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USA Network to Air Video Gaming Competitions


You've heard of Major League Baseball, but how about Major League Gaming, as in video gaming? The people who came up with this idea are hoping to make the country's top video gamers into bankable sports stars, and that means turning them into TV stars.

For the first time, Major League Gaming has cameras rolling on every aspect of its national tournament tour. That tour began this past weekend.

Sundance DiGiovanni is one of the founders of Major League Gaming.

Mr. SUNDANCE DIGIOVANNI (Founder, Major League Gaming): We're looking at it the way NASCAR, the NFL, or any other sport or competitive kind of a tournament series would look at it, which is we need to capture the competitions. We need to capture the personalities of the players, and we need to create compelling and exciting television. So we've got an office full of people who, you know, day in and day out right now are planning out, you know, all seven shows, how we're going to be wrapping this stuff together, creating an interesting story. It's pretty exciting, but it's a pretty hectic time.

BRAND: So you've got seven one-hour shows. They'll be on TV in the fall. Tell us who the stars are of those shows. Who are these people? Who are these gamers?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: Well, we've got, you know, we've got guys from all over the country. We got players like Tom Taylor (unintelligible) from Jupiter, Florida, a young kid who is amazingly confident in his abilities. He's very, he's a clutch player, and he's a great kid. He's somebody who this is a dream of his coming true right before his very eyes. So, you know, it's definitely one of the people that I think a lot of the youth in America and around the world will kind of relate to in terms of having access to a dream which, you know, only a short time ago didn't seem like it was even a possibility.

BRAND: How old is he?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: He's 18.

BRAND: Eighteen. And what's his game?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: He plays Halo 2. He's a first person shooter. He plays Halo and Halo 2 competitively.

BRAND: And who is his arch rival?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: T2's arch rival could possibly be Zyose(ph). Could be the Ogres. It really depends. He tends to swap them out.

BRAND: Zyose?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: Zyose is one of our old school guys. By old school, I only say that because three years ago he was doing this when this first started.

BRAND: And how old is he?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: He's 21. He's, you know, a very strong personality and he and T2 used to be on the same team, so now you have a definite rivalry that lives there underneath the surface.

BRAND: Which we'll be seeing, I'm sure.

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: Oh, yeah. What's good TV without a little bit of a rivalry? You need a little soap opera in there.

BRAND: Right. And how compelling will it be for me as a television viewer to watch someone essentially in front of another screen?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: Yeah, that's the thing that we're going to change, also, is the way that you're going to be watching this, you're going to be focusing on the personalities. You're going to be focusing on game play to a certain extent, but what's really going to be important is that you have an emotional connection with a player who, you know, this is the first time they've ever been on an airplane and they're playing their brains out trying to get a chance for a sponsorship to get to the next tournament.

You know, what every kid out there wants to be is, you know, the best at something. This is a chance to find out if they are the best.

BRAND: Well, also, with world poker, watching that on TV, why that has been so successful is because of that little camera that shows you the cards that the player has so that you can play along as a viewer at home. And I think that was the key to why poker on TV is such a success. How are you going to include the audience in the same way?

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: Well, the idea is that, you know, you're getting a behind the scenes look at what the top athlete sees. Imagine watching, you know, a basketball game from the eyes of Kobe Bryant. You know, LeBron James. Being able to see what they see, being able to hear what they're thinking. That's one of the things that we're going to try and capture in this TV show and show people is that there's a ton of excitement there. And then you're going to go home and you're going to try those same moves. Just like I used to go out back behind my house and try and, you know, do Michael Jordan dunks on my eight foot rim, these kids are going to go home and try and pull off moves that Wall-She(ph), the Ogres, T2 and folks like that are pulling off.

BRAND: Sundance DiGiovanni is the cofounder and chief marketing officer of Major League Gaming. Thank you very much.

Mr. DIGIOVANNI: Thank you. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.