Gaming is serious business: ‘Starcraft’ and the phenomenon of ‘eSports’

Michael Pacheco and Michael Pacheco

What fascinates me most about people is that we always find a way to make something competitive, and they come in all different activities in various scales of popularity and stakes. In this day and age, one of the more increasingly popular pastimes in this past decade is the phenomenon known as “eSports,” or competitive video gaming. Originally pioneered by PC shooters such as “Quake” and “Unreal,” it soon spread to other gaming genres such as fighting games and real-time strategy (RTS) games.

“Starcraft,” an RTS released in 1998 with its expansion set “Brood War,” became South Korea’s national pastime over the course of a decade. While it began as a cult following, the “Starcraft” scene in Korea exploded. PC Baangs, or internet cafes, sprang up everywhere with people lining up wanting to play. Community websites such as Team Liquid sprang up. Then came corporate sponsored teams that provided housing, food, a regular salary and even a dedicated coaching staff for the players. Two television channels were dedicated to broadcasting games in a format similar to other major sports.

The biggest question lies in this: what made the game last for so long? Even after its sequel, “Starcraft 2,” was released, the leagues for “Brood War” did not stop operating for another two years and private competitive servers such as iCCup and Fish sprang up.

“I think a reason the pro-scene and just the competitive scene of Brood War throughout the world lasted this long is because the game is just so balanced,” said Danny “RedAxis” Lee, co-captain of Team Freedom of the iCCup D ranks All-Kill team league. “It’s a pretty welcoming game.”

The game itself is fascinating in the delicate sense of balance it has, given that there are three very different and distinct playable factions in the game. This makes the gameplay much more dynamic and offers more complexity compared to similar games at the time. This gave the game an incredibly high skill ceiling and offered high amounts of replay value, which Lee can attest to.

“I pretty much got addicted to getting better and better in hopes of becoming a pro,” said Lee, “watching YouTube videos of professionals playing, watching my own replays to find out where I made mistakes and playing games 24/7.”

“Brood War” remains as one of the most influential games of all time. It defined an entire generation of gamers and even to this day, I will log on and play games with friends and teammates to practice, get better and, ultimately, to have fun. Even though the scene is not as rich as it once was, the passion will always be there. So if you’re looking for an exciting game with a great community, give this game a shot.