It’s All Geek to Me: Of barracks, pylons and zerglings

In All Geek to Me, Columns, Columns, Opinion

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While I couldn’t call myself a fan of the term “eSports,” I have recently found myself sucked into the world of high-level, competitive video game play. While I have dabbled in games such as League of Legends and DOTA 2, I decided to make my first definite dive into the eSports world with Starcraft II.

When I say first, I mean first. While I played the original Starcraft well over 10 years ago, I never played in competitively. And while I have watched the occasional Starcraft II match since its release in 2010, I hadn’t decided to try it for myself until the recent release of the Heart of the Swarm expansion.

So now I’m starting from the ground up, learning about build orders, macroing, supply capping, harassment and kiting, as well as a myriad of other terms that sound like a complete foreign language to any outsider.

Speaking of outsiders, to many this mere concept sounds nonsensical and unappealing. When it comes to watching video games and professional video gamers, eSports sounds like silliness to some.

It sounds like a derisive waste of time to others.

Yet according to MajorLeagueGaming.com, the largest organization for the gaming circuit, the growth of its audience is exponential, going from 1.8 million viewers to 11.7 million in only two years (a 636 percent increase). It shows that this phenomenon isn’t just a small, passing fad. And those stats are just for one league, not even the entire eSports scene as a whole.

To those who still can’t quite understand the appeal of the games, let me explain: Why would anyone watch any sport? Usually because they like the game and enjoy watching the best athletes in the world perform against each other, exhibiting the best of the best in that particular field.

The same holds true for eSports. Whether it’s teams of players or one-on-one, those who want to see the best-of-best face off against each other are able to do so. Though the battles may be digital rather than physical, they involve incredibly fast brainwork and tactics.

For Starcraft II specifically, imagine a game of chess with about triple the amount of pieces and move combinations on a board four times as large. Now instead of turns, players can play as many moves as they can with two hands. It’s speed chess, and the appeal comes from watching players manage literally dozens of actions at once.

While the amount of jargon can be confusing to new players and certain strategies that watchers are already expected to know might not be immediately apparent, once that barrier-to-entry has been breached, the experience becomes infinitely more entertaining. Just as someone who knows the rules to football or soccer will understand—and therefore enjoy—the game more, the same holds true for the digital realm.

As far as my particular eSports ventures go, I have yet to foray against human opponents. In fact, even playing against the computer can be stressful. But just like your first Little League experience, you have to work your way up, and as you become more comfortable with the game, you enjoy it more.

Just like any other sport, the key to getting better is practice.

You can start from the very bottom and work your way to the top quite easily. Compared to physical sports, where athletes train for years, often from a very young age and through their school life, a new player could start playing for the first time today and be in the champions’ circle in almost no time at all. There are plenty of real stories to back this up.

So whether you already watch eSports or you’ve never heard of it at all, give it a try. Maybe try watching a game you have some interest in, or starting out on a game you’ve watched in the past. If you haven’t played any of these games but this peaked your interest, look one up on YouTube.
You never know, you might enjoy it.

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