Unless they're sitting next to me on the couch, I've never been all that interested in watching other people play video games. But some folks are, and they're apparently flocking to pubs and bars that have taken to showing StarCraft II matches. The Wall Street Journal, of all publications, has an interesting article on the subject.
Dubbed Barcraft, this new trend (at least for North America) reportedly started in Seattle watering hole Chao Bistro earlier this year. Since then, it's spread across the country, bringing geeks into sports bars they might not have visited had Zerg rushes not been on the big screen. Folks who might have otherwise watched the same matches streaming online from the solitary comfort of their own homes seem to enjoy having company, too. One software engineer compares the experience to watching the World Cup, where you "experience the energy and screams of everyone around you when a player makes an amazing play."
Want a deeper understanding of what makes StarCraft such a spectator favorite? University of Washington students Gifford Cheung and Jeff Huang have written a lengthy paper (PDF) analyzing why the game appeals to audiences with no control over its outcome. It seems that information asymmetry—spectators knowing more than the players do about the actions of their opponent—is key to creating a satisfying sense of suspense.