I enjoyed reading this article from the WSJ (I know! I’m just as shocked myself) regarding how some sports bars have started airing live competitive matches of the Blizzard video game Starcraft II as a way of luring a different type of patron to their establishments in order to tap into a market that would otherwise be at home watching it by himself.
So what makes watching two people playing a video game against each other so enthralling? According to the WSJ article, the reason we find viewing these games so captivating is due to information asymmetry.
Two University of Washington graduate students recently published a research paper seeking to scientifically pinpoint “Starcraft’s” appeal as a spectator sport. The paper posits that “information asymmetry,” in which one party has more information than the other, is the “fundamental source of entertainment.”
For instance, spectators can see the activities of both players and know when one player is preparing an attack. Such asymmetry leads to “situations that result in suspense,” said the paper, including watching one player’s “invisible Dark Templar lying in wait for their opponent’s vulnerable workers.”