Before my brother forced me to learn how to play StarCraft — so that he could enjoy ruthlessly murdering me without consequences, no doubt — I did not know that computer games other than Solitaire and Minesweeper existed. Before StarCraft, I was a child who lived under a metaphorical gaming rock; I had never played a first-person shooter or anything more complex than Super Mario. Scrabble and chess were my preferred modes of entertainment, and no one would play with me because I was a frequent winner and a terrible loser.
StarCraft compelled me to evolve — I left my Neanderthal-esque persona behind and was soon a fully evolved frantic, wide-eyed maniac. I learned a new language: “Damn the range of those siege tanks!” and “Why won’t the Zerglings stop coming?!” I learned to fear the words “battle cruiser operational” and “nuclear launch detected.”
StarCraft changed my gaming life. The only StarCraft gaming time that I log in is with my incredibly geeky family, when we have LAN parties. I always play as Terran because my brother always play as Protos, and I refuse to imitate him — copy cat! — and also because the Zerg freak me out. Seriously, I have semi-regular nightmares featuring “Hydralisks.”
Last summer, I spent three months in South Korea. It was over this period that I came to understand that StarCraft had become more than just an amazing real-time strategy game (RTSG). As far as gaming popularity goes, StarCraft had rocketed through the stratosphere and up into outer space.
The English cable one purchases has two channels where StarCraft games are watchable, 24 hours a day. There were StarCraft stadiums — yes, stadiums — where people would go to watch two players go head-to-head on massive screens.
As time passed, I began to realize that a computer game had ascended, played, and was followed and respected with the same reverence and obsession one usually sees in the sporting world. This is a fact perhaps most obvious when you listen to both sports and StarCraft commentators — the similarities are eerie. Just a little more inquiry inevitably revealed StarCraft was not the only game with an extensive and successful following. The world of online gaming is here, and I am not sure if things will ever be the same.
There is momentum behind this kind of gaming, and I would argue the drive behind it is only accelerating. In Korea, I looked around and saw an entire culture enriched by the essence of a video game. Back home in Canada, I saw the same obsession embodied in my 15-year-old brother, who plays Halo online for at least 10 hours a day. Something has shifted since the days I would sit across the room from my brother on a desktop computer, and hear him swear as I set up my siege tanks just out of the reach of his immobile photon cannons. Soon, StarCraft might well be up on the televisions in sports bars near you. All you have to do is look around to realize that this shift is inevitable.
At the end of the day, and the end of this article, I am not sure whether the age of the RTSG genius, capable of 300 actions in a minute, should be warmly welcomed or vehemently resisted with the force of a thousand Zerglings.
I still refuse to play StarCraft online because I am terrified an eight-year-old child will thoroughly squash me — the odds just aren’t in my favour.