Wednesday, August 29, 2007

No dough, no glam, no chicas

"Take cover!"

"Watch out for that sniper in the tower."

"Stay back! Stay back!"

As you've noticed, there's no report from me on the second round of the NSWCA State Championships last Sunday. This is because I found myself, instead, in the middle of a war. A pretend one. I was at the 2007 World Cyber Games Australian final held at Sydney's Luna Park. It was my first time. Saw a report about the event in the 6 o'clock news and I thought, hec, why not try something new.

The exchange above between teenagers screaming orders at one another was typical of what happened during the final showdown of "Gears of War". Those boys were deadly serious. They had to be. Whoever won that 4-on-4 team combat would proceed to represent Australia at the World Cyber Games Grand Final in Seattle later this year. Not even a couple of gorgeous promo chicas in skin-tight outfits could disturb them. I particularly liked the two in short shorts who looked more at home in Sexpo. And Australia's representative to the last Miss Universe, Erin Mcnaught, hardly had a lascivious eye cast her way. Well, except from me! (Erin was there for Cybershack).

So there I was in a whole new world. It was all alien to me as, I'm sure, I was to them. But it was fun, adrenaline rushing all round, full of excitement and the familiar drama of victory and defeat. Those who lost looked as if they were just about ready to rush up the Harbour Bridge, a short walk outside, and jump off. While those who won could hardly contain themselves. And if you're into some serious PC hardware for gaming, then the Cyber Games are a must. Finally - to complete the picture, they also had a rap artist and some big wig from Samsung (the major sponsor) attending the event.

Anyway, I mention all this because as I was walking around the hall I couldn't help thinking: chess hasn't got a bloody chance!

We talk a lot these days about these thousands of chessers in the junior ranks. But, honestly, how many graduate to the senior ranks before they get snagged by other distractions, certainly more lucratives ones, like poker and video gaming? Before last Sunday I had no idea about the concept of a pro gamer. Those guys get sponsorships and earn plenty of money. Plus they still pick up those essential life skills along the way - like communication, strategic thinking, analytic and so on.

If you're a parent, let's be real here. Wouldn't you steer your kid to gaming and away from chess? Put it this way: there's no dough in chess, no glam, and no chicas! That's it.


Anonymous said...

Even not taking money etc into account, chess really just doesn't compete.

When Gareth started at ANU he joined the wargamers club - he plays every Sunday night - usually from around 6 until 2am. In holidays they have been known to go all night. It is just plain fun - lots of talking and discussions on issues, as well as the challenge of the various games they play.

Compare that to playing in some chess club with the same boring old guys, some of whom are crass, rude and unpleasant....

I don't think Gareth will be able to shake his chess addiction for awhile, but for the next level down of young players - what is there to attract them to playing?


Shaun Press said...

Ah, but you overlook why there is dough,glam and chicas in computer gaming. The marketers driving the computer game market realise that people are willing to spend money in this area. And like say Golf, a lot of money. And not by choice, but by necessity.
Chess had a small sponsorship boost from the advent of chess computers (Novag, Software Toolworks etc) but the fact that the game is cheap (as are chessplayers) means that a growth in players doesn't translate into a growth in income.
And anyway, if you were a parent would you rather spend $30 on a chess set, or $3,000 on a souped up gaming PC?

Phil Willis said...


Compare this conversation I had in the elevator at work this morning.

Me: Whatcha up to this weekend?

Stephen Coorey (Australian FIFA x-box champion): Training for the next tournament. I'm one of the favourites for the $30,000 prize.

Me: Yeah - I'm in training too. I'm looking to see if I can snatch the $50 "best upset" prize at the Ford Tournament at North Sydney Chess Club.

Big difference.

Stephen is a pretty handy chessplayer too I must say. ;)

Anonymous said...

" some of whom are crass, rude and unpleasant...." should spend some time in internet cafes with these "gamers" Jenni,then you would realise how many of them are exactly like this. Overall chees players are better behaved and more well mannered than your average gamer.

Anonymous said...

"for the next level down of young players - what is there to attract them to playing?"
The game itself will (or won't) do that. It's an intrinsically beautiful, complex game. It will capture the attention of some forever- especially those who sought it out themselves. Others will drift on to other things.

Which is the case with most pursuits not just chess...

Anonymous said...

Chess is a beautiful game, which is why I think kids like Yuan and Gareth can't quite move away from it (although both have expressed the desire to, to me).

Shaun on his blog had one of his sarcastic remarks about the flood of juniors over the last 15 years saving chess. Of course that flood is not translating into long term players, which is what he was no doubt referring to.

However if chess wants to be bigger, then I think it has to look at what can be done to attract more of the juniors long term and the current model of boring clubs and weekenders that are more suited to elite players will not.

I don't think the junior ranks have done badly, in that 20 of the current top players list (60) come from ex juniors over the last 8 years or so.

What we are missing are the juniors in the 1600 - 2000 ranks and they seem a rare species given the number who start off.

Maybe chess is an activity that will never attract more than a fringe or an elite, but if we want to retain more then I think we need to look at other concepts. I don't believe it is about money - much more about enjoyment.

Look at tennis, where you can play socially, or at pennant level, or at elite level. In chess we seem to pretty much (apart from street chess), play only elite chess. I also have never found players at weekenders or clubs particularly welcoming to the newbies.


Anonymous said...

Hello Shaun,

In response to your comment, I think that chess so rather 'cheap' relative to a lot of other sports is also part of the problem.

With a only small, relative cash outlay required to play chess, players dont need to make such a large commitment.

So when a few sports or life priorities clash, some players choose other things because they dont feel they have made a large commitment to chess, as say to golf .