As I look around to study what makes a game competitive and enjoyable to watch, I’m finding that there are certain qualities that are essential to a game’s spectator potential.
The largest difference between an actual sports game and a video game, is that because sports take place in real life, anything can happen. If a player is running towards the hoop to make a perfect shot, maybe it won’t go in, maybe he will have spun the ball too much and it will bounce out, any number of things could happen. But in a game like Call of Duty, you pretty much expect the person to get shot or not get shot. Sure, there is some degree of suspense and technicality in execution, but most of these aspects could never be observed. It isn’t like you can see the bullets missing a character.
However, there are titles that can surpass these seemingly crippling feature of video games. For example, Super Smash Bros is a game that has been affectionately referred to by some as the “sand box fighting game”. That is to say, it is completely free form. The game has it’s own laws of physics, and your best hope to win is to understand those rules, and react quickly to a given situation, just like in a real life sport. Unlike other fighting games where you can accurately predict what is going to happen on screen and respond accordingly– Smash Bros is all about mind games and quick reflexes. Anything can happen at any point.
I’ve posted a link to a Smash Bros Melee match that shows just how wild the game is, and how the game can truly turn around at any time.