Inside the world of livestreaming as entertainment
T.L. Taylor looks at how computer gaming and other forms of online broadcasting became big-time spectator sports.
“Far too often we imagine what happens in play and games as being separate from ‘real life. But our leisure is infused with not only our identities and social worlds, but broader cultural issues."
— T.L. Taylor, Professor of Comparative Media Studies
Several years ago, a couple thousand people filed into Le Grand Rex, a Paris auditorium, to watch a performance. It was not a concert, however. Instead, a group of professional computer-game players competed to see who could win at “StarCraft 2,” a science fiction game where human exiles from Earth battle aliens.
Beyond the audience watching in person, meanwhile, was another audience streaming an online broadcast of the competition — including T.L. Taylor, a professor in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing program at MIT.
For years, Taylor has been chronicling the rise of esports: competitive computer games watched by audiences like the one at Le Grand Rex. But, as Taylor chronicles in a new book, esports showcases are part of a larger cultural trend toward livestreaming as a distinctive mode of entertainment. That trend also encompasses a scrappier outsider culture of do-it-yourself gaming broadcasts and other uses of streaming, a genre as popular as it is overlooked in the mainstream media.