If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would one day be able to watch my favorite game played online in a variety of programming formats, I would have said that you were nuts and gone back to my “Final Fantasy X.”
And yet, here we are. Our entertainment options are almost limitless in 2015. Traditional TV, music, radio, theater, art, literature, movies and video games still hold important roles in pop culture. However, new inventions like streaming and cloud services are either trying to muscle in on their territory or assimilate them into one entertainment blob — I haven’t quite figured out which.
My favorite form of entertainment combines a little bit of each. It isn’t easy to describe and doesn’t quite have a name yet, but I call it game-related programming.
Game-related programming is — for the most part — an online-only form of entertainment. My friends and I watch streams of professional video game matches and YouTube videos of people playing our favorite titles in an entertaining way.
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It was a gradual process, but game-related programming has nearly replaced TV in my life. I was once addicted to several weekly shows, but now I pretty much only watch for “Game of Thrones” and sports.
The most compelling game-related programs are the professional matches. Several games bring in thousands of live fans and millions of online viewers at various events.
My favorite of these games is definitely “League of Legends,” which I either watch or play virtually every day.
I get emails every week from people who read my column but aren’t really fans of video games, and I think that’s great. I am sure many of those people are confused as to why I would want to watch someone I’ve never met play a game, especially when I could be playing that game myself.
That’s an excellent question, and the answer is simple. For even the most casual of gamers, watching a professional match offers the same experience as watching a sporting event.
I grew up watching and playing sports. I am especially fond of baseball.
Baseball is pretty simple to learn. You throw, catch and hit the ball. Baseball even looks pretty simple when you watch it being played.
When I was a kid, I watched professional baseball and thought that it could be me out there one day. As I grew up, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have had my shot if I was just a little bit bigger or worked harder.
Watching professional “League of Legends” gives me that same range of emotions.
When I first started playing “League of Legends,” I thought I would climb to the top of the game’s competitive rankings in no time.
I’ve spent three years playing thousands of matches, and I am still no closer to that goal. Not only that, but there are waves upon waves of punk kids that have long since overtaken me and make $250,000 a year playing my favorite game.
Could I go out and play baseball right now? Sure. I can play my own “League of Legends” matches, too.
But it’s even more exciting to watch professionals with more talent than I could ever dream of do those things.
I think that’s the great appeal of both pro sports and pro gaming — the opportunity to sit in a stadium or on a couch with people of similar interests and watch total strangers create a nearly perfect version of something you love.
However, all of that oddly romantic excitement takes a lot out of me. That’s when I turn to the thousands of entertaining YouTube options.
The online video giant features a wide away of hilarious game-related channels.
The most famous gamer-entertainer hybrid is PewDiePie, who has made millions in the genre and even graced recent episodes of the “South Park” TV show. I actually don’t think he is funny at all, so I am going to focus on some other YouTube stars.
I love Egoraptor, who animates game-inspired cartoons and laces them with adult humor. I am also a big fan of Keyori, a decent “League of Legends” player who releases gut-splitting videos of both his and his friends’ successes and failures in various matches.
My favorite YouTube star is Dunkey, who plays a variety of games and reacts to each in unpredictable ways. Sometimes his first response is to prank call Papa John’s Pizza. Other times he is prone to violent outbursts of frustration. I’ve even seen him freestyle rap during games.
These entertaining gaming videos provide a nice counterbalance to the serious, dramatic professional matches streamed pretty much 24/7.
This entire column may seem like gibberish to you, but I encourage everyone reading this to at least poke around the various options that gaming programming has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.