E-Sports and StarCraft: A quick introduction
Video games are a relatively new medium for entertainment. Video games first gained prominence in our homes in the late 70s and early 80s with products from companies such as Atari and Ninetendo. Over the past 30 years games have become more complex with more detail and better graphics. The first game released was Pong in 1972. It was only a two dimensional representation of tennis but it kept people entertained. The objective of Pong was to beat your opponent; with the rise of Arcades games the level of completion rose as players always sought to have the top score. Much like sports video games tend to bring out the competitive edge in people. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s players gathered at competitions to set the highest for a variety of games.
As games got more advanced the players began to compete directly against each other. In 1997 the first competitive league The Cyberathelete Professional League (CPL) was formed. The next big step in competitive gaming happened in the year 2000 with the World Cyber Games (WCG). The first event was held in Seoul South Korea which is the mecca of competitive gaming. The games played were Quake III Arena, StarCraft Brood War, FIFA 2000, and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. The first WCG had 174 competitors from 17 different countries with $20,000 in total prizes. WCG peaked in 2006 when there were 9 different games were played, 700 competitors from 70 countries with a total purse of $462,000.
We will now turn our focus to StarCraft a real time strategy (RST) game that has three playable factions: Terrans who are the humans; Protoss who are an ancient and powerful alien race; and Zergs who are a hive mind race that infest and overrun other races. StarCraft is a game produced by Blizzard Entertainment that is the same company that brings you World of WarCraft. A real time strategy game is a game that pits players against each other in the moment . Unlike Risk which is a turn based game where players take turns moving, in RTS your pieces make moves as rapidly as you make a decision and your opponent is doing the same thing. In StarCraft you must build a base where you manage your economy that means collecting resources, building worker and fighter units and then controlling your units to defeat your opponent.
Key terms for StarCraft are:
- Macro which is a players ability to build and manage the economy.
- Micro which is a players ability to control individual or groups of units.
- Actions Per Minute referred to as APM which is how many keystrokes and clicks a player can perform in a minute.
- Multi tasking which is the player’s ability to effectively use their APMs in both a Micro and Macro manner at the same time or nearly the same time.
- Build order which is the basic strategy a player uses in the first minutes of the game to get himself/herself established.
- Cheese is a strategy meant to defeat an opponent in the very early stages of the game and does not have any follow up plan past the initial attempt at dominance.
Competitive StarCraft saw its early success in the early 2000’s in Korea where teams were sponsored by major Korean companies like Samsung and SK Telecom, a mobile service provider in Korea that has about 50% of the market share. In this environment top players could earn $100,000 a year in salary in addition to their tournament winnings and sponsorships. One of the first major stars was Lim Yo-Hwan known as BoxeR. He became known as the Emperor Terran. At BoxeR’s peak his annual earnings were just under $500,000 USD. An example of how popular and influential he was occurred when he was forced to join the military, as are all South Korean men. After a month and a half of joining the air force this service branch started its own StarCraft team to allow BoxeR to continue to play. As players gained fame and fortune in Korea it was a much different story for players elsewhere who’s only avenue for success was in the WCG.
This will take us to the release of StarCraft II in 2010 where we will begin to see the rise of Competitive StarCraft in the Americas and Europe. We will explore that and much much more next time.
Remember Good Luck Have Fun and see you next time.