BSkyB recently signed up to broadcast the Championship Gaming Series (CGS) in the UK. The series will be giving gamers the chance to become paid professionals and earn cash for kicking ass live on the telly. If it's anything like the CVG office during lunchtime sessions of Quake III Arena - there'll be more 'bleeps' than frags...
To find out why the time is right to broadcast competitive gaming when it's been around for ages and to find out why people playing games isn't boring to watch, we hooked up with Adrian Pilkington, director of Enhanced TV and Games for Sky.
First off can you tell us a little bit about your role at Sky?
Adrian Pilkington: I'm responsible for Sky's growing range of activities in games. These include SkyGames.com, which launched in May 2007 and offers core gamers the ability to download and buy PC games on the day of release and casual gamers a subscription to the very best casual games on the market. I'm also responsible for Sky Games on TV, a TV games portal which attracts 800,000 players a week.
Competitive gaming has been around for a long time. Why does Sky think now is the right time to broadcast it to the mainstream?
Pilkington: Many of Sky's customers enjoy playing video games and households that have Sky are significantly more likely to own a games console than households that don't have Sky.
Pro-gaming has reached a level of maturity and reach that makes it a natural fit with Sky's entertainment business, and together these things make CGS a natural place for us to go.
Added to that we're using experienced production staff that would normally edit sports for TV, so we're in a great position to capture the drama that naturally plays out in these games to make a great mainstream TV experience.
What would you say to the people who think that watching people play games is boring?
Pilkington: I'd say it depends who's playing! People will watch CGS for the same reasons that sports fans like watching football or golf - because they want to watch the best players make the best plays.
Pro-gamers have incredible hand-eye coordination that you wouldn't believe unless you see it. It's important too that viewers get to know the players and their personalities, so we'll be following the gamers outside of the games as part of each show.
How will you present the show compared to other sporting events? Several gaming shows have died in the past, even though many consider TV to be the best medium.
Pilkington: We agree that TV is a great medium for gaming. This is especially true with the growing popularity of HD and we think the games will look amazing on an HD screen. As for the event itself, the online qualifications have been open to anyone with an Xbox or PC which means anyone who is a good standard FIFA 07 player, PGR racer or DoA fighter stands a chance of making it through to the qualifying event at Birmingham's Omega Sektor in late August.
The 40 best players will make it through to the Championship Gaming Event at Three Mills in London in early September and the 20 best players from this event will be selected to become salaried pro-gamers. They'll represent Great Britain at the World Gaming championships in L.A. in October and compete against the best US, European, Asia and Australian teams.
I'm hoping that one of the UK teams will win the CGS World championship in October, but I hear that the Europeans are extremely strong. We're hopeful that CGS will attract an aspirational broad audience, whether they're a hard-core gamer or a less-frequent player.
What are the criteria for a game being shown on the program?