Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag

StarCraft competitions have captivated Korean audiences for twelve years. But can that success be replicated globally?

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An interesting read.

Great to see this get more publicity :D if the escapist wants to help in the cause they could always post a link next time a big MLG match is going on... ;)

MLG is a great tournament to watch for anyone who wants to check it out. The next one is mid-october. http://pro.majorleaguegaming.com/competitions/24

http://www.teamliquid.net/ also keeps a good list of ongoing tournaments, though some of them are relatively "small" (only a few hundred dollars) while other ones are in the thousands.

Also blizzcon will have a big tournament.

Last year, the Escapist had a presence at MLG Raleigh. Back then, Starcraft 2 was just a secondary tournament within MLG, given that the game had just been released. This year it was added to the main roster of the pro circuit, and after the highly successful MLG Columbus, it was also set on the main stage of the event.
I was hoping that they would send someone to MLG Raleigh this year too, to capture how much things have grown in one year. Unfortunately, this year it was during the same weekend as PAX so that didn't materialize.

Speaking of TeamLiquid.net, if you want to have a look at past, present and future Starcraft tournaments, large and small, check out this list: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/Premier_Tournaments

This article seems a bit out of date in some points. Primarily when talking about the MLG at the end.

Rachel Bailey:

The United States' own Major Gaming League, which streams matches online, added StarCraft II to its rotation, which also includes Halo 3, World of WarCraft and Super Smash Brothers Brawl.

The current rotation (Starting in at least MLG Dallas in April of 2011)Is Starcraft II, Halo 3, and Call of Duty Black Ops. With league of Legends added in the last MLG (Raleigh) just last weekend. Also it's not just online anymore. They have quite a good turnout in each of the city's they visit.

Not to forget during the July GSL finals(Global StarcraftII League) #gsl was trending in the US and Canada. So already there are ALOT of viewers outside of Korea who enjoy watching Starcraft II played professionally.

Good article, help bring SCII to the masses. My life for Aiur

This is some great writing. I knew Koreans viewed gaming as a sport, but I never knew the players actually got their own Bieber-esque fan girls. Hilarious.

I watch GSL matches on YouTube all the time. Starcraft really is excellent for spectators as far as games go because, as an RTS, people can see most of the map at once. Starcraft is particularly fast paced, which also helps. HuskyStarcraft and HD Starcraft are two very good English language commentators if you want to check it out. It will suck you in.

Hondor64:
This article seems a bit out of date in some points. Primarily when talking about the MLG at the end.

It primarily seems out of date to me by being framed around the 09-10 Proleague Finals when the 10-11 Finals just ended. (KT Hwaiting!)

There are E-Sports fans all over the world and the scene is still growing. Unfortunately, Halo and Call of Duty are awful as spectator sports. The only games that are really good for spectators right now are StarCraft, the various fighting games and perhaps League of Legends.

Korean players currently dominate StarCraft to an almost absurd degree. And mainstream success cannot be created without local heroes. Unless the foreign scene can seriously step up their game in the next year or so, SCII will never spawn a large-scale E-Sports revolution.

As for fighting games in general, the tournament matches can be hard to watch if you aren't at least somewhat skilled at the genre yourself. Additionally, the whole scene tends to be somewhat insular. I may be wrong but I cannot see pro Street Fighter taking off on a large scale.

That leaves just League of Legends to pin our hopes on. And honestly, LoL's a pretty damn good option. It's really fun to both watch and play. Being on a free-to-play model also makes it more accessible to newcomers interested in having a go. It just might be the game we need.

sunburst313:

Hondor64:
This article seems a bit out of date in some points. Primarily when talking about the MLG at the end.

Korean players currently dominate StarCraft to an almost absurd degree. And mainstream success cannot be created without local heroes. Unless the foreign scene can seriously step up their game in the next year or so, SCII will never spawn a large-scale E-Sports revolution.

See, that's just not true. There are plenty of 'local heroes' for us to pin our hopes on - Day9, Tasteless, Artosis(They count even if they aren't actively playing right now), qxc, most of Team Liquid, HuK... and that was just off the top of my head. All of them westerners, and most of them Americans.

Do Koreans currently dominate the scene? Yes. But to say that there aren't people out here who can take up the banner of StarCraft II E-Sports is a disservice to all the people who worked to build this community.

Arcanist:
See, that's just not true. There are plenty of 'local heroes' for us to pin our hopes on - Day9, Tasteless, Artosis(They count even if they aren't actively playing right now), qxc, most of Team Liquid, HuK... and that was just off the top of my head. All of them westerners, and most of them Americans.

Do Koreans currently dominate the scene? Yes. But to say that there aren't people out here who can take up the banner of StarCraft II E-Sports is a disservice to all the people who worked to build this community.

When I say "local heroes," I mean players from your country that you can support in tournaments. So Day[9], Tasteless and Artosis don't count. In regards to Korean-level competition, qxc literally has one single accomplishment to his name. And Legionnaire got an all-kill in Brood War. Foreign scene collapsed anyway. While HuK is a top-tier player, he cannot carry the hopes of the entire foreign scene on his shoulders alone. Unfortunately, he is alone. No other foreigners are at the GSL level right now. All the MLG qualifiers got dropped from Code A in the first round. Jinro has completely faded away. No other Team Liquid members have even made legitimate runs. One foreign GSL mainstay does not cut it.

I really do want to see the SCII scene expand. I hope IdrA gets back to top form in Korea. I'd love to see IM turn Fenix into an absolute monster. But right now, we're following the same path as Brood War. There's excitement and growth in a young scene with many foreigners competing. And over time they all fall behind as Koreans dominate. There's still time for the rest of the world to catch up. Nothing would make me happier. However, pretending it isn't happening is not the way to fix this issue. Only coordinated team houses and strict practice schedules can do that.

sunburst313:

When I say "local heroes," I mean players from your country that you can support in tournaments. So Day[9], Tasteless and Artosis don't count. In regards to Korean-level competition, qxc literally has one single accomplishment to his name. And Legionnaire got an all-kill in Brood War. Foreign scene collapsed anyway. While HuK is a top-tier player, he cannot carry the hopes of the entire foreign scene on his shoulders alone. Unfortunately, he is alone. No other foreigners are at the GSL level right now. All the MLG qualifiers got dropped from Code A in the first round. Jinro has completely faded away. No other Team Liquid members have even made legitimate runs. One foreign GSL mainstay does not cut it.

I really do want to see the SCII scene expand. I hope IdrA gets back to top form in Korea. I'd love to see IM turn Fenix into an absolute monster. But right now, we're following the same path as Brood War. There's excitement and growth in a young scene with many foreigners competing. And over time they all fall behind as Koreans dominate. There's still time for the rest of the world to catch up. Nothing would make me happier. However, pretending it isn't happening is not the way to fix this issue. Only coordinated team houses and strict practice schedules can do that.

This is very true and I agree, but lets look at "real" sports as well.

Canada Dominates woman's hockey, USA/Can have a strong strangle hold on mens hockey. Africa dominates running. Brazil wins soccer more often then not.

The reason behind these is Practice and drive. In Canada our youth are encouraged to play hockey from the time they can walk, heck some kids can skate before they can run! In Brazil kids start playing soccer from the moment they can handle the ball. Their parent encourage them to excel at these sports and their country/society also encourages it.

For the most part in Canada/USA games are still shunned. If you tell your Girlfriend that you can't hang with her on Sunday as your watching the football game with your friends she will understand and say have fun. You tell that same girl that you can't be with her on Sunday because your watching the MLG Starcraft II finals? She'd laugh in your face!

In Korea, Starcraft is welcomed, it's accepted, it's embraced. In the rest of the world it's shunned we play it in our basements, hiding it from the outside world. Korea plays it on the beach, on TV. That's why the Korean's dominate the SC2 scene. Not because they were born with SC2 in their DNA. But because they have the ability and encouragement to practice 5+ hours a day. Their called pro's for a reason.

If you invited your office football players, (the guys you get together to play some flag football on a saturday) and challenged the Patriots to a game. You would be DESTROYED. Same thing happens when non dedicated SC2 players try to play the Korean pros. That's why Huk does so well, he's in Korea, practicing with the pro's laddering with them. Playing starcraft all day every day. That's how you get better, and until a time when we in the western hemisphere have the drive to do that, we will never catch the Koreans.

I think I had a point in this. Somewhere. um.... Go Huk!!!

NaNiwa (also in GSL)
Thorsain (GSL)
ReT (winning Blizzcon invitational)

I mean, there are quite a few pro players outside of Korea that do well....
But the post above me is right, as long as it is viewed upon as alien (to use the term loosely) and not accepted as other sports are, we will never reach the level that Koreans are at.

I wouldn't use the GSL too much as a measure of the skill of the foreigners, mainly because of how difficult it is to qualify and also because competing in the GSL is very disruptive for a foreign player. It's unfair to use the code A qualifiers for August against the MLG invites, because they happened so soon after their arrival in Korea. We will have a much better idea after this week-end, when they will participate in the qualifiers for Code A GSL October.

As seen in the GomTV team league, GSTL, Thorzain and Fenix showed that they have at least Code A skill level. Naniwa didn't seem to perform as well, but I'll put that to nerves more than anything else.

However, the current gap between the foreigners and the Koreans is pretty deep, and we only have to go as far as MLG to see it. Since the partnership with GSL was established, the Korean invites have always taken the top spots:
MLG Columbus - top 3
MLG Anaheim - top 6
MLG Raleigh - top 6

The was renewed hope in the European tournaments with Huk winning Dreamhack Summer and Dimaga winning Assembly Summer against arguably weaker (in numbers if not in skill) Korean opposition, but that was dispelled at Intel Extreme Masters at Gamescom in Koln, where the two Korean finalists (Puma and MC) dominated their foreigner counterparts.

I do agree that only stricter practice schedules and a truly organized training regimen (namely have a coach that knows what they're doing and which has the respect of the players) can bridge this gap.

But I will have to disagree that we are following the same path as the professional scene of Starcraft:Brood War. There is much more exposure now for the players, commentators and tournament organizations than there ever was in the West 10-12 years ago. Back then, there were no streaming services to popularize foreign players, foreign tournaments or even the game itself. To watch professional Starcraft outside Korea, you could only do so by going to a LAN that organized a tournament. Right now, I can watch top players compete almost every day. Every week there are games played in several competitions. It's easier than anytime for people to become exposed to the professional competition, because there's so much quality content being produced online.

My point is that the current skill gap will not automatically hinder the development of the scene. I understand the fear that people will lose interest in tournaments because the top spots will always go to the participating Koreans. But we've already seen this kind of tournament. Most people would have predicted that MLG Anaheim and MLG Raleigh will be won by a Korean. Before any of these tournaments, you would have been crazy to bet against that. But still the people tuned in. We still had high quality matches. People were still interested in what happened during the tournament. And this interest translates into more exposure for the sponsors. Which translates in renewed sponsorships, that will allow the professional competition to go on.

It is also my belief that the skill gap will never become as big as it was in Brood War. New strategies propagate much faster these days, foreign teams are better organized and significantly, there is greater interaction between foreigners and Koreans.

As always, only time will tell.
But good signs are everywhere.

I am not at all ashamed to admit I knew every single one of the pro Starcraft players mentioned in this article and I greatly enjoy wathcing both SC and SC2 games.

Over the last year I've inexplicably become addicted to starcraft 2 professional vods. I still play miserably despite all this, but it's far more entertaining than watching sports, at least as a nerd. And the fact that they play it off as sports with nearly a straight face gives it that much more appeal.

2 things that are pet peeves -- oldschool sc1 fans refusing to admit SC2 is worthwhile. If you like it, great, but don't down other rts games, especially the next iteration of the same game with just as much depth if not more.
-And this 'we should all love sc because Korea does' thing. They turned it into an actual sport or something over there, several of the top players are actually in the air force, but are allowed to continue playing professionally. So I'm glad sc has its niche at MLG and we have pro players from all over the world, but this idea that because Korea likes it we all should is silly. Baseball isn't big in Morocco. No one really gets upset when the US doesn't take the World Cup in football.

So long story short, no, I don't think the rest of the world is going to buckle down and tune in to sc games. But it has grown as an industry a good bit due to English speaking commentators on GSL and MLG making it more pronounced and accessible.

Interesting read.

For anyone whose interested, London's second ever Barcraft is coming up on september 17th for Dreamhack
the last one we had was the other week for MLG Raleigh. pics: http://formato.imgur.com/barcraft_london__mlg_raleigh#EwwOI
it was a really good fun, and great way to bring Starcraft "out of the box" as it were.

here's the fb event page for the upcoming dreamhack barcraft
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=189126627823111

and the fb group
http://www.facebook.com/groups/104243493014810/

Okay, but there is a shift coming. And it has to do with the next generation who will be coming into power soon. Just about everyone and their mother owns an Xbox, a Playstation, Wii, or PC capable of playing games. There are people very, very dedicated to making this game they love (Starcraft) into not only a main stream thing, but a positive one at that. The person who currently comes to mind is Day[9]. He recently set up the AHGL (After Hours Gaming League) which had 8 tech companies match people in their employ against one another in a 5 week long tournament with a best of 5 format (each game played by a different player except the Ace match, if it happened). The event was run for charity with the winning company donating 5 thousand dollars to the charity of their choosing. This kind of thing - regular people playing games for fun and/or charity - is the kind of thing that I think will help make games more mainstream.

Additionally, there are things called "Barcrafts" going on in certain places across the country during big gaming tournaments. Imagine going to a bar not to watch the latest UFC or football game but to watch a video game. I would do that in a heart beat, and I'm sure I'd have a hell of a time in the process.

The unfortunate side of things here is that there could be a backlash from the current culture that says "video games are bad" as though voiced by Mister Mackie from South Park. However, I think the sad but true truth is that a way to get around this backlash is to support the gaming scene not just with statistics (i.e. AHGL and charity - how it attracted Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Zynga, Amazon, Dropbox, and Google) but with cash. Now by that I don't mean go donate to casters, because that just gets them some money, but I mean go to a Barcraft if you can and want to, spend some money on drinks, have a good time, go to an MLG tournament if you can, eat out in the neighborhood, grab some swag if you will. The reason for all of this is America is very, very capitalistic. Football, on the grand scheme of human development doesn't make a damn bit of sense whatsoever. However, on an economics side of thing, it's wonderful. Merchandise, tickets, transportation, it all translates into money, into economy. One of the few ways to get through to people who otherwise won't be swayed is to put money where your mouth is, or in this case I suppose, where your heart is.

But starcraft is so lame! I just can't seem to find the appeal of it. I'll admit, I've never played SC2, but I have played SC1 a lot. It's just a bunch of marines shooting aliens shooting half-robot guys. Maybe it's because I'm just not a sci-fi fan...I prefer swords and magic to guns and psychokinesis or whatnot.

I'll go back to watching my "Normal" sports, thank you very much!

sunburst313:

Hondor64:
This article seems a bit out of date in some points. Primarily when talking about the MLG at the end.

It primarily seems out of date to me by being framed around the 09-10 Proleague Finals when the 10-11 Finals just ended. (KT Hwaiting!)

There are E-Sports fans all over the world and the scene is still growing. Unfortunately, Halo and Call of Duty are awful as spectator sports. The only games that are really good for spectators right now are StarCraft, the various fighting games and perhaps League of Legends.

Korean players currently dominate StarCraft to an almost absurd degree. And mainstream success cannot be created without local heroes. Unless the foreign scene can seriously step up their game in the next year or so, SCII will never spawn a large-scale E-Sports revolution.

As for fighting games in general, the tournament matches can be hard to watch if you aren't at least somewhat skilled at the genre yourself. Additionally, the whole scene tends to be somewhat insular. I may be wrong but I cannot see pro Street Fighter taking off on a large scale.

That leaves just League of Legends to pin our hopes on. And honestly, LoL's a pretty damn good option. It's really fun to both watch and play. Being on a free-to-play model also makes it more accessible to newcomers interested in having a go. It just might be the game we need.

I know this is a huge necro bumps yet I'm apart of the fighting game community I been apart of it for damn near 10 years from basic neighborhood tournys, school events to major state events. Overall fighting games are the easiest to get into because it doesn't matter there's always people willing to help you practice and get your tech up. The fighting game since in the US is somewhat insular because you really can't be good at all fighting games because it'll dull your reactions in the games. Yet I'll admit it'll help you with fundamentals and tactical mastery.

The weakness that I find in StarCraft and LoL it pretty the same thing same basic tactical overpower game it just depends on who can set it up the fastest and the lease amount of resource cost. With fighting games each one requires you to do something different if it's technical fighting, turtling, poking, rushdown, teamwork, team synergy. There's no true way to play tactics are always evolving and they evolve much faster then RTS tactics which are barebones in my opinion. I just can't see LoL which is extremely boring version of CTF and StarCraft will never fully hold my interest as long as there's only 3 teams to choose from since I grew up with 40k in my back pocket I just can't invest myself in a knockoff with less options the the original.

Overall Fighting games been hype for a longer time then RTS' its just Blizzard and other people shell out more cash for their tournys. Fighting tournys are more like bragging rights and pushing your skills to the limit then pay checks. Fighting tournys are getting more sponsers these days it's just it's better that it stays with it's humble roots. Their a lot of people that just like to play with like minded people they can careless about the fame and the money. They just want to show how they enjoy what they do.

 

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