Video games as live performance
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Over the last 45 years, what started as small gatherings of video game players competing against each other, has grown into a 1.5 billion dollar industry known as – Esports (Chalk). Predominantly popular with gamer audiences, Esports does little to engage non-gamer audiences. Additionally, the live events make poor use of scenographic design techniques which includes media, scenic, lighting, and costume design. This is where the thesis investigation began by asking; “how can I enhance the live Esports experience with scenographic design?” However, the priority of Esports is to maintain the integrity of competition by ensuring a play space that allows players to perform uninhibited by any external factors. This priority to maintain the integrity of competition in Esports creates limitations over many scenographic design techniques – and due to this – I question whether Esports intends (or wants) to be a performance at all. This lead to the next driving question; “Can the playing of live video games be performative?” Furthermore, “Can a live video game performance engage both gamers and non-gamers?” A format that allows gamers to perform characters or personas is streaming. Gamers who do this are called streamers. Streamers broadcast live video of themselves online while taking on personas and directly communicate with audiences via microphone. This thesis draws inspirations from the elements of streaming, and a popular platform for streaming is TwitchTV. The elements of streaming include personas, the streamers vocal communications, and audience interactions. None of these aspects are present in Esports. In fact, these elements of streaming have never been applied inside a shared space with a live audience. To find answers to the questions presented in this thesis, I produced a live performance inspired by Esports and TwitchTV at the University of Texas at Austin. For this performance I will create a new scenographic design format to support a live performance of video games. With this design I will focus on performative gaming ahead of competitive gaming. To help gauge the success of the event, an anonymous survey was given to audiences. The survey identified audience members as gamers or non-gamers and had them answer a series of questions about their experience.