New York Post entertainment features writer Kane tracks the world of competitive video gaming as it moves out of Internet cafés and into the high-stakes world of televised grudge matches.
Tracking the roughly two-year journey of a pair of leading teams, the author goes into overdrive making sure we know that they’re not the antisocial losers of popular myth, but he doesn’t create much interest around them. The book follows two five-man teams that specialize in a first-person shooter game called Counter-Strike, played with religious fervor by hardcore gamers who look down on mere mortals playing Halo and Doom. Starting off in 2005 at the Cyberathelete Professional League (CPL) winter championship in Dallas, Kane tracks the team players through a series of poorly organized matches held in hotel ballrooms. The players resemble pro athletes with their coaches, training sessions, reviews of old games—even, occasionally, salaries. Leading Team 3D gets impressive sponsorship money due to their stylish marketability and savvy young leader Craig Levine, while up-and-comers CompLexity are funded entirely by their leader, lawyer Jason Lake, who has poured nearly $400,000 into the venture. The contrast is there, but it’s hardly The Bad News Bears. A dispiriting spectacle gets goosed only slightly when media behemoth DirecTV starts taking an interest and makes noise about turning the matches into the next X Games or televised poker. That development thrills many of the gamers, who would love nothing more than a smidgen of respectability and a steadier income. The author occasionally wrings some human interest from one of his subjects, particularly Cuban-American Danny “fRoD” Montaner, a kid with personality and a deadly sniper’s eye. However, Kane’s background in splashy weekend features shows in the book’s overly glib prose, which is adequate in short bursts but tiresome over the long haul.
Makes reading about multiplayer first-person shooter video gaming just as boring as reading in-depth accounts of any other sport.