Following up on my posts on user generated content from June and July, I thought that I would talk a little bit about one of my favorite versions of user generated content, which is fantasy football.
In 1998 while bored out of my skull in my apartment in San Jose on assignment at Sun Microsystems, I was introduced to fantasy football. I have always liked football, but nothing could have prepared me for the insanity which comes with fantasy football.
For those who don't know, fantasy football is a game where usually 8-12 players have a draft and select different players from actual NFL rosters to be on their 'team' during the football season. During each week of the season 'teams' face each other in a head to head competition with a lineup of players. Each player earns points that week for TDs, yardage gained, etc. At the end of the week the scores are tabulated and your team either wins or loses.
For the normal football fan of a team, each week of the season usually involves watching the game of your team of choice, in my unfortunate case, that has historically been the Minnesota Vikings. For the next level of fan, usually those who gamble on every game each week, football involves being glued to the set on Sunday's and hoping each team beats the other team by a designated point spread usually determined by Vegas casinos. This gets kind of twisted because you aren't necessarily interested in who wins or loses, but by how much.
Then there is fantasy football. This takes sickness to a whole new level. A fantasy player doesn't care at all who wins or loses a game, or by how much. They care how certain players perform in a game. In fact there are times where you want your team to get destroyed early so your quarterback can put up huge yardage numbers trying to catch up. A classic awesome game of two strong defenses is a fantasy nightmare.
Fantasy football is a awesome example of user generated content. The interesting thing is that people have created a whole form of entertainment that is derivative of the actual games. There is a framework that is applied over the football games that includes a draft, scoring, trades, and head to head competition with your friends. The by product of this is the creation of THE most knowledgeable fans of football on the planet, and some of the most un I have ever had in playing a game.
An even more interesting by product of this is the economy and derivative businesses that are created. TO begin with each year players pay a fee for a league that goes into a pool for the winners. This ranges from a small amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars. Then there is a fee that goes to sites such as ESPN that run the backend for the leagues. There are the fees for the services that provide you with inside information, drafting advice and weekly matchup data and advice. My favorite is The Huddle. Then there is the satellite service called Sunday Ticket from Directv that allows you to see EVERY game.
So you get the idea. The fascinating thing about fantasy football as user generated content is the level of engagement that it creates in a user, and more importantly it follows the construct that users want to be given a framework where they can create the narrative of their entertainment.