Gaming’s professional circuit has always been viewed with a bit of bemusement. International competitions such as the World Cyber Games, where gamers play against each other in precise, fierce competitions, take themselves very seriously, but pro gaming has struggled with respectability outside the gaming community.
A new reality show on Star Sports wants to challenge that image. Vixture, which grew out of an annual Indian pro-gaming league, has 10 gamers from around India competing to be India’s best “all-round gamer”. In true reality TV fashion, this means more than just death matches and hand-eye co-ordination.
We spoke to Megha Desai, the co-creator of Vixture, on the show’s origins, structure and possible future. Edited excerpts:
Could you tell us a little bit about the origins of the TV show?
Vixture was first launched in 2008, as an interactive online platform for Indian gamers. At the time, we were helping international game publishers coming to India, and giving them an opportunity to interact more directly with gamers here.
So we did this competitive gaming challenge—nine cities, with finals in Delhi. More than 5,000 individual participants signed up, and we had a prize pool of Rs 50 lakh. We couldn’t do the competition in 2009, so when we bought it back this year, we decided to take it to the next level. Hence the TV show.
How is ‘Vixture’ different from other gaming-centric TV programmes?
We want the show to reach out to more than just gamers. It tries to show gamers in a different light. If you watch the episodes, you’ll see that we’re trying to dispel this dominant image of gamers as couch potatoes, as people who just sit in front of their computers all day. We’re treating competitive gaming like a sport, one that requires both mental and physical fitness.
How is the show structured? What will each episode consist of?
Before the show began, we had an online qualifying round on a dedicated Vixture server. People from more than 55 cities logged in to our Virtual Private Network (VPN) and could play one of five games: Defense of the Ancients (DotA), Unreal Tournament III, Street Fighter IV, Need for Speed: Shift and FIFA 11. We picked the top two players of each game, and they’re the finalists for the show.
Each episode consists of physical and gaming challenges that the participants complete, depending on that week’s theme. The themes are centred around the genres of the aforementioned games. We have leaderboards, and variations and we watch as the gamers scheme and plot and strategize. The show aims to find India’s best “all-round” gamer, not just the first-person shooter (FPS) expert, or the racing pro.
Will there be a second season if the show is successful?
Definitely. The immediate plan is to expand it to other South-East Asian countries, and the winners of each of these territories (another potential TV show) will compete in a mega-final Vixture APAC tournament.
All 10 of the ‘Vixture ’ finalists are male. Is competitive gaming’s male-dominant image a stereotype the show challenges?
Yes. We’re very hopeful that the next Vixture will have female finalists as well.
Vixture airs every Saturday at 12 and Sunday at 5.30pm on Star Sports.