[SC2] StarCraft As E-Sport, Part 1: What Are E-Sports?
Most posts I write tagged [SC2] are intended for savvy audiences; however, here I write also to those who know nothing about StarCraft 2, about its following culture, or what “e-sports” are. I believe e-sports is or will become important to our whole Internet generation. If you have any interest in the Internet, video games, or even regular, physical sports, I urge you to have a read.
There will be a following post about the current state of StarCraft 2 as an e-sport. But first, let’s delve into the history of e-sports from the perspective of StarCraft 1.
In 1998, Blizzard Entertainment released a strategy computer game called StarCraft. It featured sci-fi story campaigns from a top-down perspective. Gameplay involved players building a base, managing an economy, training an army, and conquering opposing bases. Aside from the single-player story, players could engage other players, through networked computers or online. Fans designed custom stories or minigames, or enjoyed straightforward competitive one-on-one matches.
From that last component, competitive singles tournaments were born around the world, though notably in South Korea. StarCraft was a strategic and competitive game, not unlike Chess. Because StarCraft was the most popular strategy video game, most people who played video games knew about it. Because almost every gamer could speak the same language - StarCraft - almost every gamer could participate in, or at least enjoy observing, tournaments.
This gave rise to more and more competitive players, repeat winners, travelling competitors, and finally, professional pro-gamers. These tournaments, which entertained a large portion of the gamer crowd, attracted business sponsors for commercial products - just like traditional sports or competitions, like American football, or NASCAR racing, do. A global population of people gradually but simultaneously formed a culture around a competitive game, which attracted advertising, business sponsorships, and professional players.
What do you call that? You call that a sport.
What is in the Olympics does not exclusively constitute what sports are. Speaking of The Olympic Games, there are a lot of factors in common between Olympians, or sports atheletes, and pro-gamers. Individuals dedicate their lives to competitive events, supported by business sponsors, gambling their livelihoods on games. The main difference between a star quarterback with a ring and a championship gamer would be social stature. Oh, and, of course, earnings. I’d argue that those two differences shouldn’t exist, but that’s another issue for another time.
Back to StarCraft. Blizzard released an expansion, Brood War, that same year. South Korea was rapidly growing a competitive scene. Not only were some players dedicating their lives and livelihoods to the game, full teams were developing. That is, professional teams with coaches and managers, product-placement and advertising, room and board accomodations, hotel and transport expenses paid - the works. In South Korea, it was possible to watch teenage boys play video games on broadcast television. That is, teenage boys who train for literally over 12 hours a day, competing in tournaments for the equivalent of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Popular competitive StarCraft: Brood War player, Lee “Flash” Young Ho, earned a total of $407,228.04 in his Brood War career, over the course of 32 tournaments.
This “e-sport” is a very real experience to gamers who tune in to watch. There are almost no differences in practicality to watching pro StarCraft as there is to watching football. There is a live audience cheering in the background as professional commentators give play-by-play and strategic analysis during live games. The main difference is that an e-sports fan turns on his computer to watch live streams on the Internet, instead of watching on his television.
There’s only so much I can write about e-sports without actually showing a bit of what e-sports is. Whether from the seat of the player or the fan, it’s visual entertainment, after all.
GOMTV.net hosts the Global StarCraft II League, or GSL, in South Korea. The GSL is home to the most skillful pro-gamers in the world. GOMTV curates a weekly series on YouTube, called GSL’s Greatest, showcasing superb matches in GSL’s history. LINK
A post on the state of StarCraft 2 is to follow. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next time.