Tournaments

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Unlike most video games out there, StarCraft actually has professional players who compete in competitions and tournaments. The professional circuit is mainly in South Korea, but does have a presence around the world. The two major gaming channels in South Korea (yes that is really a thing) are the Ongamene and MBCGame, who each run Starleagues. Millions of fans around the world tune in to view these tournaments.

History

While there were professional gamers before the big tournaments were organized, the teams formed somewhere around 2002 the pro games organized themselves into teams that were sponsored by major South Korean companies, including Samsung, KT, and SK Telecom. StarCraft is also the featured game at the World Cyber Games, mostly because of its popularity among Koreans.

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Prize Money

Tournaments actually bring in a substantial amount of money. Somewhere around $4 million has been awarded in prize money has been awarded since the competitions began, most of which has come from tournaments in South Korea. Additionally pro gamers are usually sponsored to play in smaller competitions by companies, being kept on retainer or as employees.

South Korea and Everyone Else

While StarCraft is practically the national sport of South Korea, there have been attempts to get the tournaments to be popular elsewhere in the world. Nick “Tasteless” Plott is an American who has made his rounds at the international tournaments and was asked by GOM TV to provide the English commentary for the 2008 GOM TV Star Invitational as well as the 2008 Averatec-Intel Classic. And providing and English commentary actually worked, bringing an additional million viewers tuning in to watch the matches.

StarCraft fans also download videos to watch the games on their computer, but there is also a huge presence on YouTube, with fans posting and sharing videos with their own English commentaries. The result of all of this was the creation of a little community of StarCraft fans who can post their own commentaries on tournaments. Some of the most famous commentators include NukeTheStars, DiggitymMoletrap, Day9, and Rise.

There are also intercollegiate leagues that follow the same models as the Korea’s leagues. The Collegiate Starleague was founded by a group of Princeton students in 2009, but there are many other colleges who participate such as Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers, and MIT.

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Scandal

Nothing with internet is without scandal, even video games. There was cheating set-up that was discovered in 2010 in South Korea. They found out that some of the professional gamers had been throwing games to set a winner before the game started, putting any people with the knowledge at an advantage for bets. The consequences of this were very harsh; South Korea takes StarCraft very seriously. There were eleven plays banned from all professional StarCraft for their entire life in addition to facing legal recourse. The eleven players’ previous winnings and prizes were also revoked, which included Monthly MVP Rewards, Proleague Player Rewards, and even Player of the Year Rewards.

The government was not kidding around when they handed out the sentences either. Professional gamer Justin received the worst of the sentences, serving 18 months of jail time, a $3 million fine, 120 hours of community service, and 40 hours in a gambling treatment program. sAvior received a 1-year sentence and community service.

Other players involved received lesser sentences and community service time, but no one walked away from the scandal unscathed. It definitely set an example for anyone who would ever attempt to rig a tournament in the future. It ends careers, ruins lives, wrecks any financial viability people had, and is just a terrible idea.

What is StarCraft?

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For anyone out there who has heard of StarCraft, but doesn’t know exactly what it is, this page is for you!

Many of you may already know that StarCraft is a video game. It’s a military science fiction real-time strategy game. What does that mean? Let’s take it apart. Obviously military has to do with combat. Science fiction is referring to the fact the game takes place in the future, set in space and fights against alien enemies. Real-time means you are controlling your movements within the game as they are happening. Real-time strategy means you can look around you and see what else is happening during the game. If you are playing live with other gamers elsewhere, you will have the ability to base your actions off of what they are doing. Pretty cool, right?

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Trust us… SC2 will be nothing once you see how much fun you could have with clips of female with taxi.

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A Little History

Let’s take a look back and see how StarCraft came into fruition. The game was created by Blizzard, a well-known American video game developer based in California. Another famous gave that came from Blizzard is Warcraft. Actually, the concept behind StarCraft came to light after Blizzard released Warcraft II in 1995. StarCraft was initially unveiled in 1996, but was not well-received because of the comparison to Warcraft, but after some tweaking, it was released the following year and received with a much more positive response.

Setting

StarCraft is set during the 25th century and revolves around three separate species all fighting over who has control over the Milky Way Galaxy, known in the game as Koprulu Sector. The species include the Terrans, which are humans who were exiled from Earth, the Zerg, which are insect-like aliens aiming for genetic perfection, and finally the Protoss, which are humanoids with advanced technology and psychic powers. The Terrans are in space just attempting to adapt and surviving to their new living conditions, while the Protoss are trying to save their civilization from the Zerg.

The Terrans were exiled from Earth due to an overpopulation crises in the 24th century. The group is mostly comprised of criminals and genetic mutants, or anyone seen as undesirable to remain on the planet. In their exile, the group was trying to colonize a nearby solar system, but failed and wound up in the conflict-ridden Koprulu Sector. Unbeknownst to the colonists, they gradually become overrun by the Zerg while being attacked by the Protoss, creating a lot of war and turmoil.

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The game is presented as if it were an instruction manual, providing briefings for missions as well as conversations while the missions are taking place. There are also cinematic cut scenes at important junctions within the game. The story of the game is broken into three parts, one for each race. Players have the option to play any of the three races within the game and will play against other players within the other species.

South Korea

For people who don’t have much experience with StarCraft yet, you may be unaware of the effect StarCraft has had on the country of South Korea. While it may sound unusual, it is very much true. Between 1998 and 2008, StarCraft sold over 9.5 million copies of their games, of which 4.5 million were sold in South Korea alone. That’s right, in the entire world, South Korea accounted for nearly half of all sales of StarCraft. Somewhere around 2002, gamers within South Korea took StarCraft to the next level. Suddenly there were professional gamers who were organized into teams. South Korean companies would sponsor these players who would then engage in national tournaments against each other.

While obviously not everyone in the entire country plays StarCraft, its popularity is still incredibly noteworthy. The game is assumed to have caught on in South Korea due to the culture’s desire to test their quick thinking abilities and response times. As schools and testing is taken very seriously in South Korea, StarCraft provides both a creative outlet as well as a tool to fine tune their quick response ability.

What’s up with South Korea?

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You know that StarCraft is incredibly popular in South Korea. Like it’s almost insane how popular it is. It’s practically at the level of being a national pastime.  But I think people are just forgetting what happened historically with StarCraft to make the popularity in South Korea make any sense.

Financial Crisis

In 1997, South Korea experienced a massive financial crisis that sent thousands of people into unemployment. As the situation carried on and citizens became dejected, the unemployed began looking for new outlets while they weren’t working. One of these was video games. But why wouldn’t they go toward the Japanese home consoles?

Japan, by contrast, was faring well in the world market, soaring economically. But there is a history between Japan and South Korea, most recently dating back to World War II, but of course it’s much longer than that. Because of their unfortunate history, Japanese products were banned in South Korea, especially since Japan was being blamed for the economic crisis in Korea.

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Since Koreans had no access to Japanese technology, they needed to import other products to distance themselves from the Japanese. As video games were still popular in Korea, but they couldn’t buy Japanese systems, once StarCraft was released on the PC, it was nabbed up by the Koreans as if they had been starved for years.

StarCraft was also easy to run on a LAN network and was able to function with PCs of all types. Since the game was also fun to play, it only made sense that StarCraft would become a Korean hit. They also had a system of illegal imports that made the game super cheap to obtain.

But remember, South Korea was in a financial crisis so not everyone had a home PC to play StarCraft. This is where the Net Cafes were born. People could go into a Net Café and play StarCraft at an affordable price, therefore turning the cafes into a sort of arcade.

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Military

It is required that all people of age in South Korea to join the military. But there is a space of time in between finishing school and being conscribed into the military. How did these young people spend their free time? In Net Cafes, battling StarCraft. It was a good release from the impending conscription all the while refining decision making skills as well as acquiring military tactics, even if the game is based in space. From this the pro leagues were born and the game’s popularity only seemed to increase exponentially.

Why is it still popular?

Ok so we know why StarCraft was so successful to begin with in South Korea, but how is it still popular there? The financial crisis has ended, relations with Japan have improved. Yet the game’s popularity is just as strong as it has ever been.

Part of the reason has to do with the three tech trees for the three races in the game, providing a completely balanced gameplay. This, together with the multi-player function, made the user base to be able to increase in size exponentially. And as the gameplay is constantly changing with the times, the play is innovative and never quite the same. It isn’t a kind of game where you win and it’s over. You can play again and have an entirely different scenario. The game also requires a lot of strategy. It does not work to try to throw everything you have at the competition and wipe them out. You have to plan, think of what your opponents are doing, and take care of your civilization still. Because the game’s complexities, it’s still popular in not just South Korea, but worldwide.

Professional Players Regimen

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Since we have established that there are plenty of pro gamers in StarCraft, something that makes StarCraft especially pretty interesting is the way the pro players are handled in South Korea. While you may be envisioning some guys playing StarCraft sitting at home, this is really not the case. They have an entire system of how they train and live and breathe StarCraft. Prepare yourself, this is about to sound a little crazy. But if you are serious about StarCraft and want to see if you can live by their regimen to improve your abilities.

Let me start by explaining though that South Korea views StarCraft like Americans view football. We have our teams we are passionate about, where their colors, watch the game with intense interest. Football players all stay together while they are training and traveling for games. So just keep that in mind as we proceed.

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APM

No it’s not a typo. I’m not referring to WPM (words per minute), I’m talking about actions per minute. This is referring to how many clicks of a mouse or keystrokes that someone makes within a minute. The very best players of StarCraft range from 200 to 400 APM. While one of the world’s best StarCraft coaches (yes that’s a thing) says there is no physical wayto make your hands move faster, practice, just like in typing, will increase your ability and accuracy.

Exercise

While it may sound contrary to what most people view in video gamers, professional gaming teams in South Korea included weight training, swimming, and running as part of their team activities. They are serious about keeping their body healthy.

Mental Health

StarCraft is an actual battle of wits. The mental strength you need to compete in StarCraft can be intense. The pros in South Korea work toward clearing their minds before they begin any game and visualize their strategy before any match. This visualization will set them up for a strong start.

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Training Centers

While this is not available to any of us “foreigners,” something that the pro gamers in South Korea use to stay on top of their game is training centers. The players all live together within the training facility and they practice playing StarCraft for 12-14 hours every day. They practice so much that people around the world would be somewhat horrified by it.

Prepare

The pros in South Korea are known for watching their opponents’ previous games ahead of time. Before engaging with the competition, they will study their moves and tendenciesand get a flow for their game plan. This analysis will give the pros a strategy to employ well before they even begin the game. It is common that players will fall into routines and professionals can use those routines to an advantage.

Job

Before wondering how South Koreans are so good at playing StarCraft, keep in mind that StarCraft is actually the job for some people. They live and breathe StarCraft. It effects every facet of their lives. That level of commitment simply isn’t welcome or available in other parts of the world. While there are pro gaming leagues here in the United States, we are not committed to video games. We consider them a pastime only and stop it there. It is even a common thought that video games rot the brain, especially in children. But in South Korea, it is more common to think that StarCraft can only build on your resume, improving your computer skills, problem solving, and, if you’re good enough, provide a job for you. So if you are serious about StarCraft, you may need to move to South Korea.

StarCraft’s Multi-Player Feature

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One of the most amazing features that is used in StarCraft is the multi-player feature. By using the multi-player function, up to eight players can compete in an array of game modes from king of the hill and capture the flag to trying to destroy all of the other players on a single level. The game also uses a bunch of specialized scenarios to create different types of games, like football games, hoverbike races, and hunting competitions.

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StarCraft also utilizes a spawn installation, which limits the multiplayer functions. It has to be installed with a disc and a product key in order to actually function as the full version does. One product key can support as many as eight spawned installations with access to Battle.net. Battle.net is online gaming platform that was developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It has been running since the mid-1990s and was started because of the game Diablo. It was really the first online gaming service to incorporate directly within the game itself, unlike the external interfaces that were employed at that time. Battle.net was a big selling point for Diablo and, as a result, also StarCraft.

 

StarCraft boosted the usage of Battle.net enormously and it grew even larger when Brood War was released. There are literally tens of thousands of players all around the world logged into Battle.net at any given time. Of course, as StarCraft is so huge in South Korea, Battle.net was successful in South Korea where the number of players logged is substantially greater than the number in the United States.

With StarCraft came a new copy protection scheme with the use of CD keys. With Diablo, Battle.net would let any client to login to the service. But with StarCraft, only players with the valid product key could actually get into the system. The CD keys allowed Battle.net to have control over games, muting players who were not playing well verbally, restricting players to certain channels, or even ban players altogether. StarCraft really started the key system on Battle.net and every game since then has had one too.

Multi-Player Build Strategy

Here are some quick ideas for successful multi-player campaigns in StarCraft.

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  • Build up Early: While it’s only a general suggestion, building up early has tested very well for me when playing any of the three races. You will need to separate the four peons as you put them on the different mineral crystals. Don’t built if it’s keeping you from hatching new peons.
  • Don’t build if it’s preventing you from making a fighter. If you are trying to build marines, you don’t barracks if you can’t afford to make another marine after one is done building, just don’t do it.
  • Don’t get wrapped up in scouting or fighting that you neglect your build order and economy.
  • Have enough men on hand to hold of an early rush. Don’t kill yourself off before the game has even started. That would just be disappointing.
  • Towers are cool, but not necessary. Building fighters will help you in the beginning. Don’t waste time and resources on building towers that will really only help you further on in the game. I mean really towers are good for distracting invaders or to help with cloak detection, but so not needed at the beginning of the game.
  • Be smart with your resources in a multi-player game. Other players will be at the same starting point as you. You don’t want to beef up on your defense and fighters while letting your resources dwindle, but you also don’t want to focus too much on your resources and leave yourself open to attack. Balance yourself out.

StarCraft and Expansion Sets

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Prior to releasing StarCraft, Blizzard had already created this demo called Loomings, which was a three-mission campaign that was a prequel to the events of StarCraft. Loomings takes place on a Confederate colony that is overrun by the Zerg. Blizzard made the prequel available as a custom-map campaign, adding in two additional missions and hosting it on Battle.net.

Then, StarCraft’s full release actually had a secondary campaign within it called Enslavers, which had five missions. Enslavers was cool, following a Terran smuggler who took control of a Zerf cerebrate and was chased by both Terrans and Protoss. It’s a perfect example of a single-player campaign for how to use features within the program.

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Of course, since then StarCraft has only gotten more popular and expanded. With that came many expansion sets. Here’s just a quick overview.

Insurrection

Insurrection was the very first expansion for StarCraft, released in 1998. The story was based around a separate Confederate colony that was mentioned abstractly in StarCraft’s manual. It follows some Terran colonists and a Protoss fleet as they fight both the Zerg and the insurgency on the rise. Sadly, Insurrection bombed pretty badly and was said to have lacked the quality of the original.

Retribution

After the failure of Insurrection, there was another attempted expansion called Retribution. This one followed all three of the races as they attempted to get control of a crystal that had a magic power. But, yet again, it was not well-received by critics.

Brood War

Again, there was yet another attempt at an expansion set, this time being 100% official by Blizzard (the others were authorized by Blizzard, but were not created by Blizzard). Brood War continued the story of the original StarCraft mere days after the conclusion of the game. Unlike the others, this expansion set was, finally, well-received. Reviewers praised it for being well-developed and players, especially in South Korea, were in love.

Brood War introduced us to seven new units and gave each race a unique ground unit. Each of the three races were given access to an air-to-air attack unit, The Zerg were able to create a defensive unit that was able to attack from its burrow and the Terran were able to train combat medics, prolonging the life of characters within the game. The Protoss also had a special part, being able to produce dark Templar units who were only given to the player in special missions of StarCraft. The dark Templar are a powerful cloaked melee unit. The Protoss players can merge two of these units in order to create a spell caster unit.

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Brood War is set around the 26th century in the Koprulu Sector after the death of the Zerg leader called the Overmind. With the loss of their leader, the Zerg wander aimlessly attacking at-will. The expansion literally starts two days after the end of the original StarCraft.

Players can take over the roles of three random characters during the game, from the Protoss fleet commander, two adversaries who have since reconciled, and Jim Raynor a Terran rebel.

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StarCraft64 was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and combined both StarCraft and Brood War. In this version, however, there were also some exclusive missions, including Resurrection IV, which was set after Brood War. It follows Jim Raynor as he embarks on his mission to rescue Alexei Stukov, a character from the Brood War, who had been captured by the Zerg. This version was pretty awesome, using a split screen cooperative mode which let two players control one force in-game. But, this version was not as popular as the PC version since you couldn’t go online to battle or have any multiplayer capabilities.

Foreigners in StarCraft

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This may be funny to some people, but in the gameplay of StarCraft, anyone who is not Korean is considered a “foreigner.” While video games usually seem to transcend race, culture, and language, StarCraft somehow does not. Even though it was developed by an American company, it is not considered an American product. And StarCraft is considered a global e-sport, but still the compartmentalizing continues.

The term “foreigner” will refer to anyone playing StarCraft who isn’t Korean. To be specific, it’s really just referring to the international community. Even though StarCraft has a huge fan base in China, even the Chinese gamers are referred to as foreigners.

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History

In the beginning of StarCraft, the infrastructure on a technical level was different between nations. Gaming is expensive to put it mildly, especially if you are playing on Battle.net. But the way that South Korea is set up made it easier for South Koreans to improve their game skills faster than other countries. And, as is stated in my other post, the financial crisis in Korea really freed up a lot of time for people. This time and ability let Korea become the world leader in StarCraft. They were really the ones to get really serious about it, start tournaments, and pro-leagues. This has set them ahead of other gamers in the world.

Elsewhere in the World

Since most of the western world thinks that video games are entirely for leisure, there were some pretty restricted subgroups that covered and organized StarCraft tournaments who actually could connect with language. There weren’t really any offline tournaments and only a few online tournaments. The European portals had coverage of the Korean tournaments online, but still weren’t having their own tournaments.

World Games

The World Cyber Games took place in Seoul for the first time in the year 2000. The tournament was set up like the Olympics, but instead with a focus on e-sports instead of physical sports. The tournament really only had the best three Korean professionals duking it out in StarCraft, leaving the rest of the world just watching from the sidelines. Since the Koreans all spoke a similar language, it was easy to go from there to set up the pro-teams, but this again excluded the rest of the world.

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The World Gaming Tour then created one of the biggest leg-ups to foreigners on the European Battle.net database. Finally, casual players had somewhere they could go to in order to train and compete. The war portal was also created, increasing a sense of competition between all of the little subgroupings.

Timing

Really it was that Korean had started the international circuit of StarCraft that made them the go-to people and reigning champions of the game. Since they were the first on the scene for the world games, and the only players were Korean, they took control. Yes, the game is American, but it was not embraced here the same way it was embraced in Korea. If it had been, perhaps the cultural feelings would have been quite different. But as it stands, the game really belongs to South Korea, no matter who had originally built it. For this reason, in the gaming community, the players are labeled as Koreans or Foreigners. In StarCraft you are either Korean or not.

Where you are from doesn’t matter. It only mattes that you are not Korean. Being Korean in StarCraft gives you a badge of honor, showing that where you come from the game is taken very seriously. The StarCraft world knows that people literally train in South Korea in order to become professional e-gamers. And really, that set-up doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. So I am happy being a Foreigner in StarCraft, while I know that many of my fellow gamers really are not.

Females in gaming

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While we are living in the 21st century, some practices we are maintaining are very much outdated. One of which that has personally affected me, and frankly still does, is the sexism that is running rampant in gaming communities. While it is a stereotype that gamer guys only game because they can’t get girlfriends, they don’t want women in their gaming communities either. Perhaps these guys just want nothing to do with women in any part of their lives. But, I digress.

Stats

Let’s get some statistics out of the way. How many women are even in the gaming community to begin with? Well males account for 70% of online gamers and viewers. So yes, they are the majority. But think of it this way: women account for the other 30%. That is not a number to sniffle at; that is a huge amount of gamers around the world.

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Female Pro-Gamers

Let’s be honest, there are just not a lot of female professional gamers out there. But they do exist. “Mystik,” also known as American Katherine Gunn for Halo: Reach and “Scarlett,” Canadian SaschaHostyn for StarCraft II, have earned well over $100,000 in prize winnings each. Female viewership in gaming bumped from 15 to 30% in 2013, showing a massive growth. But even then, pro female gamers are even more of a minority. There aren’t even female professionals League of Legends players in all of North America.

The pro gaming community gets a lot of flak for sexism. The low numbers can be explained with the sexist marketing strategies, encouraging men from 21 to 34, but essentially ignoring potential female gamers altogether.

Protagonists

Now one of the most irritating and sexist things about video games is the characters. There are few female protagonists and when there are females present, it’s more of a “damsel in distress” situation. Think back to good old Super Mario Bros. Who were the plumbers desperately trying to rescue? Princess Peach. Poor, sweet, defenseless Princess Peach. Were there any female protagonist options? No. It was a simple game, not a lot of options, but really it set the stage and provided a template so to speak of how mission gaming should go.

 

Back to my statistics. If you look across all of the major gaming platforms, from Blizzard to Microsoft, playable female protagonists only make up for 9% of any of the games. While there are some 35 or more games that offer the choice between male or female protagonists, only one of those games actually marketed that it had a female protagonist option.

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Storylines

Let’s be clear, games really only provide stories that are centered on men, rarely women, and they are continually reinforcing the idea that female experiences are not as fun or worthy as a male experience. I’m sure the gaming companies are thinking of their male gamers who they have already targeted, but they are leaving out a substantial portion of potential gamer possibility. Women don’t always want to play male story lines. And female storylines don’t have to be “women’s issues.” We want to fight and play, but it would be nice to have the storylines be more realistic for how we would perceive the world.

It would be nice to have some representation that what’s between my legs has no effect on how I play a game or makes me less marketable. Because we are marketable. Women make up for more than half the world. But no women are at the helm for gaming publishers. We are blocked out of the gaming industry and have zero control over it. Sexism is still here, it just wears a different mask.