Friday night in the far reaches of the galaxy, Yale will square off against Harvard in an epic battle between humans, insectoids, and psionic power for control of the universe — a match of Starcraft II to be streamed online for Starcraft fans around the world.
Of the 75 matches between colleges across the nation this week, only four were chosen by the Collegiate StarLeague for the live web stream with commentary. The match between the Bulldogs and the Crimson, however, will be the first one to air live in the league’s history.
Collegiate StarLeague, a collegiate gaming league, has been trying to build up the hype leading up to the weekend’s game. A tagline on their website reads, “Who will win the war of the Ivies? This goes beyond the US News college ranking … ”
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Starcraft, a real time strategy computer game in which players gather resources to fight alien armies, is considered a national sport in Korea. However, with the release of Starcraft II this past summer, the professional e-sports scene in America has caught on. Because of professional growth of tournaments like “Major League Gaming” and the “Electronic Sports League,” which boast prize pools in the tens of thousands, collegiate-level amateur gaming has taken hold. The Collegiate StarLeague, founded by a group of University of California San Diego and Princeton students in 2009, runs a tournament featuring 144 colleges and universities.
Duran Parsi, one of the StarLeague’s original founders, came up with the idea simultaneously with Princeton student Mona Zhang. He has been impressed with the growth of the league, which started only last year with twenty or so teams. The CSL’s mission, according to its website, is to “create enough excitement and passion for e-Sports to fill stadiums, be broadcast on television and ultimately become a part of mainstream culture.”
The league is currently looking for sponsors to provide prizes for winning teams. Matches are best-of-five, with administrators from CSL observing each game to ensure fair play. Duran said he is currently suspicious of one school’s attempt to “smurf,” or use their best player on different accounts to play multiple times. “No cheating at Harvard,” Duran said, “unfortunately.”
“Every high school senior should be looking at colleges based on their CSL teams,” Parsi said. We’re hoping for athletic scholarships for Starcraft in the near future.”
The online commentator for the Yale-Harvard match, Alex Ledoux, a freshman at Salt Lake Community College, explained his choice to stream the competition.
“I know what you can do in the classroom,” he said. “I’m curious to see what you can do in-game.”
In comparing his work to calling a baseball game, he began, “this is 15 billion times more exciting.”
“In baseball you can just say ‘he got a triple’ and read some stats.” For Starcraft, “you have to explain why the players are doing certain strategies and what they’re thinking at the time. It’s a really educated audience, you have to be able to tell people stuff they don’t know.”
Sherwin Yu ’12, captain of Yale’s CSL team, started playing the first Starcraft game in third grade.
“Starcraft has been a pretty big part of the last ten years of my life,” Yu said, “so it felt natural for me” to lead up Yale’s squad.
The current team’s make-up doesn’t necessarily live up to stereotypes. Players range from Chemistry to History majors, from “Battle of the Brains” participants to WYBC DJs.
“Back home, almost everyone played starcraft – girls, mathletes, athletes, everyone – for many the social aspect was more important than the competitive gaming aspect,” Yu said. “I hope that kind of community can develop here.”
The Yale team is upping its practice-time in preparation for the game. While sports teams often watch films of opposing teams during the week, Starcraft has its own version of film study: “replays” of all CSL matches are uploaded online, so Yalies can observe their opponents’ match history to counter their preferred tactics.
Sirui Sun ’13, competing in Yale’s two-vs.-two squad, has been studying his opponents’ strategies. Both of his Crimson enemies are “random,” meaning instead of choosing one Starcraft’s three races, Terran, Zerg or Protoss, theselves, the computer randomly decides for them. But Sun said he is confident he will be able to adapt in-game. “My partner and I have been playing together for five to six years.”
Harvard has also been devoting extra energy to the match.
“I try to get my 2v2 partner to get online with me but unfortunately problem sets interrupt,” said Harvard sophomore Benjamin Cohen. “He really needs to get his priorities straight.”
The two teams will be facing off at 8 p.m. in an undetermined classroom in WLH. Last year, Yale defeated Harvard 3–1.