From while I was in France last week

Futuroscope, c’est fantastique! Situated in the middle of fricking nowhere, this appears to be some sort of amusement parc, though I feel that aliens must have dropped it on France in primitive times to bring their culture up to the 1970s…Because it is the 1970s embodied, or perhaps 1950s; Sleeper is the bet example. Great perverse shapes serving no discernable purpose, mostly containing enormous strange cinema screens… outlandish vehicles for kids to ride, walkways supported by water jets floating over lakes that alternately belch fire and water 100 feet up… an odd little garden, peeling wood, with raised timber walkways between great hoardings depicting famous cities and scenes each with dissonant music that clashes as you walk between, all of it sunk in a great tub of water in green lawns… and this, the press centre, with it’s accompanying auditorium.

Here the elite of world games have met, to do what? Sit in darkened conference halls, like the usual nerdology? The lower levels, perhaps. But the elite sit in an imax theatre facing the audience. There are two teams of five and in front of each man is a computer with two monitors; one facing him, one, larger, facing the audience. Behind them, on the Imax, is a Shoutcast internet broadcast of the match they’re playing. It features webcams of the team captain’s faces, a top-down map updated in realtime of where the players are in the enclosed space, and footage of two of the protagnist’s screens.Over the top is French commentary (with English provided by infrared headsets ditributed to the 1000-strong crowd.)

This is CounterStrike, a shooting game where players play terrorists versus counter-terrorists. The game is strongly tactical, and the commentators talk about it with the same incomprehensibly specialised but truly simple language that you get from American Football. There’s terms like ‘Creephacks his natural’, a WarCraft III phrase, meaning to steal an experience-garnering kill from near an opponents base after the opponent has weakened it.

And this feels like sport. I feel like a proper journalist, for the first time in my life, attempting to cover a story, sitting in the press centre, watching the english commentary on the widescreen and typing. And it’s more enjoyable than most sports, and it feels like it involves more talent than simple physical prowess; it requires brains, the ability to recognise the constraints of the arenas and the engine, and to exploit them in spectacular fashion – to watch one of the strategy player’s hands move over the keyboard like lightning, running on automatic, is fantastic.

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