Spectator Mode
I decided to amuse myself last weekend by watching the 2013 EVO tournament. EVO, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is short for the Evolution Championship Series, the premier fighting game tournament held yearly in Las Vegas. While watching, two of my sisters walked in the room (for what I can't remember, probably something dumb) and almost instantly got caught up in the action. Neither of them had played a fighting game before--actually, I think one of them did some button mashing in Soul Calibur 2, but I'm not sure if that counts--yet they were instantly caught up in the action and were cheering for LordKnight to defeat Yume in the Persona 4 Arena finals. When you can get people who don't even play video games (beyond the occasional Android app) hooked on your hardcore gaming event, you're doing something very right. I personally believe that EVO is the example that pro gaming companies should aspire to emulate.

The biggest issue with pro gaming coverage is that it only appeals to one demographic: gamers. More specifically, it only appeals to the gamers who play the particular game being covered. Good luck trying follow the action in StarCraft 2 or League of Legends if you're not familiar with that gameplay style. On the other hand, fighting games are generally pretty simple. Two dudes hit each other with fists, feet, or guided missiles until one of their life bars has been depleted. Unless it's a particularly flashy game like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the action is easy to follow.

The commentators at the EVO events also add a lot of context to the matches. They know who the players are, and do a great job of telling their stories, trials, and tribulations. Instead of just watching two generic nerds battle it out, I was feeling a little "salty" myself when Infiltration eliminated his training partner Laugh in the Street Fighter IV tournament, and I was cheering when Reynald came from behind to take the crown in King of Fighters XIII. It also helps that when describing the action, they do as good a job as they can of breaking down the fights in simple terms. You won't understand everything, but you won't need a Wikipedia article to follow along either.

I hope that eventually more pro gaming companies and commentators will follow the examples set by EVO if they're interested in growing their audience beyond just die-hards. Then again, there are those who are fine with the status quo of pro gaming events by gamers for gamers. If that's all they aspire to be, then they have to do nothing more than hope they've hooked into the ecosystem of a very popular game, like League of Legends. To grow further into the mainstream market--and mainstream coverage and money--pro gaming needs to expand. EVO is doing it.
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This is an interesting point you raise, and one that I agree with completely.

We actually had a very similar discussion on The Rival Cast about two weeks ago, how pro gaming needs to draw in bigger audiences if it ever wants to be taken seriously outside the bounds of the gamer community, and we came to the same conclusion you have. Obviously there are a lot of technical issues at play, and bringing broadcasts of games such as Starcraft 2, TF2, CS: GO, and the other more complex games will be very tricky, but it sounds like EVO has started down the right path with fighting games. In fact, I can see how fighting games would be exactly the way to begin. As you said, they are relatively simple to follow, 1v1, and anyone can see the progress being made even if you don't play the game yourself. However, I think you hit on an even more important point discussing the commentators. I firmly believe that good, consistent, and easy to follow commentary is the key to expanding pro gaming coverage. People that can take complex games and make them approachable and fun to watch are what will draw in new viewers and expand the e-sports market. We need our own Brent Musberger, Al Michaels, Howard Cosell, and yes, John Madden. People that can make the games fun and accessible to the common viewer. Men and women that can break down the strategies, humanize the players, and build narratives around games.

The same people that can call gaming a hobby without recognizing the skill of pro gamers will often have their own sport that they take seriously, be it football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or whatever. Those games are no less frivolous at heart, but narratives have sprung up around them. People live and die with their teams. Rivalries cross the nation and give meaning and pride to entire communities. The storied battles of the Yankees and the Sox, Ohio State and Michigan, the Browns vs the Steelers, have entertained and energized millions of fans. Capturing that energy and building those narratives won't be easy, but in order to spread the passion of sports to e-sports, it will take those commentators you spoke of to create those nascent storylines.
The mini-bios of the players was something new to me as an EVO stream watcher, because I certainly don't remember any of that detail last year. It's improved their game considerably.

Other than some minor production issues, like the score overlay covering up part of the life bar in a couple of games, I'd feel comfortable watching EVO on a cable TV network.