Breaking the MILE Barrier

Matt Dion
15 min readJun 27, 2023

The unfulfilled promise of Massively Interactive Live Events and where they go from here.

Source: Always Scheming | Original Image: The New Yorker

On May 6th, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier. At the time, this represented a towering athletic achievement — one that runners had been seriously pursuing for more than 65 years.

Bannister’s story is often referenced as evidence of the power of mental models. Despite decades of prior attempts to break the four-minute barrier, it took just 46 days for another runner to follow in his footsteps. A year later, three more runners did it…in the same race! Once Bannister showed the world that a sub-four-minute mile could be run, other athletes could set their minds on greater challenges.

In the world of interactive entertainment, a different sort of “mile” has challenged developers with a similar mental barrier.

MILEs, or Massively Interactive Live Events, are a relatively new type of experience that promise interactive entertainment at unmatched scale. An offshoot of cloud gaming, MILEs offload heavy computation tasks (such as game physics, AI, and the like) from participants’ local devices and move them to the cloud. Meanwhile, MILEs utilize video streaming technology to deliver an interactive viewing experience with potentially massive concurrency.

Twitch Plays Pokemon is a commonly cited example of an early MILE: thousands of players could view the stream simultaneously and send their inputs back to the “game”, but the game logic itself occurred on just one machine running a GameBoy emulator.

Image Credit: Polygon

I first covered MILEs for Naavik in June 2021. At the time, the format seemed poised for a breakout:

  • Streaming was booming, partly as a result of pandemic-induced lockdowns
  • Cloud gaming providers were struggling to deliver on early promises and in need of a major pivot
  • Genvid Technologies, the leading purveyor of MILEs, had recently concluded their flagship MILE, Rival Peak, boasting more than 100M minutes watched. A month after my essay was published, Genvid raised $113M in a Series C round to develop, publish…

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Matt Dion

Always Scheming is the product of Matt Dion, a product manager, writer, and games industry professional.