This article was originally written by Scott Eunson, although some will know him by his more commonly used moniker of Darth Cuddles and was initially published as a post within the Character Select Forum. Anyway, with his permission, we decided to give it a refresh and a re-post within Cane and Rinse.
People talk about furthering video games as a medium, But what do they mean by this? Better stories? More immersion? photorealistic graphics?
How about the ability to fill a stadium with screaming fans cheering for their favourite player or team?
Over the last year or so, I’ve gotten deeply immersed in the Starcraft II community and competitive scene. If you follow me on twitter you will often see me spamming my feed with my opinions on the latest events that are happening, or getting angry because of a certain thing I find imbalanced. Starcraft II is widely considered the most popular eSport as it has, in the western world at least, given competitive gaming a shot in the arm (we’ll get onto the South Korean Starcraft scene in bit). Although it’s the biggest it is by no means the only game with a competitive scene, there’s Counter Strike 1.6 and Source (there will also be Global Offensive soon), there’s Quake Live – although sadly it seems to be declining by all accounts. There’s also Halo and Call of Duty for those console FPS players out there via the Major League Gaming (MLG) circuit and there are several Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) titles such as League of Legends and the up and coming Defense of the Ancients 2 to name the few that come to mind. But why, with such a wide array of games, do only a small portion of gaming enthusiasts pay attention to these titles that are filling stadiums or giving away huge amounts of prize money to people who devote their time to mastering a certain game?
There are other ways to “further” games other than by just playing them. If you are looking for story there is tonnes of it to be found in the competitive scene, not necessarily from the games themselves, but from the players and their personalities and struggles. The first example that comes to mind was from the last M.L.G. event, Lee Leenock Dong Nyung charged his way through the open bracket, where some of the scariest players in Starcraft II were such as Lim nestea Jae Duk and Jung MVP Jong Hyun both of whom are three time champions of the Global Starcraft League (GSL) and are considered the two of the best Starcraft II players of all time. Leenock not only made it through the open bracket but won the entire competition, playing a total of nine best of three matches in the championship bracket alone. You may be asking whats the big deal? But the main focus of this story is that Lee Dong Nyung is only 16 years old and still in school. Amazing, no? Well, more amazing than that he had made it to the GSL finals as well and took second to Jung Jjakji Ji Hoon in one of the greatest showdowns in Starcraft II. Competitive gaming has some of the most intriguing stories in any game but it’s not the game but the players that are creating these storylines and they can be some of the most gripping of all.
Immersion can also be found in competitive gaming, I have found very few things as tense and awe inspiring as watching two of my favourite players battle it out. In the Dreamhack winter finals Song LiquidHerO Hyeon Deok was three games to one up over his opponent Lee PuMa Ho Joon, but Ho Joon managed to fight back so the series was even at three apiece. If you think of this within football terms, this was the equivalent of being 3-1 up with ten minutes to go, you think it’s a foregone conclusion but then the opposition score not only once but twice. I have never been more tense than when I was watching LiquidHerO (whom I was supporting) lose his huge lead to PuMa but then play a flawless game in the final match, I pretty much gnawed my fingernails clean off and the relief at the end was it’s own reward. Adding to the feel of the matches, Dreamhack added heart beat monitors to the players showing PuMa to be the cold-hearted killer with a steady 100 or so beats per minute while LiquidHerOlived up to his reputation of being really nervous and had a heart rate anywhere from 109 to 160 beats per minute.
Competitive gaming may also have an effect on how people view gaming as a hobby when we have the likes of positive role models such as Shawn LiquidSheth Simon, a player renowned for being one of the nicest men within the eSport community, or Aleksey White-Ra Krupnyk, who I’ve had the pleasure to meet and is widely known for his good sportsmanship and politeness in both games and interviews, often commending opponents for their strategies or skilled play. Both of these men are shining examples of the good influence gaming and the people within the community as a whole can be.
As eSports grow in the West they’re also bringing in real big name sponsorship such as Monster Energy supporting team Evil Geniuses and the MLG being sponsored by Dr Pepper. All I can hope is that competitive gaming can grow in the West like Starcraft: Brood War has done in Korea where there are TV channels dedicated to Brood War and the top pros have a stature equivalent to that of some football players in the UK. Another comparison to the UK football scene is that, similar to the Football Asociation that governs UK football, eSport teams in Korea are governed by the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) – the ruling body that pretty much controls everything that goes on in the Korean Starcraft scene. Korean teams have also garnered major sponsorship from large corporations like Samsung. Hopefully, this may be an indicator of some of the things to come in western competitive scene but hopefully without any of the controversy that has happened with KeSPA in the past, but I won’t go into that here.
If you take one thing from this piece, please take that eSports is actually a great form of entertainment and you should perhaps try and watch some of the events, you never know you might even like it.