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When the weird go pro….

<![CDATA[My posting over at Red Herring today is about the Excel hack for tracking Halo 2 play. I make the point that with this kind off RSS-based score sharing, a professional league could be created; basically, it’s an argument that when one can track people doing the same thing all over the world the kind of localized competitive play we are used to—on the models of national leagues for baseball, football and football, basketball, golf and so forth—are suddenly accessible to players everywhere. With non-physical competition, like Halo 2, groups can play competitively at any time. In physical sports, imagine RFID chips with velocity sensors built into a baseball or football that measured the speed of a pitch or kick to rank players around the world. Additional sensors could tell who had the best change-up or curveball.
The thing about all this is that there is an economic imperative behind organizing any competition that will offend the copyright activists out there and I want to address this from the perspective of someone who sees the potential for all sorts of fun to be had in a world where people can enjoy some healthy non-destructive competition and some folks can get paid for being the best at what they do (sans steroids). This scenarios requires that the compilation of data can be protected in some way, as the Professional Golf Association is able to after winning a Supreme Court battle with a newspaper company that was displaying PGA scores in real time on its sites.
The distinction here is that the record of PGA scores is freely reportable while they are timely and protected during a competition or a single day’s play. A Halo 2 player could put their scores on the Web freely and play in an score aggregator’s league or simply to compare themselves to play in the league, but in order to play for prizes they would be required to make their timely scores available only to the aggregator, who would be producing content and creating sponsorship positions that drive revenue and pay for the prizes. It’s like taking a job at a company.
Now, is this the kind of exclusivity in scores bad for the public? Well, only if you think the scores matter outside the context of the contest and, generally, historical scores carry no value and are freely available.
I think the creation of settings where value can be generated is a very good thing, it’s the heart of business in a world so interconnected as ours. In games or podcasting, for example, value will be created by counting and disseminating information about who’s playing or listening. This can be accomplished in very open ways, by sharing our scores and content we can all participate even if we don’t want to make any money but if anyone is interested in prize money or earning a living podcasting, someone has to count scores and audiences and hold that information temporarily in order to get the fees from sponsors or advertisers that cover the cost of production and a share for the players/producers.]]>