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Jumpin’ on the Swarm-Wagon

Two weeks ago, Starcraft II was nothing much more to me than the background noise that leaked from my boyfriend’s laptop at 3 a.m. We would head up to bed, and there the laptop would lie, our very own third wheel, shouting about “Zergs”, “scouting” and some guy known as “Bomber”. Slowly, the Starcraft II casters would lull us to sleep, and the next morning, I would rise and get on with my day, while my boyfriend would finish watching whatever game he had crashed to the night before.

It wasn’t necessarily that I disliked the game; it was more that I didn’t understand it. To a total newbie such as myself, Starcraft II can be one of the most intimidating games to learn. Sure, there are only three races, but each of these races has specific structures that only they build, and each structure makes their own kinds of units. And not just some units, but lots of units, all taking on different tasks and combinations of strategies that will ultimately make one player come out on top. Some of these units look like blobs of color shooting at other blobs of color, and some of them look like Dementors flying around geysers highly reminiscent of those in the elephant graveyard scene in the Lion King. Starcraft II is such an intricate, fast-paced game, that just when you think you’re starting to understand how “micro-ing” can possibly be a grammatically correct verb, the screen comes to a screeching halt and everyone screams “GG!”, and I’m left wondering if the red or blue team won.

Starcraft CorruptorWell, okay. Fine. Maybe I really did hate Starcraft II at first.

But that day has passed, and it is all thanks to the weekend of the Red Bull Battlegrounds Starcraft II Tournament. After being so lost for so long, I spent November 23 and 24 totally immersed into the world of Starcraft II, and learned more in those two days, than all my late nights listening to the third-wheel-laptop. From a newbies perspective, here are the three major things I grew to understand and most appreciate about the game:

Starcraft II is exactly like a major sport.

And really, the Red Bull Battlegrounds was exactly like a major sporting event. There are commentators, a.k.a. casters, that explain game play and strategy. Players have the trash talk, infamous nicknames, and statuses of celebrities, and in the audience, fans have their favorites, some even making signs to support them. People get excited, scream, and even have cheers like the ever popular “Let’s-go-Scar-lett!” followed by the rhythmic clap clap clapclapclap. There are even overly priced drinks and snacks that are inevitably spilled when things get a little too intense, (I’m still trying to get the Budweiser smell out from my jacket). Also, most of these events are streamed live and are stored in various places online to be re-watched and analyzed again later. Oh, and did I mention confetti? What sporting event is complete without confetti canons blasted in celebration of crippling someone else’s entire Protoss army? Yes, Starcraft II is exactly like a major sporting event in all ways except for…

A truly unmatched sense of community, support, and dedication.

Starcraft Battle

Sure, the players trash talk one another, but it’s the most mild-mannered trash talking in the history of trash talking. In a match between players sOs and PartinG, the latter instant messaged his opponent, saying, “I am your daddy”, to which sOs replies, “I have no daddy”, followed by an oh-so-clever, “I am your new daddy”. That’s it. No cursing, no inappropriate, below-the-belt jabs, just harmless smack talk that amounts to nothing more than audience whoops and hollers.

Booing and any other kind of poor sportsmanship between fans didn’t appear to be a problem either, as it seems that everyone just wants to see an exciting match. There’s a huge realm of acceptance amongst Starcraft II players, and they gather together to play and watch because they genuinely love the game. A perfect example of this is Scarlett, a Canadian player. She’s a huge deal because not only is she the only girl, but she’s also one of the top players outside of Korea, and regardless of all her wins and losses last weekend, she humbly walked across the stage to screams, claps, and words of adoration and encouragement, proving that Starcraft II fans are supportive and just truly passionate about their game and its players.Starcraft Crowd

I was also amazed at how after nine consecutive hours on the first day, not only does everyone return for nine hours on the second, but the casters can easily fill those 18 hours full of relevant information. C’mon. That’s impressive.

Those abbreviations actually mean something. And those Dementors I mentioned earlier? They have nothing to do with Harry Potter:

“GL;HF”, “GG”, “WP”, “ZvT”, “BM” and “APM” are generally not the first combination of letters in the English alphabet, so upon arriving at the Battlegrounds and seeing these word-jumbles thrown up on screen, I was confused. After a quick jab in the ribs to the person on my right, I learned that “Good Luck; Have Fun”, “Well Played”, and “Good Game” are respectful customs that book end competitive games. “ZvT” means “Zerg vs. Terran”, and of course can be varied in any way with “P”, or “Protoss”, as these abbreviations are just intended to highlight the races participating in a game. “Foreigners” are no longer defined as people from outside the United States, rather, Starcraft II players from outside of Korea. “BM” stands for “Bad Manners”, and is not only self-explanatory, but also downright hilarious, especially when done by the least intimidatingly nerdy gamers on the planet. Well, except for maybe the Boss Toss. He looks like he could take my lunch money.

My favorite, however, is “APM”, or “Actions Per Minute”, which is the equivalent of Words Per Minute in typing. These professional players can reach up to 450 APM, which means that in the time it would take me to figure out how to mine minerals, (the most basic action), players like Bomber have not only already mined minerals, but are also completing hundreds of other tasks with their already massive armies.

Also? Those Dementor things? Upon further research, they actually look nothing like Dementors, rather squid-like cockroaches called “Corrupters”. They have a high health capacity and aim to kill anything in the air that poses a threat to Zergs.

I didn’t even have to Google that one.