Is online gaming coming out of the bedroom and into the boozer? We went along to a pub in North London to investigate the new 'Barcraft' trend that began in Seattle and has spread throughout North America and Europe. Landlords are turning off the footy and streaming tournaments of strategy blockbuster Starcraft II instead.
Hundreds of fans packed out the Assembly House pub in Kentish Town last weekend for a marathon two-day viewing session. They watched pro players compete in the Major League Gaming Starcraft II tournament held in Providence, Rhode Island. At stake was a $50,000 first prize and a serious buff to their reputations.
Competition among elite Starcraft II players is fierce, with top-ranking gamers such as Huk, Idra and Leenock performing upwards of 300 in-game actions every minute. But putting in the hours to master the game can reap great rewards, with the best players earning hundreds of thousands of pounds in prize money and endorsements.
Barcraft London organisers say convincing pubs to show their sport wasn't easy. They approached 40 establishments in the capital before they found one willing to put Starcraft II on their plasma screens. But the landlord who said yes is reaping the benefits -- he says Starcraft fans are better behaved and stay longer than fans of other sports. Since Starcraft tournaments are screened free of charge, he can also avoid licensing fees.
But what is it about Starcraft II that makes it such a popular spectator sport? How do the pub's regulars react when they stumble upon hundreds of fired-up fans screaming at a computer screen? And should traditional sports be worried about this new trend? Find out all this and more by watching the video. You can hear more on this week's CNET UK podcast, where we'll be discussing the future of digital sports.
And if you want to attend or set up a Barcraft event in your area, you can contact the organisers on Facebook or Twitter. Let us know what you think down in the comments, or over on our own Facebook page.