As I’m sure you’ve heard (and possibly had the misfortune to have seen), Sky recently launched their new competitive gaming channel, XLeague. For those of you anxious to re-live those precious moments spent waiting for your friend to perish so that you could have your go in the days before multiplayer became common, this news may have been met with patient yet-secretly malicious cheers of joy. However, for everyone else that finds watching other people play games tedious, I’m left wondering what the point of this channel is.
Rather than focus on true competitive gaming coverage, Sky have instead opted to cater for a larger demographic by allowing viewers to compete in tournaments arranged via the channel’s website, with a view to broadcasting the resulting games on the channel for the audience to endure. Not only does this render the channel’s claims to offer coverage of ‘professional’ gaming redundant, but it also makes for even more boring television.
To make matters worse, their choice of titles to cover is, at best, laughable. Any serious pro-gamer wouldn’t bother with the likes of Quake 4 or Rainbow Six: Vegas, and Call of Duty 2 isn’t even in their tournament lineup, instead being relegated to the ‘league’ tables along with other pro-gamer ‘favorites’ like Fifa ’07 and Gears of War. Counter-Strike, CS: Source, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft’s arena battles, traditionally big with the professional gaming community at sites like Got Frag have been omitted entirely. If you don’t own an Xbox but relish the thought of watching social pariahs chosen by a producer battle it out in Gears of War minus the juvenile, racist and homophobic commentary as ‘enjoyed’ by many XBL players, the time to rejoice is upon you.
It’s also a relief to see that Sky firmly believe that gaming television should remain in the same league as other ‘niche’ programming such as softcore pornography and paintball by having Emily Booth present their flagship show, The Match. Still, with movies like this under her proverbial belt – and her considerable gaming knowledge, of course – I can see why she was the obvious choice to add a touch of glamour to the show.
It’s times like these that I’m profoundly grateful that I haven’t owned a television in almost two years.