MLG Experience

Most videogames are made for competition, whether it is indirect competition for high scores at the arcade, or fighting your friends side by side or online.  There is no denying the popularity of multiplayer.  But one organization takes competition to the next step, and that’s Major League Gaming, or MLG.  People from all over the world take part in MLG tournaments, which host a variety of different games on both console and PC platforms.  Popular titles include Starcraft II, Halo, Call of Duty, and League of Legends, though each tournament (one for every season of the year) hosts different games.

While I’m not a very competitive person, I do have some experience with the MLG culture.  My friend Cody and I would play Halo 3 almost every single day for hours back in high school, and over time I actually got pretty good.  I remember considering myself really good at Halo, but compared to Cody I was terrible.  He got more and more competitive, and eventually he got into the MLG multiplayer playlists.  These playlists feature exact maps and gametypes that MLG uses in its tournaments.  These changes affect the weapons on the map, spawn points, starting weapons, and other things that I remember not caring about when Cody was explaining everything to me.  I wasn’t interested in the highly competitive, strict rules of MLG, and would have preferred to just play normal multiplayer maps.

Eventually Cody started playing with a few people who were interested in actually attending a tournament, and so I started seeing less and less of him.  I would still play some regular games with him, but he would frequently leave once his team signed on for practice.  I remember thinking it was absurd that you could “practice” a videogame like you would a sport, and I actually made fun of his meetings, which I dubbed “team-time.”  He saw the humor in it, but he still kept getting sucked in.  He told me stories of people he knew who would snort Adderall, an ADD medication, before games to boost their concentration, which I thought was completely outrageous.  He ordered the exact monitor and headphones MLG used in their tournaments, and even fashioned a table that was the regulation height off the ground.  We both thought it was kind of ridiculous and we constantly made jokes about the whole situation, but that didn’t stop him.  Sometimes I would play with his team when they weren’t off being serious, which was never fun for a few reasons.  First off, they were all much, much better than I was, and I thought I played a lot.  Second, they were jerks.  I don’t know what was more annoying, the cursing or the relentless insults, but I eventually stopped playing with them.

I found out that Cody was actually going to a tournament in Dallas, and that he would probably only be playing with his team when he was online to practice.  I stopped going over to his house to play system link as much, and sending him invites to play, and soon stopped playing multiplayer all together.  I realized at that point that I wasn’t having fun playing the game, I was having fun playing the game with my friend in real life.

They actually did pretty well for a team called “Amateur Hour,” a name I thought of as a joke.  But after the tournament Cody started playing with his team less and less, and eventually stopped for good.  We went back to casually playing, which was ultimately the most fun for us.

There’s a divide in the multiplayer universe between casual and competitive/professional, and I discovered a lot about the competitive side.  Professional gaming is a strange concept to me, especially when it involves drugs and changes in lifestyle.  But my experiences have made me question the difference between sports and multiplayer.  Why is it considered acceptable for someone to practice hours at the batting cage but not at the computer?  I still don’t know, but I do recognize that both categories are very similar, especially when it comes to the competitive mindset.  I think that as MLG and videogames become more popular, it will become more socially acceptable for someone to have a videogame “team.”  I probably wouldn’t have made fun of Cody so much if this were more common, and who knows, maybe I would have wanted to join his team.  Besides, $20,000 grand prize isn’t so bad either.

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  2 comments for “MLG Experience

  1. Isaac Whalen
    April 18, 2013 at 2:05 am

    I think that one possible answer to the question you asked about what separates the difference between video games and sports is one of social norms. Our culture has grown to accept the presence of sports as an outlet. Just imagine how weird it must have sounded to “practice” handball before it made it into the Olympics.

    I previously used the analogy of skate and surf culture in another comment for a post which discussed the acceptance of video games into modern culture. If you think about it, there are some similarities. There are pro-surfers who do competitions, and get really technical about it. Conversely other non tournament surfers would argue that this is not in-tune with the nature of the sport. I think you are suggesting the same thing: if you’re not having fun playing video games…why play?

  2. peterguerber
    April 18, 2013 at 2:28 am

    As someone who has been playing videogames for a long time, I can understand where the argument for MLG comes from. Videogames are much more of an accepted part of culture than they used to be and there is no real reason not to think of them as less than any other recreational activity. I also find myself becoming abnormally competitive when playing with friends, so I can understand wanting to compare your game skills with the rest of the world. On the other hand, most of the time I just play for fun. I play games so I don’t have to worry about the rest of the world and some 10 year old shouting obscenities at me because I’m not very good is only going to ruin the moment. I agree with you that the whole concept of professional gaming is pretty silly, but at the same time I know what it’s like to get competitive.

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