Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Someone’s watching

I’ve never quite understood the attraction of Big Brother and its clones.

Well, I can understand it from the point of view of the producers. Putting up a camera and just recording what random people are doing is probably a lot cheaper than making up real content, hiring professional writers, journalists and actors.

But if you’re in the audience? Just how fun is it to watch someone else scratching their butt, drinking milk directly from the fridge or mumbling something incoherent to someone you can’t see or hear because he’s too far away?


I suppose I’m just old and don’t get the pry-into-other-people’s-lives fascination that is the mark of the Facebook generation.

Stalking the top guilds
Anyway. If you’re into this kind of viewing and nurture a fascination for the players in the high-end raiding guilds, you have something new to follow.

Recently the guilds For the Horde and Ensidia launched a new joint website, called Manaflask, which includes a streaming feature.

A handful of players have been chosen as study objects. Kungen, guild leader of Ensidia, is one of them. According to the announcement the stream will follow him “whatever he plays” – WoW as well as other games.

And I can’t help thinking: “Ouch!” How fun could it be to have a camera stalking you like that. When you just feel like a quiet fishing session in Grizzly hills, if you’re chatting away with a buddie, not doing anything cool, or just trying on a silly old hat you found in your bank vault – is that something you’d like to share with the world?

Obviously it is, because otherwise they wouldn’t do it. But it certainly isn’t my cup of tea.

Watching Kungen playing SC II
I’ve checked out the streams a couple of times to see what it looks like in action. Once I noticed someone entering a battleground, another time a guy was doing HoL and it looked exactly the same as it does to me.

Most of the time, there wasn’t much going on at all. Judging from how few of the streams that have been up, the participants in the WoW Big Brother currently have other priorities in life than to play video games. Or maybe they got tired of the attention after all and shut down the camera, what do I know?

There’s no question though that there’s a huge interest for it; they have a sold base of fans, eagerly following every step they take.

One night I managed to slip into a live stream of Kungen’s. And I was far from alone; there were over 100 other people following his ventures in Stracraft II in a party with a bunch of friends. I didn’t get much of how they were doing, since the lag was horrendous and it looked more like still pictures than as a fluid movie. The most interesting part of it was the vent conversation, which also was streamed. All the guys spoke Swedish, and I smiled to myself as I realized that most of the 100 listeners probably didn’t understand a word of what they said. I felt a little exclusive.

A couple of minutes of watching was more than enough though, and I left quickly, bored out of my mind. I think you at least need to have a basic clue about the game that is streamed to get any enjoyment whatsoever out of it.

My next try to follow a stream failed miserably. This time they were apparently sending an Ensidia ICC 10 man hc raid, which could have been somewhat interesting to watch, seeing how the “pros” do it. But now they had put a limit of the number of viewers at a maximum of 50, and I never made it to be one of those.

Hiding for competitors
According to the website, Ensidia is currently raiding ICC and Ruby Sanctum HC once a week, clearing it in a couple of hours. So if you’d like to see how it “should be done” you might want to try to get a spot in that streaming channel. (Good luck!)

Don’t count on them to keep the stream up once Cataclysm hits though. Then the cameras will be promptly switched off. As Azmara says:

“The streams will probably get put on hold while progress rolls around, same for logs, progress logs won’t be public. If you’re pushing for a world first the last thing you want is your competition looking over your shoulder”.

For my own part I wouldn’t like to have anyone looking over my shoulder at any time. Just having someone within our guild record something we're doing, putting it at Youtube, makes me slightly nervous.

I definitely wouldn’t fit as a Big Brother participant, neither in real life, nor in Azeroth.


Redbeard said...

It's not only for the questionable "fame", it's for the money. You don't think that some of the people in Ensidia and For the Horde aren't getting paid a little cash on the side for this?

I don't think it's because you're older that the voyeurism thing is not so appealing, Larisa. I think it's because you have an understanding of boundaries and what's appropriate. Maybe your viewpoint of appropriate is different than other people, but when the alternative is reading about people's sexual escapades or watching them eat pizza and play WoW, there's something to be said for boundaries.

Talarian said...

People love to live vicariously. For some brief moments in their dull lives (or they think their lives are dull, anyhow) they can follow someone else, be in their shoes. It's not so different from fiction, literature or movies/television, except this isn't filtered. It's "raw", real time.

I'm not convinced it's the facebook generation that eats this stuff up, though.

Because I like data, here's some very interesting data of the demographics of folks who visit one of the top websites dedicated to big brother:

Note that this is estimated data, AND this isn't the official website of the show, so we can only infer a loose corelation, and the statistics are for the US only, but for the most part the demographics in the US are young adult to middle-aged caucasian females with no kids, lower to middle income, and no college education.

Facebook says:

Teenage to young adult females (and female by a much smaller margin), with children, with a higher income, and a much closer split between no college and college educations. Still mostly caucasian, but far more minorities are present in the facebook demographics.

It's hard to come to any real conclusions with this level of data, and honestly the validity of the data is in question, so I hesitate to make any concrete arguments out of it. But if it *is* to be believed, the Facebook generation actually isn't as interested in pry-into-other-people's-lives as the older generation, or that they're just spending all their time on facebook prying into each other's lives instead of watching television to pry into strangers' lives.

What that means for someone like Kungen, though, is yet to be seen. Perhaps people just want to learn how Ensidia does things, or perhaps my tentative conclusions are way off and the younger generation is just nosy :)

I do agree with you, though, in that I also wouldn't make a very good Big Brother participant. It'd freak me out way too much. The idea of having a camera on me 24/7 just makes my skin crawl. *shudder*

Fitz said...

There is one show like that I really enjoy and that is called Solitary. The social implications of solitary confinement and its psychological effects are really a marvel to see. It makes you think, moreso than pretty people with drama TV (Big Brother, Bachelor, Jersey Shore, etc. etc. etc.).

You are not alone in your feelings, and I'm in the "generation behind you" so to speak.

Dwism said...

It is a stupid thing.
Who would want to watch them clear an year old dungeon? The only reason I'd ever consider checking their stream out, would be to see them handle new content, but that won't happen, so it's a dead idea.
The only time, they would get a viewercount worth mentioning would be when they stream from world first attempts, but that won't happen, so it's a dead idea.
And if their site cannot handle 100 viewers... Its a dumb and dead idea.
At least if they are hoping to make some kind of money out of this.

Larísa said...

: Money? Yeah. Maybe. They do have some google ads in the streams, although it's easy to click them away.

I DO think there's a difference in approach to integrity/privacy issues, where younger ones care a lot less. I think Dwism wrote about this very well in a post or a comment. This said: there are surely tons of older people as well who love to put out themselves on the webs and don't mind having webcameras running in their homes. I accept that we all have different preferencies in life. But I can't say that I really understand it.

: Thanks for sharing the figures. That's interesting stuff, especially from my professional point of view. I think we have yet a lot to learn about the streaming media landscape and their audience.

@Fitz: I've followed Survivors a couple of seasons as well, so yeah, I can see that there might be some kind of entertaining value in it. But they've been cut, scripted, worked on - not just looking at a raw sream broadcasting. That's a little different. However my time and interest for this kind of documentaries has dwindled to nothing after starting to play WoW. I have to cut somewhere and TV is what I sacrifice.

@Dwism: yeah... maybe they're overestimating the interest there is for their doings. And I agree that progression raids would be far more interesting!

lonomonkey said...

I seriously cannot watch any kind of reality TV. I find so incredibly boring and pointless. If I want to watch people backstabbing one another or bitching I don't even have to turn on a TV. Real life provides that enough already.

Same goes for those streams. I don't care how other people are doing the fights besides learning a strat.

I'll stop now :) I just don't get it I think.

Syl said...

all I can say is that I find these streams so so boring. Not only that I can't ever watch anything without lagspikes, but seriously - watching others at playing a game? no thanks, I got only so much time and I'd like to use that on playing games myself lol.

SpiritusRex said...

This has the makings of a sign of the apocalypse (and time for the goblin in me to stand up and be recognized)....

How long do you think it will be until Ensidia and For the Horde (or any other leading edge guild for that matter) figures out that there might be a nice little market out there for watching progression raiding and tutoring? I can see it now......

*smoke clears in the crystal ball*

*deep, booming, yet soothing, voice speaks*

"For $20, you, too, can watch the live streaming of Uberguild's first 20 attempts at Deathwing. Now, this is only limited to the first 20 subscribers and you must join the streaming precisely at 7:00 server time as that's when raid invites will be completed and streaming will commence. Hurry now and get the cutting edge information of Uberguild to help your diddly guild get server first recognition based upon our tactics. Please note that Uberguild will not be issuing refunds in the event that we are unable to down Deathwing during your subscription period. Further, Uberguild is not responsible for any tactics that fail for your guild as a result of your guilds inability to sustain the necessary synergy requisite to match the professionals in Uberguild.


*crystal ball clouds back up*

Stumps said...

The whole Big Brother phenomenon...I didn't really see the attraction unless you were an 18-fortysomething with a such a defecit in your life that you couldn't live without your 15 minutes of fame. I can go along with the idea that the very first one could have had some merit as a "social experiment" but beyond that.... People - you are sat in a house watching people SITTING IN A HOUSE!!
Sod that for a game of soldiers, either as the filmee or the voyeur!!
As a UK resident, I'm somewhat anaesthatised to the fact that almost everything I do is being recorded on a camera somewhere. It was quite startling for foreign friends who come to visit.

The government here is renowned for being hyper-secretive and yet at the same time wanting to gather as much information about us, the everyday individual, as it possibly can. In 2006 there was one CCTV camera in this country for every 14 people (over 14 million CCTV cameras!). It may be intrusive when you elect to have them pointed at you, how about when you don't? ;)

Larísa said...

: I definitely don't need to see it streamed life. However I found some kind of enjoyment listening to the nerd scream from I think it was Paragon after their world first kill of some kind. It was... somehow touching. It's not only about the strats, but about the feeling. However... standing hours of boring streams in the hope to catch a golden thanks. I'd prefer edited videos.

@Syl: the only reason I could think of seeing it is if you're very addicted to WoW but for some reason can't afford to pay game time and watch it like some kind of substitute to get your wow fix. Possibly. But I think there are better substitutes than that around tbh.

: hehe... you think like a goblin. It remains to see if those guilds do. Perhaps you're right!

@Stumps: there might be some psychological reason I suppose. Those BB participants weren't confirmed enough as they grew up, not seen by their fathers and mothers? And now they're compensating, desperately craving for attention for someone, anyone?

I visited UK this summer and to be honest I forgot completely about the cams. You may have them everywhere but they're probably discrete. Or perhaps they missed the fields in the Yorkshire dales? One spot free from supervising? Perhaps I stumbled into a hideout, unknowing.

But it is a bit funny to see how people who on one hand are very concerned about their privacy in a certain context, on the other hand don't hesitate for a second to show literally everything - be it in Big Brother or a Facebook page.

I'll never fully understand that.

Bristal said...

So, are we watching their characters in WoW, or the player sitting at his/her computer? or both?

As for the people who don't see how anyone could watch a bunch of people sitting in a house like Big Brother...did/do you watch "Friends"? "Seinfeld"? "Keeping Up Appearances"? or any of the gazillion other sitcoms both US/UK that show people primarily sitting in their houses?

Instead of scripted, acted, produced storylines about human interaction, "reality TV" is unscripted, mostly unproduced but HUGELY edited storylines about human interaction. Certainly not REAL as the particpants are hamming it up, but spontaneous and often very entertaining.

I'm a huge Survivor fan. I think it's the most interesting thing on Television. Watching the participants evolve over 6 extremely grueling weeks is fascinating. Some people clearly thrive under conditions like that, and many do not.

Wow, Larisa. You worked in reality TV! You are definitely my hero!

Larísa said...

Bristal, I've never worked at reality TV, that's a misunderstanding.

In the stream you see their screens and can hear what's going on at vent. But you don't see the players. Just the avatars. So it's not quite the same, even if it resembles to it imo.