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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Video gaming world cup hits Paris
ESWC
The world cup final is being held at the Paris Expo
Thousands of gamers are in Paris over the next four days for the Electronic Sports World Cup grand final.

More than 750 players are competing for $200,000 (99,200) in prize money, with about 5,000 spectators expected.

The games being played include CounterStrike, Quake 4, Warcraft 3 and Pro Evolution Soccer 4. There is also a women-only CounterStrike tournament.

David Heuze, communications manager for the event, said: "The best video game players in the world are here."

Mr Heuze said the atmosphere during games was similar to a football match.

"It's crazy. There is a lot of noise and cheering.

'Real sport'

"This is a real sport and we think this year it will be going mainstream. There are TV channels in the US and Korea showing live video game matches, a new channel in the UK and growing interest all the time."

There are about 50 full-time video game professionals in the western world, said Mr Heuze, who each earn about $200,000 a year in prizes.

Overall the skill level among female gamers isn't that great
Gamer Anne Rogers

"Little by little you can see more and more professionals. Brands are using these gamers to promote their products. I'd expect to see more well-known gamers emerge."

The finalists have been drawn from qualification events in more than 50 countries around the world.

UK gamer Anne Rogers, who is leading all-female team OS G-Stars at the event in Paris, said the skill levels among the professionals was "amazing".

"Some have been playing full-time for seven years. Their skill levels require dedication and training. This is not something you can just pick up and play."

More than 120 women are competing in the all-female CounterStrike event. CounterStrike is a tactical first person shooter in which virtual soldiers taken on terrorists. In the tournament two teams of five players each stalk environments in a last-man standing battle.

Encourage game-playing

Ms Rogers said the female-only tournament at the event was designed to help encourage game-playing among women.

She said: "It's more to do with promotion of the game to females than a skill difference - although there is a skills difference - to make it more normal for women to play.

ESWC heat in Portugal
Heats were held around the world Photo: Pedro Freitas

"Overall the skill level among female gamers isn't that great. But hopefully these tournaments will fire up an interest and improve that level and one day hopefully girls will be competing with the boys."

In preparation for the event, the team has, over the last six months, been playing five nights a week for five hours at a time.

"We've had no lives. But we're really looking forward to it. Girls really enjoy the team-based atmosphere.

"You can see the spectators watching; hear their cheers."

Mr Heuze said female gamers did not have the same experience as the men.

"It's not easy for women to find a place in the world of male gamers. Five years ago we decided to create a tournament for women, to promote video games to them.

"It's been a huge, huge success because there are now a lot of female gamers around the world."

Veteran UK gaming squad, Team Dignitas, will be keeping a diary for the BBC News website from the E-Sports World Cup.


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