Monday, December 11, 2017
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Game Grumps bring video game fans to Ruth Eckerd Hall

Let’s get a grip on the new reality: maybe you thought video gamers were wasting their time, but now they’re getting college scholarships and professional players are packing stadiums and making more money than you’ll ever see.

Gamers also give us hilarious shows like Game Grumps Live coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall Saturday — yes, the big room where they put on the Broadway shows. Like a cross between Mystery Science Theater 3000 and your favorite podcast, they comment and riff on the games they play on their popular YouTube channel. Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan from the show will play games, make jokes and take questions.

If your last video game was Pac Man or Pong you may not realize what huge graphic design leaps video games have made. You are now the character. You are in the story line.

Meanwhile, video game competitions easily fill 25,000-seat arenas and are watched live by millions of people around the world. In practical terms, "eSports" refers to competitions engineered by global organizations that culminate in big-money championship tournaments — dollar figures that can exceed $1 million for winners.

Two professional League of Legends eSports leagues run by Riot Games have been formed with multi-million dollar entries from professional teams like the Golden State Warriors. Twenty teams compete in two separate competitions in Europe and North America.

Just as baseball fans love to see Clayton Kershaw blow fastballs by hitters for the Dodgers, video game fans love to see the top players in the world do what they do best. The difference with eSports is that we can’t throw a fastball 98 mph, but we could easily fire up a game of League of Legends or Call of Duty.

Advertisers and ESPN are taking notice because more than 70 percent of League of Legends viewers (the most popular eSports game) are males, and the vast majority of them are under 26. That makes them appealing to advertisers, plus the audience will grow as more youngsters are introduced. The numbers of people who watch the video game competitions rival the Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs.

If you want to have a fun time with your favorite millennial, fire up an episode of Game Grumps and watch it together. We recommend Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival which will bring belly laughs at the old-school graphics and comments from the Game Grumps as they try to navigate Kermit the Frog riding an inner tube down a river or Animal driving a bumper car.

You’ll get why it’s fun to watch someone else playing a video game.

RELATED: People are paying good money to watch other people play video games.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

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