Meta: The Culture of IPL (2013) – By Josh Samford

Right now, pro-gaming seems to be as hot as it has ever been. Gaining more notoriety than most niche areas within the gaming industry, there are some amazing things that are currently happening with competitive gaming. Indeed, there have been some amazing things happening within the world of games in general. For instance, at the beginning of this year, a group of speedrunners (gamers who conquer their respective games, and then practice until they can beat said games in as quick a time as possible) came together for their annual event known as Awesome Games Done Quick (http://marathon.speeddemosarchive.com) and they managed to garner over four-hundred thousand dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Huge numbers like that shouldn’t really be a surprise for any billion dollar industry, but this money was gathered just out of the sheer enjoyment that other gamers got from watching their favorite titles being conquered in ways that the designers likely never would have imagined. That brings us to the IPL. The IGN Pro League, who recently cancelled their most recent tournament, is/was a gaming tournament focusing on the PC games Starcraft and League of Legends. Bringing together games from all over the world, Meta: The Culture of IPL documents IPL3, the first offline tournament that the Pro League sponsored. Although the documentary is short, it may stand out as either one very large first step for e-sports in general, or perhaps a time capsule to show future generations how spectacular this era was.

272 gamers compiled from multiple countries, all with their eyes on prizes that are worth up to $100,000. The stage, lit by neon lights and the glow of a massive monitor that displays all of the gaming action. Two competitors sit at their computers on each side of the stage, apparently bundled into booths where they sit with headphones covering their ears so that they can focus intensely on their screens. In the middle of the stage there sits an announcing team who call the action for those sitting at home, enjoying the show as it is broadcast over the internet. IPL3 seems to have been as much about spectacle as it was about competition. Trying to solidify the world of e-sports (an area that I must confess a great deal of ignorance in), the event appears to have been glossy enough that it seems it would have been conceivable to convert the most ardent detractors. The crowds were riled up and the contestants seem as if they were having the time of their life. With a bigger push, one can see how such competitions could perhaps one day take off. The positive belief in this, that e-sports could someday rival the world of professional athletics, is heavily present in Meta: The Culture of IPL. While it is easy to take such a suggestion and shrug it off, the positive thinking of these young people can be rather infectious.

From a technical perspective, Meta is about as polished as one might expect. The project is only twent minutes long, but it appears that it has been well groomed. Giving a brief glance at the events that transpired at IPL3, the short features several interviews throughout. What is likely most striking about the documentary is the slightly surreal atmosphere that is present within the project. The soundtrack is very ambient and reflects a slightly serious tone. Between the music and the free flowing nature of this documentary, it reflects an otherworldly tone, and that works very well in its favor.

I’m not a Starcraft player, and to be honest it’s all so foreign to me that it’s like listening to another language… but I understand the allure of it. There’s a very different level of commitment and talent that it takes to be a professional gamer, as opposed to a casual like myself. It’s a discipline that is gained by hours and hours of practice, and seeing someone on a stage putting all of that into effect: it’s something that grabs your attention. It would certainly help to better understand the game, but even still, sometimes it’s easy enough to simply get wrapped up in the intensity of competition – regardless of the game’s rules. Meta: The Culture of IPL gets this across to its viewers and it does so with a sense of professionalism that reflects well upon e-sports. If given the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out this short documentary. For Starcraft gamers, it should be an easy recommend, but it should still prove to be intriguing for almost every viewer.