At New York’s Comic Con last weekend, costumed tweens, game developers and action figure hawkers filled the gigantic Jacob Javits Convention Center. Company representatives in full Warhammer Orc suits wore earpieces because their costumes prevented them from seeing, gamers watched the Aliens trailer in a cryo-pod, and fans posed with a real-life Chun Li. But suprisingly, the chillest subsection of Comic Con was professional Starcraft players.
SUGGY, “from up north in [his] igloo in Canada,” is one of the top 10 players in North America. He seemed more interested in talking about his Toronto Raptors than Starcraft’s new patch notes — and asked for some advice about the New York bar scene.
SUGGY has the bro-quality of shrugging off legit accomplishments because he’s just too cool to acknowledge that he actually has to try to succeed at anything.
“I don’t really have to put in work to be good at gaming,” he said. “Maybe I’m gifted that way,”
He has also displayed his online cool by bringing Starcraft players the one thing they can’t get from an animated alien world: really hot girls. SUGGY has produced a series of YouTube videos explaining his best games, for which he hired a large-chested Canadian girl to narrate the films.
HuK, another player at the tournament, is perhaps more hardcore than SUGGY, but that doesn’t’ mean he can’t be chill. HuK was an unknown on the pro scene four months ago, when he began playing Starcraft and beating some of the top players in the nation. He expected to curtail his eight-hour days of playing once he began his sophomore year in university until he was invited to play professionally in South Korea. But true to bro form, he was never surprised by his talent.
“I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I told everyone before I even started playing the beta that I was going to be really good,” he said.
So if even the world’s top players are basically chill bros with higher Actions Per Minute than you, why does Starcraft retain a stigma? Over 75 percent of the people I tried to contact for this article were too embarrassed to go on record to talk about their Starcraft habit, and one of the guys who agreed to talk said he hopes not too many people read this.
Computer games, outside of Madden at least, used to be socially toxic. Honestly, who would have admitted to playing Myst to a girl at a house party?
And the first Starcraft game was probably the worst of them all. In the game, players collect space money to build giant futuristic armies of destruction in games that last around 20 minutes. Gamers can take on one of three roles: “Protoss” — a “sentient humanoid race native to Aiur” known for their “pscionic abilities” — ‘Terran’ — the badass future-humans all gamers wish they could be — and ‘Zerg’ — glorified overgrown cockroaches.
And on top of everything, the game was in the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre — nowhere near as potentially acceptable as a First-Person Shooter like “Doom.”
As Pete Croughan ’12 explained, “it’s just got the worst stigma you could imagine.”
Starcraft I encouraged the hardcore gamer in us all to spend hours watching YouTube videos to learn new techniques, and its well-balanced gameplay rewarded intense practice and innovation. In South Korea the game is treated as a national sport: players practice 14 hours a day, are able to execute over 300 clicks and keystrokes per minute, and the best players make upwards of $200,000 a year. These dudes have groupies and even receive letters from their obsessive fans.
“I personally don’t think I’m that sexy or good-looking,” one pro remakred in a San Francisco Chronicle article. “I try not to focus on that. I try to give them my ability. That is more important.”
How could any self-respecting bro root for a professional athlete who admitted he was neither sexy nor good-looking? This pathetic attitude has confined the appeal of the professional gaming leagues to nerd-dom.
But video games are too damn fun to be stigmatized forever. By the late 90’s, gamers weren’t just the “Dungeons and Dragons” set anymore. Everyone grew up with an N64 or PS2, and four-player titles like Mario Cart and Goldeneye 007 gave budding bros a taste of what made Starcraft I so great: the competition and shit-talking.
Today, video games are an essential part of bro as well as nerd culture.
“Video games have grown to be a lot more bro-y,” Travis Ing ‘12 explained. Since the first Starcraft’s release in ’98 flat-screen TVs have proliferated around campus, and students host nightly FIFA, Halo or Nazi Zombie matches.
The world’s most famous American Starcraft live commentator, Day9, is currently a college student at Harvey Mudd College in Southern California. In a two-hour long video, he laughs and cries about his time as a professional Starcraft player.
“Now in college, I don’t need to go out,” he reflected. “I don’t need to follow any sort of weird social norm like ‘oh, you’re at college, you don’t go to parties?’ Well, not this weekend, I want to play Starcraft. I think that’s awesome.”
Starcraft is way too much fun — and way too in tune with bro culture — to be shunted aside in favor of mindless shooters. Who ever said you couldn’t wreck some n00bs, 4LOKO in hand, in a pre-pregame with some college bros?
What the world really needs is more Starcraft drinking games: sip a beer for every worker killed, take a shot for every expansion destroyed, and down a 40 for every successful nuke.