectxDNQ&t=3m12s
Now, some might question whether racing sticks down a river is really a spect sport...yet in this fictional case the spectators do seem to be enjoying themselves as they watch the sticks race down the river.
|F Apple, F Orange. GO BANANA!|
As long as the viewer doesn't know what the end result is...then it's great fun to watch it unfold. Yet, Pooh Sticks and Fruit Racing are just primitive forms of spect sports. To up the enjoyment of the spectators watching the event you need to up some key factors.
1. The Skill
2. The Drama
3. The Stakes
1. What if the sport in question wasn't a random event between sticks and other inanimate objects? What if two or more humans decided to test their skills at something against each other? It would make the event more enjoyable to watch. The more the skills are of a legendary nature the better. I know I can't hit a 500 foot homerun, so when I saw with my own two eyeballs both Henry Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero do it live...I was like "holy shit, man. He hit that ball really really far." That is The Skill, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.
2. I know wrestling is fake but that doesn't mean I still didn't enjoy watching my boy Bob Backlund back in '94 put that pretty boy jabroni Bret "The Pink Boy" Hart in the inescapable Cross-Face Chicken-Wing until Bret's mommy had to throw in the towel so her precious little baby boy wouldn't get his precious little arm broken. I knew it was a shtick but it didn't stop me from cheering on Backlund, laughing at that diaper-baby Bret Hart, and thoroughly enjoying the whole thing. You know what that is? That's The Drama, that's what that is.
3. Sometimes your pride is on the line, sometimes your wallet is on the line, maybe the belt is on the line, even your career might be on the line...or is it something even greater that is on that line? There will come a time where maybe you are traveling through a great wasteland in a post-apocalyptic future and you may stop by at a barter town governed by Tina Turner....and maybe you'll wind up fighting in some manner of a "Thunder Dome" where a midget riding on the shoulders of a giant retarded man will be your opponent. You know what will be on the line in that case scenario? Yeah, your friggin' life, dude. That's what I call...The Stakes.
Sometimes the stakes are just too high and you gotta back outta the deal...
There's a great divide between how people regard this film. Some look at it as a horrible film which boiled down to being a 2 hour long info-merical for Nintendo to promote some crappy products it was hawking (i.e. The Power Gluv). Other people (me included) view this as the movie which initiated the template for Retro Gaming as a Spectator Sport.
The picture starts out a little slow, but after the scene where Beau Bridges starts smashing up a car with a shovel...the audience gets pretty pumped...and it really starts gettin' goin'.
This movie changed the way I played video games. I used to in pre-1989 days play video games in an area where behind me was a sofa, a table, and some wood paneling on a wall. Yet, when I played Mario 3 after seeing this Masterpiece...I never played to an audience of wood paneling ever again. That wood paneling before my very eyes morphed into 12,000 screaming people...12,000 screaming people watching me play Super Mario Bros. 3 in the depths of my mind. After gettin' 3 stars in row and getting the 5 Up screen...I didn't turn to wood paneling to raise my fist, I didn't turn to the sofa and acknowledge its feverish applause...no way...I turned to the 12,000 screaming people to raise my fist...I got those 5 Ups for the people!
The Wizard changed the game.
Competitive gaming has had a good spotlight in the form of some very well made documentaries that have been done in the last decade. King of Kong and Ecstasy of Order: The Masters of Tetris are good examples.
Kong features the rivalry between one Steve Wiebe and one Billy Mitchell, while Ecstasy showcases various Tetris legends including Thor Aackerlund.
Now before we get any further, it should be noted that being a movie that wanted a certain formula to itself, The King of Kong obviously shticked it up a bit. The rivalry was intensified as the hero/baby-face/white-cowboyhat (Wiebe) was pitted against the villain/heel/black-cowboyhat (Mitchell) character.
Anyone who knows movies knows that you don't have a movie without a good villain character and Billy Mitchell is one of the best on-screen villains I've ever seen. Even if the fans of the film identify with and root for Steve Wiebe...it was not Wiebe who made this film what it is...Billy Mitchell made this film what it is. I know it'd be weird to give an Oscar to a documentary film actor due to the fact that people don't act in documentaries but the King of Kong to me has so many Spinal Tap elements to it that it's not exactly a straight up documentary....it's a movie. That being said, I was somewhat astonished that Billy Mitchell did not get nominated for any Oscars for his portrayal of "Billy Mitchell" in the King of Kong.
The second example mentioned, Ecstasy of Order: The Masters of Tetris, is a more straight doc than movie. I think they at some point fiddled with the idea of making Thor Aackerland a heel but probably scrapped the idea. Thor looks like he's a good candidate for heel throughout the film by constantly claiming to be able to get to the holy grail of level 30 in Tetris but never offers any proof to these claims. You think he's being worked as the "Billy Mitchell" of Tetris...but then they get into his backstory and you start to really like the guy...and then at the very end of the movie....guess what? I don't wanna spoil it but...ok I will...(SPOILER) at the end of the movie that fucking Thor gets to level 30 in Tetris and your face will be all like "No WAY, he actually can DO IT!!!!!? WOW!" (/SPOLIER)
Masters of Tetris is still an interesting look at retro gaming and the whole scene and it is great that it gives good screen time to the two female masters of Tetris (one of which is a pretty cute lesbian). Maybe you were thinking that retro gaming is all ugly old male nerds but there's some chicks doin' this too.
Twin Galaxies vs. Speed Demon Archives
In the King of Kong film we are also introduced in to an institution which is dedicated to documenting feats of skill in video game history. What I can't figure out is whether the "Walter Day" character being presented here was actually himself (i.e. a real dude) or not. Was it a shtick? Was that pretentious demeanor all an act? I don't think his character was shticked-out at all to be perfectly honest. The pretentiousness and general oddness of this "video game referee" and self declared "authority" of video game records seems to be the real deal. I don't think it's an act.
To me the fact that the Mario 1 records are not even counted on Twin Galaxies because of "glitches exploited" by the gamers is so silly. The record on Twin Galaxies for Mario 1 is listed as being 5:08....they don't even accept the fact that now TWO human beings have cracked 5 in Mario. What kind of fucking bullshit is this? Twin Galaxies can go fuck itself.
I keep up to date with the masters of retro gaming and the video game heroes of the age with that great site Speed Demon Archives Dot Org.*
Twin Galaxies? I have no respect for your operation...not in the least.
* Note: All these years I thought this site was called Speed Demons Archive but it looks like there's no "N" and it's actually Speed Demos Archive which sounds suuuuuuuuuper lame. Whatever though, it's still better than Twin Galaxies.
So This Retro Gamin'...Is It?
Is retro gamin' a Skill? Look, kids these days don't know what we went through. These days the companies make the games at an enjoyable difficulty for all ages so they can get the widest audience range and sell the most units. Back in my day, gamin' was brutal on your eyes, mind, n' brain. Yo, if your kid could beat Mega Man 2 at 10 years old back in the day....you had to get on the phone with Mensa as soon as it occurred to let them know that society had a "prodigy" on its hands and hope to the heavens that the child didn't mature into an evil genius. If you had a kid who could get 500K points in Tetris you were obliged to fill out a government report indicating that you had a "biological weapon" in your premises because many world governments of the era classified a brain of that magnitude as a nuclear threat to civilization.
Fuck, man. Watchin' a dude like Gardikis or the newly crowned Mario King runnin' through a Mario 1 game and seeing all the roll-stoppin', the quick-housin', the back-tubin', the 21n frame masterin', the pirahna clearin', and the threadin' of the the needles. You can see that and pretend that what is happening isn't a skill? I don't think so, pal.
A basketball player who can hit big threes gets into a "zone," a baseball hitter who can in a split milli-second pick up a 96 mile an hour fastball and jack it down the left-field line is in a "zone," what about a Tetris Master who can achieve 290+ lines, a 999,999 MAXIMUM score, and get the level 29 variable to switch over to level 00...is he in the Zone?
Oh yes, he's in the Zone. He truly is.
What is the Zone? Have you been there? Have you ever got so good at something that your brain became so efficient at it that you actually forget your even doing it while your doing it? That's the Zone. It's like...you just beat Mario 2 in like 10 minutes and you think to yourself afterwards...
"Wow, I just beat Mario 2 in the last 10 minutes but I wasn't even thinking about it. I was thinking about that one time my friend threw a full milk shake all over my other friend and I started to laugh and laugh...I wasn't even thinking about Mario 2 at all whilst I beat it in the last 10 minutes."
-A theoretical quote from someone that was "in the Zone."It seems as if your brain has found such an efficient way to accomplish a given task that it deems that the only thing that can get in the way at this point in achieving the task is over-thinking the situation, so naturally the brain distracts itself from thinking unnecessary thoughts and it accomplishes this feat by making itself think of things not related to the matter at hand whilst the matter at hand is efficiently taking care of on auto-pilot. Wow.
Take Exhibit A over here...
|Climbing ladders...or something much much more?|
Luigi has climbed up a ladder (narrowly avoiding being shot) and now has come to TWO ladders...one on the left and one on the right. Now...whether you chose left or right HAS NO BEARING on the outcome of the situation. Yet, your brain will take a few miliseconds/frames to ponder whether to choose left or right. Why would the brain waste valuable frames deciding on an action on a situation in which both paths lead to the same outcome? Because our brains are stupid, that's why. Yet when you're in The Zone, the brain doesn't deal with that shit...it just bounces up a ladder (ANY LADDER) and gets where it's gotta go.
Damn, when we're not in The Zone...it's almost like we're these victims of some sort of a collision on the open seas as our brains struggle to make routine decisions which ultimately have ZERO bearing on the future. Call it obsessive compulsive disorder, call it fear of choice, call it what you want. It reminds me of that dog who found these two bones this one time in Ancient Rome and he picked at one and then he licked the other...and then he literally went in circles until he dropped dead.
Oh man, Video games are hard work sometimes.
People say video games aren't for real because they are just "games" and games aren't for real. Games can for real too though...like basketball, soccer, baseball...people know those games are for real. If you told a retro master gamer that he or she is just playing a "game," I'd bet they'd disagree with you. When your that good at something it's no longer a game anymore for you to enjoy leisurely. Let legendary relief-pitcher/philosopher John Wetteland expalin this phenomenon,
"[Baseball is not a game] for me. It’s something I need to execute. There’s a whole different perspective I have and that’s why maybe I can’t enjoy it the same way. I only watch baseball to learn from it, not to enjoy it."Mario Runners, Tetris Masters, Donkey Kong Experts, Pac Man Wizards, Asteroid Champions...these people don't play these "games" to enjoy them...they play them to find the most effective way to function. They execute functions in a divine flow is what they do, they do not "play" them at all. They find the most efficient series of functions to execute in order to create a Flying Divinity of Mental Togetherness which becomes an awe inspiring event for spectators to see. You better believe it.
Now let me ask you this, does it got The Drama? Yeah, it does.
Riddle me this, if King of Kong was about just Steve Wiebe beating Donkey Kong and getting the highest score ever would you have watched it to the end? I wouldn't have. I watched that movie because of Billy Mitchell. Why did I watch it because of Billy Mitchell? Because he's Billy Mitchell.
"...Because I'm Billy Mitchell." -Billy Mitchell
All that's left is The Stakes. Some compete for the money, some for the fame, some for the thrill...but some just compete to be the best....the best that there never even was. There can only be one "The Best" and you're either it or your not. You're either Thor Aackerlund or you're not. What are the stakes in retro-gaming? What do you think?
It's about being the fucking greatest.
We know retro-gamin' has the skillz, the drama, and the stakes. All its missing is a venue and some media attention. It needs a place to compete, some camera people, some key grips, some dolly grips, and a handful of announcers and play-by-play people. That's it.
Years ago, a man named Chairman Kaga went through gallons of blood, sweat and tears to build his one-of-a-kind Kitchen Stadium to give a venue for his Iron Chefs to compete against all challengers this World had to offer.
Retro Gamers of all corners of this World of Worlds are asking themselves at this very moment...where's our Chairman Kaga? Where's our Video Game Stadium? When will I get to show the world my ability? When is it my turn to shine on the global stage?
When will the 7 Iron Gamers assemble on Television in the famed Retro Gamin' Stadium and do battle? That's the question on everyone's mind.