The nerds strike back — with Major League Gaming

By MATT YORK/Montana State News

Times are certainly changing for many Americans with the rise of the formerly outcast class of society, the “nerds” and “geeks,” gaining recognition and importance through the rise of Major League Gaming.

From the way gaming consoles are becoming full-blown media centers, to the ever-present iPod, iPad, and everything pertaining to the “iPhenomena,”, electronic entertainment is becoming more mainstream and the “new” nerds, are too. Now, the “nerd” is daring to take on its natural rival, and longtime enemy – the jock.

By no means is the Nerd suddenly becoming an athletic god, with aspirations to take over the Olympics. No, this is a look at the semi-underground, but steadily rising fad that has a legitimate and growing new sporting league: Major League Gaming.

The concept is not entirely new; founded in 2002, MLG has a headquarters in New York City, with competitions that spread throughout the United States and Canada as well as including participants internationally.

With broadcasts on various broadband websites in over 170 different countries as well as ESPN.com, and even television (such as pay-per-view events), touching over hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world, it’s easy to see MLG is a legitimate and growing competitive sports league.

Major League Gaming is a large and inclusive organization that hosts thousands of semi-pro and amateur tournaments worldwide, encompassing a handful or more of different video game titles for each tournament, usually breaking them up in several categories.

“First-person shooter” is one such category, with such sub-categories including team “4v4,” “team 2v2,” “team 1v1” and “free for all.” Other categories stem into “fighting” and “third-person shooter,” all with a specific focus on competition and multi-player. The focus of MLG is stated on their website mlg.com.

Founded in 2002, Major League Gaming (MLG) is the dominant media property exclusively targeting tens of millions of consumers worldwide who have a passion for playing video games as a competitive social activity.”

The League also has a pro-circuit which extends beyond the typical tournaments that are hosted online at any given day, and these pro-circuit events encompass only a few select players. The requirements to reach pro-level are based entirely on levels, experience, game hours, and points accumulated. Further, to join the pro-league, you must play in.

There are play-in tournaments held for aspiring leaguers to join the league. These tournaments are held in specific cities around the United States, and hold championships at the end of every season. The different games allowed in the pro-circuit currently include: “StarCraft 2” (new edition since 2010), “League of Legends,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Halo: Reach.”

Prior to 2009, the pro-circuit used to invite people into its walls with certain parameters, and it was essentially random. It was not possible, that is, to actually apply or play-in; however, that changed around 2009, when tournaments were established to allow semi-pro players to make an attempt to become professionals.

According to Bobby Nemeth, an experienced MLG gamer and avid spectator, these tournaments allows the semi-pro players who win to get into a larger bracket. This bracket usually consists of 16 gamers from other such “play-in” tournaments, and then these 16 gamers play each other up to the last four; then, the last four players are allowed to join the pro-circuit.

Based upon your victory in these tournaments, you’ll be granted a seeding in the pro-tournaments. At which point you’ll play upper level and experienced pros, which are seeded based on pro-level experience, seniority and wins/losses.

Nemeth says that, “While professional players is the goal, most gamers won’t make any money until they get into the upper 5 seeding, and to do that is tough. Obviously they get prize money at the lower seeds, but that’s rarely enough money to live off of. When you get to upper seeding, usually the top five, then you start seeing endorsement deals and bigger cash pay-outs.”

Product endorsement deals include Red Bull, various gaming accessories, Mountain Dew and others. In 2003, MLG announced its first ever endorsement deal when professional gamer Dustin “Darkman” Langton received around $150,000 a year from LASR Gaming Accessories.

Now, endorsements have taken off, and according to Nemeth a lot of these gamers make their money outside of MLG. There are sites dedicated to showing live streams of these top-players playing their favorite games.

Some of these players play their games for endorsement events and are contractually obligated to play a certain amount of hours, on certain days. Sites include Deepgames.com, onlive.com, and ustream.com.

According to Nemeth, these sites will hire these pro gamers from MLG to play on their sites and stream their games, and they’ll be paid by the number of hits they receive to their video. Some of the top-gamers can make upwards of $5,000 a night, for three nights in a row.

“Competitive gaming has taken on a whole new level,” says Nemeth, “It’s like a sports league for nerds.”

A sports league that’s on the rise too – with over 8 million subscribers world-wide, hundreds of streams and competitors that expand beyond the United States’ borders – it’s easy to see that MLG may actually be one of the faster growing spectator sports in the world.

With such a rise in video game sales and video game playing, it’s likely that people will be able to identify with gaming and gamers much more easily and therefore get encompassed into this world far more readily, especially with gaming become a mainstream in media.

With the rise of movie-like games with stories as gripping, if not more so, than what Hollywood’s putting out, gaming has become a staple in household entertainment. With plans for X-Box to include live TV on its console, along with additions of Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and Facebook, with X-Box, and probably Sony and Nintendo likely to follow, this will become an essential if not singular entertainment console in every household.

It could become the all-in-one entertainment center that reduces clutter and essentially puts a gaming console at the very level of televisions and computers, meaning gaming can only rise. With it, of course, this means more gamers, and more gamers means more MLG pros and viewers.

Edited by Becky Hattersley.

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