Then StarCraft: Brood War (singular, no "S," newbie!) was released. It brought back all my old habits, and reunited me with my old friend who I thought was lost forever. But she was no longer the same, having been crowned the Queen of Blades. I'm saddened to admit this, but the expansion just didn't instill that same sense of connection I had with the original game. Maybe being manipulated by Sarah Kerrigan rather than fighting alongside her contributed to that feeling. I didn't agree with Blizzard's decision to re-use the same terran units from the original game, adding some disappointment with the game as well. The ending itself lacked any real finality to several situations, leaving too many loose ends, too many questions unanswered.
Because of my experience with StarCraft on b.net, it was no surprise to me to discover a few years later that the game had become a cultural phenomenon in Korea. Televised games drawing millions of viewers and professional StarCraft players making six-figure salaries; it could only happen in a country where online gaming is taken so seriously, players have killed each other over in-game transgressions. StarCraft is to Korea as baseball is to the United States. It is a national pastime, and becoming more popular everyday. The difference in cultures is evident when you consider that gamers in America are vilified and treated as pariahs by those who are chosen to represent the populace in the government. In Korea, they give their favorite gamers the adoration and respect that is usually reserved for celebrities and sports heroes in the West.
When I think about the fact that a large population of people on the other side of the planet have been consumed by the same obsession I first felt in my living room almost 10 years ago, I feel closer to them. I can relate to them when I read stories like the one about the young man who died after playing StarCraft for 49 hours without a break. I was only 22 hours from equaling that and possibly sharing his fate. Then, I remember that these are the same people that were kicking my ass all over the game map, and I want to log in again and lay the smack down. As if I could.
Currently, StarCraft is still one of the best-selling PC titles, with the StarCraft Battlechest collection breaking into the Top 20 sales list every so often, largely in part to being stocked at every Wal-Mart in existence. Fans of the game eagerly await any scrap of information concerning a sequel. Rumors and speculation about the announcement of StarCraft II at this year's E3 were laid to rest when Blizzard unveiled another blue-skinned race in a different "Craft" universe. But the last official news concerning StarCraft was not something that many wanted to hear. Ghost, the console-only game based on the franchise, was placed on "indefinite hold" in March of this year.
For now, millions of players worldwide are still content with the game, despite its age. As for me, over the years, I have bought four more copies of the game I never intended to play in the first place, one of which was to replace the copy that was taken by the ex-wife as part of our divorce settlement. What can I say? My life for Aiur!
JR Sutich is a Contributing Editor for The Escapist and is rumored to have been banned from an online game during its initial design stage.