Information Science phd students Gifford Cheung and Jeff Huang sought to answer this in their paper Starcraft from the Stands: Understanding the Game Spectator, which looks at what makes a strategy game about clicking really fast more compelling to watch than, say, a first-person shooter or sports game.
Their findings, collected from fans all around the world, revealed what they believe to be nine “personas” of StarCraft spectator. These include “The Curious” (someone who doesn’t understand it and wants to by watching more), “The Pupil” (who uses televised matches to learn tactics) and “The Crowd” (people who simply enjoy watching and involving themselves in the culture as part of a group).
Why, though, is StarCraft so special? The pair believe it’s because of something they call “Information Asymmetry”, which is unique to the genre.
The spectator and players each have different slices of game information. Starcraft information includes strategic plans
in the players‘ minds, the unit locations on the map, or the outcome of a sneak attack. Information asymmetry is the imbalance of information between the player and spectator, where due to the game design, one party is privy to some
information and the other is not.
It’s argued – and this is somewhat convincing – that it’s similar to American Football, in which only a handful of men on both sides of the ball know a play before it unfolds, yet the crowd enjoys watching it executed from their all-encompassing vantage point.
If you’d like to read the entire paper, you can check it out at the link below.
Starcraft from the Stands: Understanding the Game Spectator [Gifford Cheung and Jeff Huang, via Slashdot]