Op-Ed

Op-Ed
WCG 2006: The Games People Play

Russ Pitts | 16 Sep 2006 16:00
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It struck me Friday evening, more than 12 hours after Razor and I got on a plane to travel down here, that Vegas is both the best and worst place imaginable to host a championship meet-up of professional videogamers.

For one thing, Vegas is all about play. In one room at the Aladdin, there are over a hundred people - mainly teenaged boys - playing video games, and in the next there are hundreds of people - mainly adults - playing games of chance. It's a dichotomy of play, and I'm having hard time getting my head around it.

We also, right outside the ballroom area, have a boxing ring set up in the middle of the mezzanine, with chairs around it. It's for the "Mike Tyson Training Camp," a free-admission event during which the champion boxer is to present tips and tricks to his many fans.

Razor and I sat in on a few minutes of this. It was ... I have to admit, a little sad. The former champ was sitting on a stool in the middle of the ring. He had a towel draped over his shoulders, and was surrounded by bodyguards, trainers and a man who was asking him questions.

"What's your favorite food," the man asked.

"Rice," replied "Iron" Mike

"What about meat? You don't eat any meat?"

"I like Mexican food," said Mike, and the crowd laughed and applauded approvingly.

In the ballroom, the videogamers remained oblivious to Mike Tyson and anything else happening outside of the view of their monitors. During play, they have laser-focus. After the game, between sips of soda, they recount the battles using more colorful language and colorful epithets than you'll hear almost anywhere.

In the casino it's much the same. The players are older, the beverages are stronger and there's an undercurrent of sex, desperation and greed not present in the WCG ballroom, but most are intent on their actions, and many stare at screen, pushing buttons just like the kids.

I can't say which group has it right, but it does take the wind out of the argument that videogames are a detriment to our youth; at least in my mind. And it serves as a stark reminder that we all have our vices, except perhaps - these days - Mike Tyson.

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