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Spend Your Weekend Watching Other People Play Video Games

You know, why don't you do something totally different on this site for a change?

Lots of people, watching StarCraft.
Lots of people, watching StarCraft.

If you're the sort of person who's been looking to transition from "sort of casually interested in seeing highly skilled people play really difficult games for money" to "lying on your couch watching streamed matches of StarCraft II and/or Street Fighter IV for two days straight," this might well be the best weekend in the history of the world for you to take that momentous step.

I'm talking about the world of competitive gaming (or "e-sports," if you can stomach the term), and there's a staggering amount of it happening over the next two days.

For me the main event is MLG Anaheim (you know, California), where the folks at Major League Gaming are pulling together the best of the best to compete for cash and glory in live streams of Halo Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and--count 'em--two separate feeds of StarCraft II filled with dozens of top Western players and a handful of the biggest names from the Korean scene, and commentated by some of the best casters on the Internet, including noted fancy gentleman Sean "Day[9]" Plott. You can watch the low-quality streams of all this stuff for free at MLG's site, or, hey, how about in this player right here.

A few months ago, MLG ran a Dallas event so disastrous, rife as it was with unstable video streams and in-game networking issues, that the group's CEO personally took the stage on the last day to issue a formal apology. After that performance, I wouldn't have endorsed another one of their events. But at its next show in Columbus, MLG thoroughly got its act together by fixing its network issues, bringing in top players and commentators from the Global StarCraft League in Korea, offering free high-quality streams to everyone, and even getting rid of its peer-to-peer video service due to audience demand. Based on that follow-up performance, I have no reservation about recommending the MLG feeds if you want a good, free way to see what competitive StarCraft II is all about.

Of course, Halo and Call of Duty will be going on as well, if you're into that. I just can't get into competitive first-person shooters in the same way as I have StarCraft, though.

Another genre I can appreciate on a competitive level is the fighting game, and I'll be darned if EVO 2011 doesn't have you covered there. That's going on in Vegas all weekend, and there are two live feeds over on the official site streaming high-level games of SF4 Arcade Edition, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat, and more. Of course, if you want to get in on the seedy hotel-room cash games of Jackie Chan, you'll just have to make the trip to Vegas yourself.

Lastly, you could always skip straight to the gold standard of live competitive gaming events by watching the GSL's season finals, also going on this weekend. You can watch live streams of the finals for free if you feel like staying up till some ungodly hour on North American time; otherwise, a video-on-demand account will cost you a decent chunk of change. Those new to the game may want to stick with the more accessible MLG option for the moment, though I can tell you from experience that there's nothing quite like being in the middle of a couple thousand people screaming their heads off at an all-in zergling rush.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+