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Starcraft 2: The Digital Colosseum

By Shamus
on Thursday May 30, 2013
Filed under:
Video Games


I have long been of the opinion that We Play Sports For a Reason. I’ve rambled about this in the past. Our fascination with contrived competitions isn’t caused by a desire to watch beer commercials and eat outrageously priced hot dogs. It’s part of our heritage as mammals.

Things being what they are on this planet (and maybe others, I dunno – I don’t get out much) creatures that don’t compete don’t get to survive. That’s kind of mean, but that’s nature for you. Some of us are more aggressive than others, but on the whole we’ve got a lot of homo sapiens running around who want to climb the mountain, lead the pack, be the biggest, run the fastest, kick the most ass, and generally assert their place at the top of the pecking order of the top species. It’s the old, old biological imperative: Go out and conquer something. And then maybe eat it.

Over the years this type of conquest-ing activity has made a few successful people incredibly happy and made just about everyone else miserable. Or dead.

But lately we’ve had pretty good luck finding ways to channel this desire for dominance into things that don’t result in war and murder. It’s not like we’ve transcended violence or anything, but we’re getting better. And the best salve for our inner barbaric spectator is something that feels like conquest without being, you know, too conquest-y. We let someone else do the fighting and we enjoy the winning and losing vicariously.

I’m talking about sports. Which includes things like Starcraft.

Shamus, videogames are not sports! Sports are physical activities. Videogames are just games.

When it comes to playing them, I’ll agree with you. On a purely physical basis, playing Starcraft is closer to filing your taxes than to rugby. But I’m not talking about the players. I’m talking about the audience. For the audience, watching football is physically indistinguishable from watching Starcraft: You sit in a chair and watch somebody else fight. And this is who we’re interested in right now, the people living vicariously through the competitors by choosing sides, building narratives, and lifting players up as heroes. The people in the stands always outnumber the people in the arena, and the arena exists for their benefit. The guys in the ring can fight in any dirty alley they like, but they fight in the arena because this is where we can get the best view of the metaphorical bloodshed.


With this in mind, I can’t escape the notion that Starcraft is – for the purpose of entertainment – the best sport-as-surrogate-conquest ever invented.

It depends on what you’re looking for in a sport, of course. Soccer and basketball have continuous physical activity, but their lack of physical contact makes them a bit tame for people looking for substitute warfare. Football has the more direct conflict, but the pace can be maddening for people who don’t grasp the overall rules. Boxing has all the physical contact you could want, but sometimes it’s just a little too close to the real thing when you realize you’re watching two actual human beings punch each other’s faces and brain matter into porridge.

Hockey was pretty violent for a long time. (The sport has cleaned things up a lot over the last couple of decades, and is now a lot less about Goons on Ice.) But the violence was always this awkward sideshow. People who were there for hockey were constantly having their show interrupted for some bare-knuckles boxing, and people there for the boxing had to sit through a lot of hockey. The fights were dangerous and sometimes gruesome and distracted from what was, on paper, a game about speed and precision.

From GOON. I love this movie.

Don’t ask me to explain baseball. I don’t get baseball.

(Oh, and I know “football” is actually “American Football” and Soccer is actually “football”, but that’s the awkward and verbose way of referring to things. Yes, it’s silly that the American version doesn’t actually involve using your foot on the ball as the primary means of transport. Language is annoying and people sometime choose dumb names for things. It’s all part of what we like to call “The English Language Experience”. It’s not enough to have incomprehensible pronunciations and absurd spellings, we also need to have crazy, mixed-up words. So let’s just endure this football / soccer thing without causing a riot.)


The taming of hockey kind of reveals the problem with sports-as-warfare: We want our games to be spectacular, exciting, and visceral, but we don’t actually want human beings getting hurt. Because that would be bad. (This is the part where you quickly agree and change the subject.)

In this play the team was penalized for violating gravity. The NFL maintains its strong stance against both steroids and levitation.

Find a sports-illiterate person and sit them down in front of a football game. They will have no idea what’s going on. They can’t follow the action on-screen, because the game is really complicated and the reasons behind actions are non-obvious. They can’t glean much from the announcers, since the game is really jargon-heavy. To the uninitiated, the average football comment sounds like this:

The protecting row is behind Chicago’s very long marker line. Pittsburgh is inside a weapon looking to lift wide area here on the low three.

If you don’t know the lingo, it’s gibberish. The newbie can’t intuit the jargon by watching the action, and they can’t follow the action by listening to the announcers. They’ll get it eventually, but they’re going to spend a long time being baffled before they figure out when they’re supposed to be cheering.

At the other extreme, soccer is obvious but also visually monotonous. I realize the game has all kinds of finer points, but to a newcomer it looks really one-dimensional and one game looks like any other. If the running game isn’t working, they can’t switch to passing, attempt an onside kick, or a sweep, a counter, a bootleg, the quarterback sneak, the Mashed Potato, the Funky Chicken, or the Watusi. They just run back and forth. Unless a goal is being scored, it takes a newcomer a while to figure out why this particular moment of the game is different from any other.

These sports aren’t bad or anything. It’s just that it’s tough to find the right balance of depth vs. accessibility and human safety vs. brutal spectacle.

MLG Dallas 2013 Starcraft II tournament.
MLG Dallas 2013 Starcraft II tournament.

But Starcraft? Everyone can wrap their heads around the visual depiction of stuff blowing up. You don’t need an announcer to explain that your goal is to avoid death. The units themselves are mysterious to newbies, but they’re flashy and interesting and they explode when they die. Centuries of warfare have given us all a pretty firm grasp on the need to protect supply lines, maintain production facilities, acquire resources, and kill off the opposing army. You can absorb the lingo as you go, because you can follow the action. And despite this easy-to-grasp foundation, we have a game with so much depth and variety that among thousands of professional-grade players we’re still finding new strategies and new tricks.

Starcraft gives us all of this. The spectacle of war. The harmlessness of chess. Easy to understand. Endlessly deep. Visually diverse. A true test of strategy and skill, with just enough randomness and unpredictability to allow for upsets and surprises. Inclusive, crossing international boundaries. (Although I’d love to see more women join in.) It’s colorful. It’s fast-paced without being incomprehensible, and the rules can be intuited. You might need someone to explain to you what “holding” or “pass interference” is, bur nobody has to explain that hellions are good against zerglings, because the burning zergling corpses will give you a really handy visual image to work with.

This is a good game to watch.

If there’s one complaint I have about the sport, it’s that their system of exhibiting series online is awful. Every channel and website has this thing where they name episodes after the players, and they list them most-recent-first. Which means episode titles are almost always terrible, terrible spoilers. Some of this is just a matter of convenience for the people recording the games. The matches are often streamed live, and the broadcast is just chopped up and uploaded. This makes things easy for the hosts, but it’s basically a giant time-sink and a spoiler bomb for anyone not watching live.


If I send you to a YouTube channel or the MLG homepage to watch a recent tournament then the first thing you’ll see is who won. The final match will be right in front of you, letting you know which two players made it. What you won’t see is a link to the beginning of the tournament. Instead, you’ll need to wade through the archives looking for the start, reading episode titles and spoiling the entire tournament in the process. You’ll see titles like, “Patient ZvT – Moonglade vs TheSTC G1 – RoE 81 Part 2”. If you know the game, then that’s a spoiler. If you don’t, it’s gibberish. Either way, it doesn’t tell the viewer what they really need to know, which is where this game fits in the overall chronology. For big tournaments, they should title the shows stuff like, “MLG 2013 Marine Drop Invitational: Part 13 of 50”.

If you want to take in a few games for yourself, let me offer these suggestions:

Husky Starcraft is my go-to place for fun matches. Husky casts BRONZE LEAGUE HEROES, which is both fun to watch and amazingly educational as an ongoing guide of How Not to Play Starcraft. He also does some casting of pro-league games on his channel.

Major League Gaming is a good place to go if you’re looking for professionally produced exhibition of top-league performed in front of a live audience. It should feel more or less like your average ESPN production with color commentators, intro graphics, shots of the players with brief career biographies, and a slathering of sponsorship advertisements.

Day[9] is probably a little hardcore technical for newcomers, since he spends a lot of time talking about the finer points of the game. On the other hand, he’s friendly and fun and you might enjoy his stuff in the same way that non-coders enjoy my stuff on programming.

HD Starcraft is a pretty good source for interesting games. He’s also pretty good about explaining aspects of the game during slow moments, and telling you who players are.

This list isn’t really comprehensive at all. In fact, this is list is mostly driven by my own viewing habits, which are pretty influenced by the YouTube suggestion links. Feel free to drop a link in the comments if I’m missing someone noteworthy or fun.

But seriously. This game is fun to watch, even if you’ve never set eyes on the game.

Comments (185)

  1. EricF says:

    I watch ketroc21. He does unorthodox strategies at low APM, so it is actually possible to follow the action. He also explains “why” he does what he does.

  2. X2-Eliah says:

    Find a sports-illiterate person and sit them down in front of a football game.

    Too true. I know jack all about nearly any sport (well, racing is obvious, so I understand that). Your colonial football (isn’t it just rugby?) is particularly dense and odd. I mean, basketball is simple-ish. Ball in net, get points. No clue how they decide how many points or when a point is fouled or something, but ball->net->point. Soccerballfoot: ball->net->point.

    Colonial football/rugby: baOHNAI I meant PIG BLADDER -> … Idk. Run over a line, get point? Or kick it really far? Or drop it? What? Who? And why is everyone standing in lines at random places after each point? And sometimes the ball is thrown and sometimes it is carried and somethimes everyone just decides to cuddle a lot.. wtf.

    Anyway. Point being, most sports have these odd rules, and the more complex they are, the harder it is to tell what’s going on.

    And, sorry Shamus, but I think you have a very insider-viewpoint on starcraft. It is NOT easy to tell who is winning or why. For example, those bronze league matches – I watched/listened to them all, because hey free time for podcast alternatives. I saw explosions all over the place, and one side won. Then I saw neither side exploding, and the commentator was shrieking with excitement over god knows what. And the leadup to those explosions – sorry, I don’t understand a single bit. They make some stations, what do those do? Why doesn’t everyone just start with 6 marines or something and then go fight? Where are the point breaks?

    Starcraft is inherently complicated, and there’s an incredible amount of detail that goes into deciding who wins – production queues, resources, strategies, random chance(?), actions per minute, and then the two sides are not even using the same option sets.. Eh. At least with brutal physical sports, I can understand the basics easily – ball->net->win. With starcraft, I don’t have that ball->net indication in an easy way, it just randomly pops up a game-over and that’s that.

    Moreover, starcraft is VISUALLY HORRIBLE for spectating. There is way, way, WAY too much going on. Again – ball->net->win. balls and nets are obvious and supereasy to see. With racing events, cars->finish line->win. Cars and finish lines are easy to see. In starcraft, half the time everything is LOLEFFECTS and ALL OF THE TIME I only see a tiny part of what’s going on, from the player’s perspective. I don’t need a player’s perspective. Good spectator sports don’t work like that. You don’t look through the eyes of a boxer, you watch two dudes fighting in a ring. You don’t watch drivercam, you watch from around the track. I bet soccerball would be super-confusing if you watched from a running-dude’s helmet-camera.. That’s why you don’t, you watch the entire field, and there is only one object of interest – big, glaring white ball against green backdrop. Simple.
    Starcraft, I see almost the same as players would – same zoom, same UI.. You can meaningfully spectate only as an insider. And that, imo, is why esports are not yet there as ‘sports’. esports are for the PLAYERS, not for the audience.

    Sports suck. Go do art instead.

    • SteveDJ says:

      I’m more literate than most for sports, but there is still one rule I just DON’T GET: Offsides.

      Ok, football I get offsides. But Basketball? Or Soccer? It always seems to me that just when something that *should be* exciting happens, is when a whistle blows for being offsides.

      Someone, explain it, please…

      • Thomas says:

        So the reason for the rule is this. The fun is football (soccer) is watching the player pass around, dribble and try to build up an attack, or be defended.

        But, without offsides, what you do is you get one person to stand right next to the keeper and then whenever your side gets the ball, you kick it as far up the field as possible, towards the goal, and the guy next to the keeper steals it and kicks it into the net.

        To prevent this, when a player passes the ball to someone, that person must have at least one player who isn’t the keeper, between them and the goal when the pass happens. You’ve got to beat the other teams defenders, not just stand behind them.

        • Amarsir says:

          Well-explained. I think you could say the offsides rule is like an exploit patch.

        • Ofermod says:

          Technically, you must have two players between you and the goal. It just so happens that the keeper almost always counts as one of them. Leads to a bit of confusion during times when the keeper’s off his line, and someone between the keeper and a defender gets a pass and is called offside. Even the announcers take a moment to remember the rule technically has nothing to do with the keeper.

        • houser2112 says:

          This is one reason why soccer is retarded. You get penalized when the other team is stupid enough to be grossly out of position. Hockey’s offside rule (you must not be inside the other team’s zone when the puck enters that zone) is much cleaner because it references a static feature on the field instead of another player that can move.

          • Shinan says:

            I don’t know. It’s the offensive player that is grossly out of position when an offside is called. After all the moving offside line is a tactical thing. Soccer defenders are out of position when one is further down than the others and it ends with a failing of the Offside Trap.

            • houser2112 says:

              An offensive player’s job is to score goals, and that’s easiest when he’s close to the other team’s goal. A defender’s job is to prevent goals from being scored, and that’s easiest when you don’t let offensive players get behind you. It’s even easier when the rules prevent you from being so stupid.

              What’s to prevent the absurdly extreme case of an entire team standing on the opposite end line, placing even the opposing goalie offside in his own penalty box?

              • Shinan says:

                Well partially soccer offside starts at the midfield line and also offside only prevents forward passing within the offside zone so passing backwards counts as an onside pass.

                I learned the midfield offside rule by playing International Superstar Soccer waybackwhen. When you’d bind tactical manouvers to a button, in this case all-out-attack when the opposing team stole the ball and when they passed over the midfield offside was called.

                I guess the AI had a hard time expecting that play or something because it happened quite a bit and was more effective than the “Offside trap” manouver.

                Video games are always educational in the strangest of places. :)

              • Thomas says:

                The defenders can’t do it without spoiling the game it’s not them being ‘stupid’ or ‘out of position’ because defence requires the most intelligence, teamwork and positioning of all the roles on the pitch (well they all require intelligence, but defence is the one that requires you to know where _everyone_ is and what they might do). Defenders are so good at their positioning that they’re able to manoeuvre to get all 4 of them pushing forward just as a pass is being made so that strikers get caught offside.

                The reason the rule exists, is that the defenders can and will stay back if the striker stands close to the goal. But it ruins the game because you have five to ten players all standing on the goal line and a huge gaping whole on the pitch where no confrontations happen and it reduces the midfield role to ‘you can kick the ball far right?’

                The rule doesn’t exist to protect defenders, it exists because goal-hanging is unbelievably boring and lacking in skill and defending against it ruins the game

    • Thomas says:

      It’s really hard to see the strategy’s in SC, I think you can get a basic understanding of the game fairly quickly just by watching, and their commentators are particularly good at explaining whats going on. But learning the strategies and the battle of wits going on, is actually super hard. I think football (soccer) is a lot easier visually. One team has the ball, the other team wants it and everything is a battle to try and get possession.

      I don’t think football could have entranced like 90% of the world’s countries without having that ease (and also having that ease to play. There’s barely another sport alive that’s easier to play. You need a football. Jumpers will do for goalposts, or a wall, or a dustbin. American Football is impossible to play a match (Safely) without a crudload of gear, you need grass for rugby and a lot of space, basketball is close, but it’s hard to play without a hoop and cricket is a nightmare

      • Hitchmeister says:

        As a non-Starcraft player, I find it helped to watch some of the worst games I could find with announcers explaining exactly what mistakes are being made. After having seen many of those I find that I’ve actually learned enough to be able to follow high level games. I have a post bellow about where to find bad games.

        • Thomas says:

          I mean like high level strategy. The mental battle going on in a Stephano vs MvP game is actually often even beyond the commentators who have to try and reduce it to something a bit more simplistic. Scouting and really complex timings

      • Supahewok says:

        Just gonna step in here and say, you DON’T need a lot of safety gear to play safe football. As any American teen can tell you, replacing tackles with merely tagging is a pretty fair way of playing the game safely. Takes a bit of viscerality out of it, but as long as you’ve got some space and you’re only tagging, and you got a ball, football can be played anywhere. Lawns, swimming pools, parking lots, woods. I imagine you’re not an American, though, and probably never had the problem come up.

    • CTrees says:

      One note: your country has cricket. You have no right to call American football dense or odd.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Sweden/Latvia has cricket? Didn’t know that :P Also, one wrong does not right another wrong. Cricket is incredibly dense, agreed, but so is pigskinshufflingfootball.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          I figured out that American football is pretty simple if you put it in video game terms.

          Your team starts with three extra lives. If your guys can move the ball ten yards, you hit a checkpoint and get all your lives back, but each time you fail you lose one of your lives.

          Keep hitting checkpoints until you get to the end of the level, and you get a bunch of points. Or if your about to run out of lives, you can try and kick the ball for a few points. If you beat the level, you get a bonus round where you can try and make another point or two.

          Either way, when the next round starts the other team spawns their dudes wherever the ball was last, so if you screw way up and can’t score you can still kick the ball to the end of the field so they spawn all the way at the start of the level, and then they play a round on offense while you try and make them lose all their lives.

          And on and on, until the clock winds down and the match ends. It’s like Payload in TF2.

      • Humanoid says:

        Hey it’s just baseball without the arbitrary 90-degree scoring arc, and with two bases instead of four.

        Sort of.

        • Griffin says:

          In baseball, the team that’s pitching inexorably racks up outs while the team that’s batting desperately tries to score runs. Scoring a run is a big deal.

          In cricket, the team that’s batting inexorably racks up runs while the team that’s bowling (pitching) desperately tries to get them out. Getting someone out is a big deal.

      • some random dood says:

        What do you mean by complaining about cricket’s rules? They are simple – see tea-towel for details!
        The Ins and Outs of Cricket
        (Sorry, it’s an image on an Amazon advert and couldn’t copy/paste text here.)

    • aldowyn says:

      American football: Get a guy on your team with the ball in the endzone. Touchdown (score). That’s the main idea, although I grant it’s a lot more complicated then that. (There’s field goals and safeties and.. nevermind)

      Starcraft: Blow up the enemy’s base.

      Admittedly I’ve never watched as a total newbie, but that doesn’t seem that complicated.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Which base?

        Eh, nevermind,I posted about ten+ tweets about allthe conditions that go into that on your twitter already ;)

        Also, the ‘ball over line’ is what gives points, and most points wins the game. How are bases point-counted, and why doesn’t the game reset when one player wins a point against another player (like in football, or that same american football)? Are all bases equal? Can a destroyed base be worth any army cost, or is there a balance of units attacking lost / base? Can bases move and attack? Are bases equally useful in different player’s hands? Can you make more bases, and when can you not make more bases? What influences getting more bases? … etc. etc. etc. et-f-c.

    • Robyrt says:

      American football is a lot like rugby, except you are allowed to pass the ball forward, and you are allowed to obstruct players who don’t have the ball, and you only get three plays if you don’t make forward progress. This creates basically a class-based system, where the benefits of throwing a forward pass are huge, but the risk of being tackled while attempting to pass is also huge, so you have to assign half your team just to protect the guy throwing the ball, and the defense assigns half their team to tackle him. Hence the incredible injury rate even with a ton of protective gear.

      • Syal says:

        and you only get three plays if you don't make forward progress.

        Actually four. It’s just usually the fourth play is kicking the ball as far away from your side of the field as you can get it.

        Ten yards forward in four plays, and if you get it you get four more plays.

        • Humanoid says:

          What I find most curious is that American Football’s ‘touchdown’ doesn’t actually need to be touched down, whereas Rugby’s (either format) equivalent (a ‘try’) isn’t called a touchdown but does, in fact, need to be touched down to count as a score.

      • Jabor says:

        Counter-intuitively, it’s likely that the incredible injury rate is at least partly caused by the protective gear.

        Helmets and padding and such allow you to tackle much harder and (usually) keep playing the game, so people tackle a lot harder because that’s how you’re going to win. The times when someone gets unlucky and falls at a wrong angle or something then cause much more severe injuries.

        Helmets are particularly bad because even when they’re working “correctly” (you’re taking blows to the head and can still play out the drive), you’re still suffering long-term injury.

    • Zak Mckracken says:

      I do play starcraft, know the rules, and a fair bit of higher-level tactics (not that I was able to apply them!), and I think you’re right! Sometimes the moderator says that X was a really bad moce, and know one of the players has a problem, but I don’t get why. Sometimes a player resigns, and I don’t get why (except with Idra…) although everyone else seems to agree the game was lost.

      The basic premise, “destoy your enemy with your troops” is easy to get, but from there on, it does require quite a lot of additional knowledge to enjoy. Although at least this is knowledge you can get from simply watching, even without comment. But it will take a while.
      This might actually be a reason why SC has not caught on much as a popular sport outside of Korea. It is on the march, though.

    • Jason Cole says:

      so, for Illustration purposes, lets use this old screenshot. I’m just going to explain some of the UI, since the main screen can be distracting, and isn’t where most of the action happens.

      In the top right hand corner, each player has 3 numbers: minerals, gas, and current/maximum supply. A player with higher current supply is probably ahead, unless he or she has some other deficiency. The current mineral and gas stockpile (often called bank), and the rate at which each player is mining and spending to/from the stockpile are also strong indicators of who is winning.

      In the bottom left hand corner, you can see the minimap. It’s where the players spend most of their time looking. The map is dotted with little white arcs of minable resources. The player with more of the bases mining at once is probably winning, or will be winning eventually, since that player should have higher mineral and gas income.

      In the top left hand corner, you can see the production of both players, or everything which is currently being constructed, bred, warped in, or researched.

      Between those three corners, you can see the game actually unfolding. the large main screen is only used for the eye candy and micro.

  3. Thomas says:

    One of the best ways to watch Starcraft is to go to TeamLiquid.net
    And then on the right handside (the homepage is a visual mess) is a list of all the tournaments currently streaming live, and all the professional players streaming. Along with a quick list of tournaments coming up soon.

    It’s all about WCS Korea and EU (that’s World Championship Series) and Dreamhack at the moment. MLG used to be great but the American professional scene suddenly dropped off in recent times (this isn’t a controversial thing, the American players say it themselves) and the American tournaments struggle to find a place between having the best players and having the personality, whereas European tournaments have the best non-Korean players and Korea has the best players.

    I also prefer the European commentators a smidge (that is the ones still in Europe, the US has the best commentators but they work in Korea)
    WCS EU

    • tengokujin says:

      As someone who barely knew how to play Starcraft, when I actually watched broadcast matches in Korea (before the internet became a BIG THING worldwide, a time of AOL disks), I was amazed at how much more awesome professionally played and commentated matches were than my piddling failures at single player.

      (Korean commentators, on the whole, are more informative, calm, and better. My memories tell me they rarely screamed. I trust my memories and so should you. </PROPAGANDA>)

      I still can’t play worth a damn, but thanks to the grounding I got from watching televised matches, I can still enjoy a commentated match without feeling that lost, even with Starcraft 2.

  4. Neil D says:

    I don’t care for sports of any kind, but I dislike baseball the least primarily because of the (s)pacing. I can actually see who is doing what and generally understand why (until you start getting into some of the more baffling specific rules and exceptions to rules). Every other sport to me just seems like a mass of humans all trying to occupy the same space around the ball/puck/whatever like a pack of seagulls fighting over the same french fry.

    • Yes. Thats is it exactly.

      It is my friggin french fry and I will fight you for it.

      Not because it is the only french fry. Not because there isn’t any easier less dangerous way to get a french fry. But just because…well….

      Because @*#$ you that’s why!!

      Why do humans do lots of things? Climb mountains, sail out across open oceans when everyone else says there’s nothing out there?

      Why did we crawl out of caves and down out of the trees? Maybe there were some french fries…

    • I’d rather watch cricket than baseball. Similar pacing, but also for me cricket still has that “people having a pleasant time on a summer afternoon” feeling that baseball might have had once. There’s a park near where I live that has a field where people often play cricket, often teams of folks with an Indian heritage vs. teams of folks with a Jamaican etc. background. They always seem happy. Just, having a good time. They probably break for tea. Just seeing them do it makes me relax.

      Which seems a bit far from the whole “Why people watch sports” thing Shamus was describing . . . for that kind of sport, as a proud Canadian I’ll watch hockey. Plus it really is an excellent spectator sport–it moves fast but not as back-and-forth-back-and-forth as basketball. Goals are a big deal but there’s a threat of one fairly often unlike futbol where 1-0 scores seem to be the rule and most of the game seems to be played in the midfield. Most of the time is taken up by people playing the game, not lining up, psyching each other out, or scratching oneself. There’s violence and physicality but it’s not the primary objective and it normally blends into the flow of the game. Basically, when you’re watching hockey an exciting event which could have some impact on the course of the game could be happening a lot of the time.

      If hockey had futbol’s basic “play it anywhere with a ball and nothing else” advantage it would be one of the world’s biggest sports hands down. The world watches soccer because soccer is a great and accessible sport to play, so the whole world plays it, and people like watching what they know.

  5. Higher Peanut says:

    I feel e-sports are far too complicated for any non-initiated person to follow in depth at all. If spectators find American football hard to follow without knowledge of the rules (that’s me), how are they supposed to cope with multiple teams of different units? With no knowledge of the game it is near impossible to tell who is winning until it’s all over.

    Football (soccer) is tremendously popular and if you can explain offside to someone that’s pretty much it for difficult rules that will come up. The rest of play is very simple to explain. The teams are matched in players and they are all human. There is no giant list of special units, abilities or economies necessary to understand the state of the game.

    I was watching some of a League of Legends tournament and my father wanted to know what it was. I could give some basics and the rest was just totally useless to someone who hadn’t played. I’ve played Starcraft before and I find watching games incomprehensible since I never really got into competitive RTS games. They can be great to watch but are only really watched by players.

    On another note e-sports in contrast to regular sports snowball very hard. If you destroy a base you get a 1-up on the economy. In a MOBA style game a kill means you get better at killing and in an FPS kills mean you hoard the pickups. When a point is scored in a regular sport the team doesn’t level up or get an extra man. This may or may not be a bad thing depending on perspective but it does mean the guy who gets the early lead tends not only to keep it but to shut out the ability to counter.

    • Thomas says:

      The thing that puts me off about MOBAs is that the game is the snowballing normally. At least in Starcraft, when someone loses half their economy they know they’ve got to attack right then or expand and whatever the case you get a few tense minutes after which the match is over or it’s level footing again.

      Also LoL doesn’t actually display a lot of it’s strategy visually. You can’t see the effects of items and stats at all, never mind mastery pages. SC2 has the same problem with upgrades, there’s no visual indicator that those units are suddenly stronger than they used to be

      • Brandon says:

        Another problem with Starcraft is that a lot of units have special abilities that, while distinct visually, aren’t clearly associated with the units.

        Unless you know what units do what, you might have no idea which unit in that mass of yellow protoss things is throwing down lightning storms, or weird barrier things. But I guess that isn’t quite a problem, since you can still very easily guess that the barrier things block things from moving past them, and the lightning storms kill stuff.

        • Thomas says:

          That’s true, and then the Thor has two different modes, which you’ll never actually notice during a match and the voidray has an ability which is particularly visually obvious. The armor/bio/light damage modifiers are a bit of a mix, on the one hand there doesn’t seem to be any reason why a Tempest would do more damage to a broodlord than a zergling, but generally they do surprisingly well at conveying the idea that it makes sense for a hellion to do more damage to lings than to something stocky like a tank

        • Deadpool says:

          That’s where the announcer going “Well, they have Sentries now to throw down force fields” come into play…

    • Klay F. says:

      Starcraft is no more complicated than Rock, Paper, Scissors. The only difference is the players have more than three choices.

      • Syal says:

        I’d put it closer to one-minute chess than rock-paper-scissors.

      • Thomas says:

        That’s only the impression you get when your starting out with starcraft though. One of the famous commentators used to say ‘so that means I should get one hellian, one viking and one tank because that counters everything right?’ once you begin looking at the game you see that people like ForGG are perfectly capable of making hellians the ‘light-unit counter’ taking out Thors and Tanks (the big heavy ones). And it’s much more about how you get out those units and how you take advantage of the timings and control that producing those units creates.

        Someone making a lot of zerglings for example, can thrash a person making lots of Colossus (the zergling ‘counter’) by constantly attacking the opponents base whenever they try to move across the map, taking advantage of the speed. The opponent has to sit in their base or lose it, and in the meantime the zerg has taken 6 bases across the map that the Protoss doesn’t have the mobility to deny and can spend their entire army attacking the colossuses and win because they’ve enough resources to replace their army and kill the other guy, before he can rebuild his. So that’s not at all rock-paper-scissors

        • Klay F. says:

          All of that has to do with the skill of the player involved, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the game itself. Sure many of those crazy things CAN happen, but they very likely won’t unless the gap between player skill is huge (or you’re watching a bronze league game).

          • Zukhramm says:

            But in rock-paper-scissors you don’t need to perform to use your hand. In Starcraft you have to keep up making units. It doesn’t matter what you choose in rock-paper-scissors if you opponent has three hands.

          • Thomas says:

            No that’s completely false. That’s how it works with every professional match. The example I used comes from a world class player beating every other world class player. What takes you from Bronze league to Diamond is realising that SC2 isn’t at all rock paper scissors and the strategy comes from scouting and timing and using the units you have in productive ways

            EDIT: I don’t even mean completely false in an aggressive way. I mean if you want to show me any professional match I’ll be happy to show all the things I mentioned at play. They’re pretty standard strategies and I’ll point out to you the non rock-paper scissors decision.

            There is one rps element in Starcraft, but you probably haven’t head of it, because it doesn’t involve the units. Every race has 3 types of opening build, greedy, aggressive and in the middle. Greedy beats in the middle, in the middle beats aggressive and aggressive beats greedy. You can’t scout it and so it’s an important part of the psychology of a series of matches between two players. He went greedy last time, does he dare do it again? Does this guy have the nerves to six pool in a professional tournament? etc. That is genuinely RPS, but it doesn’t decide the outcome of the match, it gives the winner an advantage for the next few minutes

      • Asimech says:

        “More options” is in practice “more complicated”. It draws out the learning period and requires memorising more things. It pushes the effort-enjoyment ratio towards effort therefore it will push some people away.

        Pokemon is a pretty great example of this for me. There’s a very simple “X wins Y” at the core that I can easily understand, but there are simply too many ‘X’s and too many ‘Y’s for me to remember.

        Well, for the effort to learn to be justifiable by the level of enjoyment I imagine I would get.

        I don’t have that with Starcraft 2, if the WCS EU finals was any indication, but I like learning strategies (especially when I’m not going to play it), can enjoy watching stuff even when I don’t understand what’s going on, I’m interested in SC2 but not playing it and I like the pretty stuff going zap-zap-boom-ba-tang.

        But missing just one of those things could skew the whole thing enough towards “effort” so I wouldn’t feel like it’s worth it.

      • Shamus says:

        That’s really overly reductive. Especially “no more complicated”.

        Sure, there are chains of units which counter other units, but these relationships change based on intent, terrain, and enemy posture. Hellions are awesome if I’m harassing in the middle of the map where I can kite zerglings around. They’re good at assaulting the enemy base in the early game. But they’re pretty shabby for defense because you can’t kite: If you rush in then zerglings swill surround you and if you hit and run they’ll just ignore you and keep slaughtering your workers.

        Do do blink Stalkers fare well against hydralisks? I dunno. Are we on creep? Do we have high ground nearby and vision to reach it? Do we have room to move around or are we clogged in the middle of the base? What’s my goal? Am I trying to kill the enemy outright or just deny them map position?

        Dark Templar beats just about anything in the game until they have detection, at which point they become a waste of resources.

        And even the concept of A beats B is overly reductive. A carrier beats ANY [one] thing, but it’s so expensive that it’s never worth the investment. If my carrier kills 3 mutalisks before it dies, then the carrier “won”, but I lost big.

        It’s like rock, paper, scissors if the relationship between the three elements changed throughout the game, if the outcomes were gradient instead of binary, if outcomes snowballed over the course of many encounters, if we had to worry about terrain, if there was a whole meta-game of upgrading the three elements, if the three elements had different costs associated with their use, if I could react to my opponent’s choices of element before engaging, and if there were way more than three elements.

        So… completely unlike rock, paper scissors, basically.

        • IMO Dark Templar can still be decent on defence, where it’s often fairly practical to whack the attacker’s detectors. Um, that may only apply to old Starcraft.

          • Shamus says:

            I’m actually curious why we don’t see more DT play at the top levels. The guys dish out amazing damage and fit in a small space. Even if they were visible, it still seems like they ought to be useful. I wonder what keeps them out of the game.

            • Fjordski says:

              You don’t see them used in fights that way because they’re melee range and fragile. Those two factors make just about everything in the game better in a fight, cost for cost. Also, that was gas and build time that could have been colossus and stalkers.

            • Jason Cole says:

              So, they are competing for space in your army against charge-zealots. The zealots are more durable (25% more durable, ignoring armour and treating shields as the same as health), do 50% of the damage, move slightly slower, but close the gap at the start of a fight at over double the speed of a dark templar. DTs are better vs slow, heavily-armoured targets than zealots are. Zealots are the more common choice because of their production: only costing minerals (which can only be spent on economy, cannons or zealots), and quick production cycles.

              And on the gas side of the equation, every DT is 1/2 of an Archon you don’t have, or approximately 1/2 of a colossus you don’t have, or a whole High Templar, or 2/3 of a void-ray. This is ignoring production and technology costs, since a Protoss player is likely to have one of these tech paths open to him, and any of those are probably more useful in straight-up fight.

        • Klay F. says:

          Yes, Starcraft is definitely more NUANCED than Rock Paper Scissors, but that doesn’t mean more complicated. What you have there is basically a list of if/then/else statements. Learning the list is trivial. At which point, following even professional matches also becomes incredibly easy. A good commentator will make learning this stuff largely effortless. Which is the point I was trying to make: That following the matches is easy.

          It seems people think I’m trying to say playing is as easy as Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’m not saying that at all. I guess I should have probably used more than two sentences to convey that.

      • So more like rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock?

        Incidentally, Go is no more complicated than tic-tac-toe. It’s just there are a couple more squares.

  6. Aside from the visual confusion and no clear – to the spectator – indication of a winstate, the fact that the game is digital is a big factor as well. A spectator of a physical sport can live vicariously through the actions of the players involved and their acts of physical prowess tie directly to the biological imperative you noted in a way that’s not possible in a strategy game like starcraft.

    Sports are not about the strategy in conquest, but the physicality of it. That’s why the rules are relatively insignificant. Memorizing stats and rules is not what makes or sustains the appeal of sports. It’s a backdoor that allows fans to feel like they’re more involved in this thing they already liked, so understanding or not understanding it is relatively irrelevant to its appeal. No, it’s the impacts, the punching, the tackles, the running, the chuck with with jiving, the skating, and the scoring and all that good physical prowess involved in the activity, that’s where the appeal lies.

    Starcraft offers none of that, focusing entirely on the numbers, the strategies and visual flairs that we – as spectators – understand to be completely unreal, so there’s no empowerment to be gleaned. We may consciously understand that there’s a lotta smarts and quick hand reflexes involved, but again the genetic impetus that’s driving this need in the first place doesn’t really care. It’s just a simple fact that our desire to be physically stronger is far older and deeper than our desire to be strategically smarter.

    • Trix2000 says:

      But what about all the explosions? The battles? The grand climactic showdown of units in the middle?

      I think there’s something to be said for there being that same feeling in something like Starcraft, even if it is just simulated. After all, is that all that different from watching something like football on a TV screen?

      I imagine whether this applies is different for everyone, but I feel like I’ve had some of that same visceral feeling watching/playing RTS’s and other competitive games.

    • Klay F. says:

      I honestly don’t know where you are getting this. As an admitted fan of American football, I don’t enjoy the violence involved one bit. I enjoy watching a perfectly executed play far, FAR more.

      • The violence is there, it’s just not overt like, say, a shooting war. The violence comes in the form of ramming bodies into other bodies, sometimes as hard as possible. It looks “harmless” or less violent thanks to all the pads and plates, but this just isn’t the case.

        It says something about how powerful the NFL is given that (1) it’s got 5013c status (that’s non-profit for the purposes of taxes) and (2) safety of players hasn’t been acted upon after the mounting evidence that playing football is pretty much setting yourself up for a really bad time of it later in life, assuming you don’t score a really powerful concussion immediately. In a way, it’s like boxing. There’s just enough padding and protection that you can get abused longer with more internal and/or head injuries that’ll haunt you later on.

        • Klay F. says:

          This is getting off topic, but what? Firstly everyone who plays in the NFL knows from the outset that playing the sport is hazardous. They are adults, they are allowed to make the choice to sacrifice their bodies in exchange for gratuitous amounts of money. Secondly, that has absolutely nothing to do with “The NFL’s Power”. Thirdly, the NFL has been absolutely obsessed with improving player safety. I can enumerate any number of rule changes within the the past ten years as proof.

    • The Stranger says:

      I agree, and I was going to post something similar. There are two major reasons I watch sports (outside of various rooting interests). First, to vicariously experience the physicality of it. This is actually really important; I read somewhere about a study that showed that watching somebody do something physical stimulates the nervous system almost like doing it yourself – to the point that faint signals actually get sent to the muscles that you’re watching somebody else use.

      Second, and related to the first point, I like to see people do things I could never do in a million years. It’s the intersection of, “I can identify with this. I can do something like that,” and, “Nope, I could never do that. These guys aren’t human.”

      Thing is, these responses are both strong for me because I’ve been physically active since a young age. I enjoy watching football (baseball, basketball, golf, etc.) because I’ve played it. So the “empathy” reaction is strong, and I can really appreciate where the pros leave the realm of what I thought was possible.

      By contrast, I’ve never played Starcraft 2 (I played the original Starcraft very casually in college), and I probably never will. So even if I could gain an intellectual understanding of the game, I couldn’t have that “empathy” reaction to any appreciable extent, and I probably couldn’t understand what was amazing about what I was seeing.

      Here’s where I’m supposed to make a statement about running and jumping being more universal than playing video games because of evolution or something, so my preferred war-surrogate is superior. But screw that; I don’t know what kids these days are doing, or what they’ll be doing in another 10 years. So instead I’ll just suggest that most people prefer to watch other people engaging in activities that they themselves engage in, and that none of these things is objectively better or more accessible.

  7. Kavonde says:

    “The defensive line is behind Chicago's 57 yard line line. Pittsburgh is in the shotgun looking to pick up big yardage here on the third down.”

    Wait, are the commentators for some reason talking about where Chicago’s players are lining up, or did the roles of the defensive line (go hit whoever has the ball) and the offensive line (protect whoever has the ball) get mixed up?

    (You non-Americans thought it was weird that we stole the word “football?” Pfft. That was the tip of the confusing nomenclature iceberg.)

  8. newplan says:

    “Inclusive, crossing international boundaries. (Although I'd love to see more women join in.)”


    Gee, I wonder why women aren’t nearly as interested in playing a war simulator as men are? I guess some things will forever remain a mystery.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Probably because of the ever-present opinion that war simulators are for MANLY MEN only, which skews vast numbers of people against being inclusive… Just a thought.

      • Klay F. says:

        Maybe, just maybe we ought to stop assuming exclusionary misogyny where none exists. Maybe there aren’t more women in the professional scene not because of some conspiracy to keep them out, but maybe there just aren’t as many interested in competing professionally.

        • Alecw says:

          Dunno about you but my GFs, mum, female cousins and friends etc have never expressed a burning desire to beat people up for glory, and I have one hell of a hard time convincing them that even pretending to shoot people in the face all night is a fun thing to do.

    • alynnidalar says:

      Seeing as plenty of women do, they just don’t play competitively, I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here. Unless you’re implying that women inherently don’t like playing war-themed games or RTSes on a biological level, which is a hilariously unfounded statement.

      However, the explanation is hardly a mystery. Videogames have long been seen as a “boys'” thing, as with many other aspects of technology. The result is that it’s been seen as, well, not very feminine, so women have often either not played videogames (because it’s not socially acceptable for them and/or they believe they won’t like them because that’s what they’re told) or been kept out by the guys who want to keep it, as Elijah says, a MANLY MEN club.

      This is a pervasive problem in all “nerdy” pursuits, really, and it’s a crying shame. But I understand why women stay away. It’s hard to be the only female in a programming class or a computer club–even if no one ever says it, you always feel like you’re different from everybody else.

      • Trix2000 says:

        On the plus side, it is slowly changing as gaming is accepted more in general. It might be years till we see real huge improvements, but progress is good.

        And I’ll be glad when I don’t have to sigh because someone said ‘girls don’t play games’ somewhere…

      • Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

        Well, there’s the obvious. Even in military forces which don’t sex segregate, there are a lot more men who volunteer.

        But with competitive games, we’re dealing with a highly unusual collection of people. I suspect most people are like our host (and me -so the likelihood of solipsism here is abnormally high). Competitive play holds no interest -I hate to lose and I don’t love winning (if I had to back this up, I’d invoke loss-aversion generally, though it’s not quite on the nose). So we’re dealing with people who are either abnormally competitive such that it overcomes the hate-to-lose-don’t-are-about-winning dynamic, or else that they love winning and don’t mind losing. Put another way, we’re looking at extreme risk-takers.

        A population that, to my knowledge, is overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, men.

      • Alecw says:

        What the?

        Far from unfounded, the notion that women are biologically less competitive and aggressive has insurmountably abundant evidence.
        It’s also bloody obvious to the legally blind. Have you never actually met a woman?

    • Thomas says:

      I now understand and can enjoy Hand Egg because I played a lot of Blood Bowl. I can never admit this to my Hand Egg enjoying friends. I still enjoy Blood Bowl more than Hand Egg, and I wish that real games had Blood Bowl’s equivalents of Big Guys.

  9. I’m a fan of actual violence. I like sports and all, but nothing beats a good ole donny-brook once in awhile. Football is to violence what methadone is to heroin. Or NBC programming is to entertainment. It’s a passable replacement in the basic and barely discernable way…

    Watching the NFL to sate our inheirent bloodlust for violence is akin waiting once a year to read Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue instead of, you know, regular, everyday porn.

    I’d love soccer (Or football. Whatever fanboys want it called) more if they had more weapons. Maybe a slightly bent curved stick they could whack the ball carrier with as he went past. Maybe if they played it on ice to make it more challenging.

    Or maybe they could just beat the crap out of each other for money/my enjoyment. Hell, if i could make a living punching things/getting punched by things I would be doing so. In high heels and a skirt if neccesary. Would beat the hell out of sitting at a desk trying to figure out what the tariff rate on a “Einseitige Lünette Setzstöcke” is.

    Which by the way if you know that please let me know. I’ll let you punch me in the face…

    • Scampi says:

      How about founding the 1st league of ‘hurling’? Found it in a shadowrun sourcebook and loved the idea of an overly violent hockey-rugby-full-contact-combat-style sport as it was presented there…I think it was in the Tir Tairngir-book, but I’m not too sure, since that one is lost and I can’t find it anymore.^^
      Sounds like your style of game;)
      Edit: Not to be confused with ACTUAL hurling…I guess that one’s way more peaceful.

      • I challenge you to a game of ‘hurling’. Maybe until we finalize the rules we could beat each other with old shadowrun source books and slabs of meat on the end of plastic sticks.

        I will meet you in Omaha. I’ll be the one wearing an orange hat holding a case of cheap strip steaks.

    • Ardis Meade says:

      It’s a “unidirectional rotating bezel”. AKA a watch part. Yay Google!

      • Unfotunately, No. Its a mechanically operated pinion shaft backrest for a roll grinder. Weighs about as much as a car.

        I’m still waiting on the tariff code. Thanks for trying, though. Let me know where you live and I’ll be sure to stop and show my appreciation by kicking you in the junk after I bite the finger of your choosing.

  10. Jimmie says:

    I don’t know, guys. I think Football is pretty easy to explain, or at least the basics thereof. Of course, there are more complex rules and tactics that take time to absorb, but that’s true of any game.

    Here. Let me try.

    The object of Football is to score more points than the other team in a finite amount of time. You score points four ways: 1) by crossing into the opposing team’s end zone (a touchdown); 2) by kicking the football through the opposing team’s goalposts or taking the football into the opposing team’s end zone on the play after you’ve scored a touchdown (an extra point or a two-point conversion, respectively); 3) by kicking the football through the opposing team’s goalposts at any point (a field goal); 4) by tacking a member the opposing team who holds the football in its own end zone (a safety). Scoring basics. Now for game play.

    You have four “downs” to move ten yards. If you can move at least ten yards, you get a fresh four “downs” and begin again at “first down”. The ten-yard marker is noted by a post on the sidelines that moves each time a new “first down” is achieved. If you can’t move ten yards in four plays, the other team gets the ball at the point on the field at which you failed. This, by the way, is why teams punt on fourth down. They’re going to have to turn the ball over to the other team any way, so why not do it as far away from your own end zone as possible?

    Now for moving the ball. You can hand it to a runner, who will run the ball toward the opposing end zone unless he’s knocked to the ground by the opposing team. At that point, the play ends and the next play begins at the point at which the runner was tackled (the “line of scrimmage”). Alternately, you can throw the ball. Only one forward pass, in which the ball goes, well, forward is allowed per play. You can make as many lateral or backward passes as you like, but they usually are reserved for trick plays or as a way to overcome a defense where most of the opposing players all rush to the ball and leave other players unwatched. If a potential receiver doesn’t catch a forward pass, the play ends as a failure, and the next play begins from the same point at which that play began. If a potential receiver doesn’t catch a lateral or backward pass, it’s considered a fumble and anyone can jump on it and take possession. This is another risk to those types of passes.

    So, you can run the ball or throw the ball. Run until you are knocked down. The play ends, and the next play begins from that point with both teams lines up on their respective side of the “line of scrimmage”.

    Those are the basics and they’ll get you through the average game pretty well. Fancier stuff you pick up with experience, like with any game, right?

  11. Hitchmeister says:

    Another source of entertaining Starcraft 2 replays on Youtube is LifesAGlitchTV. (Although they do tend to go off on decidedly non-all-ages digressions making their channel only suitable for a certain degree of immature adults.) They have series of “When Cheese fails” (or sometimes “Will Cheese Fail”) which feature games of players attempting various generally not highly respected strategies for quick easy victories, which from the title you should be able to guess rarely work out as planned. They also list many of their games as coming from the “wood” league. Starcraft players are ranked by skill from Bronze up through Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond to Masters. But the games they cast are from players that they feel belong in a special league below Bronze. You certainly don’t see the best play, but it’s frequently surprising and funny.

    Edited to add possibly the best game ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-3ZrXOrz_0

    • Syal says:

      They also have the disturbing habit of going off on minutes-long tangents about sex, poop, or poopy sex.

    • GM says:

      this also happened a second time but that was less awesome :)

    • Mintskittle says:

      That fail’s never getting old. Though I’m a personal fan of Micro your Macro:


    • Steve C says:

      When Cheese Fails is the only starcraft casting I watch. It really does belong on Shamus’ list at the top. It’s different from the rest and good entertainment.

    • silver Harloe says:

      I get why LAGTV doesn’t fit Shamus’ style based on his praising Husky for being so nice to Bronze League Heroes. Max and Nova are anything but nice to failing players. So I understand why Shamus wouldn’t recommend them. And whether or not they are viewed by regular viewers is debatable, but one thing I will say quite affirmatively about them:

      “When Cheese Fails” is a must Must MUST watch for commentators.

      See, Max and Nova do something most other commentators don’t do. Most commentators seek out pro games with excellent play. Max and Nova seek out terrible games intentionally. And because of that, they’re way Way WAY ahead of the curve on recognizing cheesy strategies. Other commentators really should watch them and learn these strategies. Example: the first Bronze League Heroes Shamus linked to in twitter was cast by Husky as an amazing surprise of epic proportions. It was a Planetary Fortress rush. I don’t even play SC2 (though I did play Brood War quite more than is healthy for an amateur), but I saw the PF rush the minute the Terran put down an engineering bay first, and for sure when he started building his second command center down by other base. Husky was caught flat footed and he should NOT have been because (a) he’s a pro commentator, he should know the possibilities better than I, a non-player, but (b) the game was literally TWO YEARS after the PF rush episode of When Cheese Fails. So while Husky is asking “what’s he doing with that Engineering Bay?”, Max and Nova would simply say “looks like we got another PF rush” and then move on to whether it was timed right or the other player was going to be able to beat them in a base race.

      So, yes, take LAGTV or leave it based on your tolerance of people yelling at failing players and generally being a little potty mouthed in their humor, but if you want to commentate on SC2 replays, you’d do yourself a favor to memorize When Cheese Fails.

      • Klay F. says:

        I’ll second everything you’ve said here, with the small addition that the early seasons of When Cheese Fails are extremely educational regarding how to defend against cheese. This is important because a quite large number of games will have someone cheesing. I say the early seasons because the later seasons have very little educational value and are just NovaWar and Maximus yelling and being off topic for the majority of the cast.

      • Steve C says:

        To be fair to Husky (assuming we are talking about the same cast) that PF wasn’t a “rush”. It was slow, weird and so badly executed it could have been anything. I originally thought “Oh he’s going to PF.” Then he didn’t. Then he did. Then he didn’t do anything else. I had “PF” in my mind when watching it and I didn’t have a clue what he was doing.

  12. Scampi says:

    I think most sports or games are primarily interesting to watch for people who might as well participate. When I quit playing soccer, I lost most interest in watching it-I had no stake in the games anymore. Would I watch SC II reviews? Hell no, I don’t play it, so I won’t watch it. I just have no grip of the data involved and no motivation to read them up. Would I watch WC3 or SC replays? Yes, since I played those games and know an awful lot about the rules (I might still watch soccer or basketball, thought I have no more general interest in them) and enjoy the theory without requiring to know lots about the players. The point is: If I don’t know the mechanics of a game, it’s horribly confusing to watch, and RTSs have lots of mechanics, which no ‘non-player’ in his right mind would have an interest in reading up just for the sake of understanding the strategic depth behind the opponents’ decisions.
    Would you juggle attack and armor types of units, abilities, unit size types, classifications, attack speeds, ranges, vulnerabilities etc. of units if you had no interest in the game you watch from the start (possibly because you play it yourself and need to know those data for effective play)? I doubt it.

    • Thomas says:

      I’ve never played SC2 and I’ve even watched it live =D Likewise I think it’s safe to say that maybe even the majority of people who watch football (soccer) don’t play it and the ratio might be even higher with American Football because of the difficulty involved in playing

      • Scampi says:

        Well, granted I spoke more from my experience, and pretty much everyone I knew in my life who’d watch a sport regularly had at one time in their life at least tried that sport, though they may not have kept playing it. But I guess you’re right there and that part of my post was a bit exaggerated. I still think it’s way more satisfying to watch something that you know the rules of.
        When I watched say development vids of SC II, I’d see it as pretty much a tech demo, but I’d not have an interest in the competitive value of the game. So, if you’re watching it as a “non-adept”, I’d classify you as a kind of spectacle-seeker, instead of an enthusiast of the game. No offense there.

        • Thomas says:

          I totally deny that! =D I could outnerd practically everyone here on Starcraft, despite the fact many of you have played it. I bet I’ve got a better idea of good build orders and whats going on than lots of people who play the game too, I know from first hand, I had a friend who thought EMP damaged tanks (which would make sense admittedly). And I’m totally there to see the strategy to play out over the fancy looks (case in point, I watched Brood War, despite never playing Brood War and that game looked like mud)

          • Scampi says:

            K, I can accept that-but I don’t get what’s in it for you? I’d never be able to build up that much interest in mechanics that will practically never be of any relevance to me.
            If I play soccer, I might be interested in the tactics and dribbling techniques. If I play SC, I might have an interest in the game’s mechanics etc. An MMA-fighter might have an interest in other MAs except his own, since he might encounter them and profit from from the knowledge, but I just don’t get the point of learning the tactics of a game that you’ll never play at all. Mind explaining it to me?
            I’m really curious about it.

            • Thomas says:

              That’s a big question, why is sport entertaining if it’s not a direct learning experience? Firstly it’s always amazing to see humans performing at their very best in something, if its clear that the very best at it. If you can understand music enough to know when someone is playing the piano incredibly well, then it’s satisfying to see that happen, if you struggle to make lines and squiggles look like things it’s amazing to see a painting that creates ideas you couldn’t image being set down in paper.

              And sport is the same. What you need is an understanding of why it’s hard to do, and that often comes with playing the thing yourself, but can easily come with investing some time in watching as an outsider. Once you know why it’s hard the football(soccer) or Starcraft becomes a seamless realtime expression of human creativity, ingenuity and physical skill.

              And then it has narrative importance. Ultimately, the quickest way to become invested in a sport is to pick a side. I’m 10x more likely to watch a football match of the Welsh team Swansea tearing it up in the English premier league and as I take possession over that team in my mind it becomes important to me whether they win or lose. And that transforms a football into a tense exhilarating affair as my stake in it is challenged and the pain of seeing my team lose becomes a serious risk builds up but then equally that opens me up to exhilaration and joy at seeing them overcome there obstacles and challenges. Equally in Starcraft, I have a player (TLO) who I love to watch and follow his storylines as he progresses through challenges. Lucifron vs TLO was a great example of skill, but more importantly it was about seeing TLO, who had been absolutely crushed by his defeat against MvP, to the extent that a day and a good match later, he was still rocked and finding it hard to believe himself, contend against the best Terran in Europe and probably the best player.

              And finally, even if I don’t play the games themselves, that doesn’t mean watching them isn’t a satisfying intellectual challenge. When I watch a football match I’m figuring out what the options are for the player on the ball, who he can pass to, how you could best close him down and narrow his angles. And in SC2 it’s about trying to figure out what each person’s plan is, how it’s going to work and what else they could do. It the same satisfaction of a maths problem, I might not always have an answer, but the problem takes me on a journey, and if the players are playing well then in the end a satisfying answer will be revealed.

              I haven’t particularly examined it before, but those 3 things are probably the closest I can narrow it down to right now

              • Scampi says:

                Thanks for clarifying this for me.
                Though, wouldn’t it need the knowledge of sth first to understand the quality of someone performing it? If you have no idea of music, you won’t be able to acknowledge someone playing it well. If you have no idea of SC II, you may see someone win and know he does ‘something’ right, since he won, but you wouldn’t be able to judge it or recognize their qualities, without amassing knowledge about it first, would you? So: yes, it may be fascinating to see people excel at some action, but my problem is the incentive to be interested in the first place, and there seems to be less of an intellectual bond than an emotional, that seems to come first in many cases and be the main reason why someone maintains interest.

                I’m used to following situation: people here like to watch soccer a lot. Most people have that extensive knowledge that comes from being interested by being a fan of a team, meaning many won’t discuss the experience in the same terms that I’d try to discuss it.
                I try judging strategic decisions, the general opinion of players’ strengths etc. They don’t want that kind of discussion because to them the most important thing seems to be the emotional involvement with one of the teams. A player is not as fast as is generally thought and I say it, showing how many other guys run faster repeatedly? I must be envious because I’m not that fast.
                A player is changed and I doubt the decision, arguing that a coach has a long history of bad changing decisions? The fans like the coach and don’t believe me because they are involved on an emotional level rather than intellectually, what feels to me pretty much as if they were watching something entirely different.
                Since I feel I’m the only one who has no emotional response to the events, I don’t connect with the community and lose interest, since a ‘social’ experience has lost that value to me.

                • Thomas says:

                  You definitely have to watch a few matches to build up the knowledge base to appreciate it properly, during that time I can accurately be described as a spectacle spectator. (Although my introduction was through Broodwar? A good sign of the quality of sport is how easy it is to see that what they’re doing is hard, (ping-pong and squash are great for that and football(soccer) is pretty good too). I’m not entirely sure why Broodwar was like that, but it helps that the commentators (the good ones at least) spend a lot more time explaining why it’s hard as the match progresses.

                  You sound like you’ve been unlucky with your football discussion though or there were tonal differences between you and the people talking about it. Because discussing if a player is good or not and if they played well can be a big part of the conversation (it’s too high levelled for me, I don’t follow enough football to properly judge). I’ve got friends who could talk about it all day, sure he’s fast, but his he faster enough than most defenders for it to be useful? Can he even do anything with the space he creates? He gets on well with his team, but he never puts the effort into matches…

                  But the rivalry aspect is important too I guess. People are always going to be protective of their teams and if you’re calling out their manager as dumb then it’s important that you’re having fun challenging someone, rather than getting some objective truth. If you don’t ever feel particularly connected to a team then I guess that probably makes it even harder, because other people feel like they can’t tease you back because you’ve got nothing for them to tease. If you enjoyed those conversations I guess that’s a bit sad for you that it didn’t work out, if people had less rivalry it could have been a lot of fun

  13. Ardis Meade says:

    Both the American game and the European game are properly called football. One is American Football and the other is Association Football (i.e. Soccer, from the soc in Association). Also existing as football are; Canadian Football, Gaelic Football, Australian Rules Football, Rugby League Football, and Rugby Arena Football. All are football. Proclaiming one to be “true football” is just elitism.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus, videogames are not sports! Sports are physical activities. Videogames are just games.

    When it comes to playing them, I'll agree with you.”

    Why would you agree with that?Not all sports are based on feats of strength.Shooting is an olympic sport,and it is dependent only on dexterity,which is a big part of playing a competitive video game.

    Or how about car races,and horse riding?Those are also considered sports,yet the main physical strength comes from machines/horses.

    And I am now officially opening the “what is sport” debate.

    • There are lots of ways to split this up but for me a sport is something that takes place between two teams. Anything like tennis or golf that occurs with individuals is a game.

      A race is a race. Whether that be in cars, on foot or by horse. Its a special kin of “game” so to speak.

      Most people get offended because they think that by not calling it a “sport” that it is some kind of backhanded insult. Which is patently absurd. The hand eye coordination of golfers is second to none. Their mental focus borders on Jedi magic. Just because they cant jump 3′ in the air or tackle a cheetah shouldn’t diminish their abilities.

      • Ryan says:

        I’m not totally on board with this one, particularly since some normally individual sports have ‘team’ competitions (like Tennis doubles), and some individual sports have several individuals’ performance making up a part of a whole (like collegiate wrestling dual meets).

      • atomf says:

        I’d have to disagree with this because the origination of sports, back with the Ancient Greeks, was entirely based on individual competition. On the other hand, the origination of team sports was in childrens’ games.

  15. And finally: Anyone who thinks video games are a “non-contact” activity obviously has not seen the grave yard of mice/keyboards/console controllers that occupy shamus’ closet.

  16. Michael says:

    Shamus, speaking as someone who doesn’t play Starcraft but who is exceptionally good at picking up new things from context, I’ve been trying to watch some of the videos you’ve linked to recently and I have no idea what is going on. It’s not remotely obvious to someone without your years of Starcraft experience. You said “Nobody has to explain that hellions are good against zerglings, because the burning zergling corpses will give you a really handy visual image to work with,” but how do I know which units are hellions? Because each faction has a consistent visual style to make them distinct from the other factions, telling different units or bases from the same faction apart can be very difficult. Even with the ones that look sufficiently distinctive I’d need to work at memorising the names in order to remember them next time.

    Meanwhile the action on screen is shifting back and forth from one part of the map to another, and it’s not obvious which individual skirmishes are significant in the wider scheme of things or which defensive positions are stronger than others. And I have no idea where on the screen I’m supposed to look when commentators start talking about tech tree choices. Is there a display embedded in the spectator HUD? Or are they inferring their information from the units being built? I’d have to check a Wiki or ask someone who knows what they’re looking at, and that’s only the first step towards understanding what the choices mean.

    In terms of more physical sports, coming from Britain my opinion on which version of football is more visually monotonous is the reverse of yours. I’m very familiar with the tactics of soccer and I’ve never been able to get my head round American football, so I’d have switched the two of them if I’d been writing about this topic. I think pretty much any sport, be it Starcraft or kabbadi, requires a decent length of time spent observing and learning before you can understand more than the most basic goal. It’s easy enough to grasp that the end result of golf is to get the ball in the hole, but you’re not going to immediately understand how a golfer chooses the right club, allows for the wind and then hits the ball with less force than they could have to make sure the second stroke is set up nicely.

    I think it all boils down to personal experience. Starcraft is as clear or as incomprehensible as any other sport. Experience watching will help, experience playing will give an even deeper understanding. Without either you just have to watch and learn, and accept that there’s a lot you’ll miss out on at first.

    …Huh. Apparently this is a rant now.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “In terms of more physical sports, coming from Britain my opinion on which version of football is more visually monotonous is the reverse of yours.”

      Well of course,since you are used to english football,which is fast and frantic,with lots of skirmishes.Now italian football,thats the boring one,with bunch of turtling and sluggish play around the center.

    • Tizzy says:

      I got hooked on SC2 videos without having played the game, but that’s only because I did play a bit of SC1. The differences between the two games change the play style quite a bit, but it’s similar enough to be easily followed as a spectator.

      But if you’ve never played either games, it would be really daunting to watch these videos, even for someone with experience in other RTS games.

      • Syal says:

        Same here. If I hadn’t played the first game I probably wouldn’t realize that Zerg can build troops faster than anyone else. You certainly won’t learn it from pro games where the commenters are zooming the camera to and fro.

        (…Zerg can build faster, can’t they?)

        • anaphysik says:

          I’m not actually sure! In the original Starcraft, certainly, Zerg could mount a powerful offense very quickly; I understand that some of this rush-ability is still maintained in Starcraft 2 (this is what the terms 6pool/8pool/10pool/etc refer to – how much long-term production is sacrificed for an early army (specifically, at what number of drones do you build a Spawning Pool, which all other units require)). Also, the 2-zerglings-per-egg feature is still retained.

          But Protoss now have the ability to warp in at pylons, so building one next to your opponent’s base can lead to a powerful rush. Additionally, Protoss can increase all unit-production activity by 50% (chronoboosting at the nexus). And it seems a pretty common strategy to build tons of unit-making facilities for Protoss :/. On the other hand, Zerg queens can increase the number of larva being made at their bases, so… yeah, I’m really not sure where it all balances out, to be honest :/

          tl;dr: ask a pro, I guess?

        • Thomas says:

          What Zerg can do is bank up larvae. Protoss and Terran have production cycles where they can build as many units as they have barracks/factories/warpgates in a certain amount of time, but you can’t beat that limit without building more buildings (which is expensive). Whereas the Zerg have larvae, which every hatchery produces regardless of if it’s being used up or not. And Queens have an ability that allows them to create more larvae every x seconds (so good zerg macro is keeping up with your (larave) ‘injects’). That means if you go a long time without having to build a ton of units then it builds up and next time you lose your army you can build 100 units at the same time whereas Protoss and Terran are still stuck on the 8 units from their warpgates w/e.

          This is also why it’s a big deal when zergs have to build units at the start of the game, because they only ever have a certain amount of larvae, so, unlike the other two races, if they’re building units that means they can’t build workers.

          (Also zerglings get built two at a time so it looks like they’re building quicker =D)

    • LunaticFringe says:

      I’d have to somewhat agree with this, I think Shamus’ RTS experience might have made the game a little easier for him to understand. My ex-girlfriend used to randomly watch HuskyStarcraft with me, and she openly admitted that after several weeks she still had no idea what was going on. She didn’t even understand why a player would quit before their entire base was destroyed. This had nothing to do with a lack of intelligence obviously (she could understand the complexities of rugby, something I still don’t get) but more had to do with the fact that she’s never touched an RTS in her life.

  17. Tizzy says:

    No Total Biscuit?

    Quite a few tournaments there, interesting guest casters as well.

  18. Colin says:

    I have no problem with the controlled physicality of most sports (exercise and teamwork are great), but I do get a little disturbed by the state of organised spectator sports, and the arbitrary tribalism many sports fans exhibit in their support of “their” teams. I might accept that some tribalistic instinct can just be naturally ingrained, but I think a large part of it is behaviour that children learn and inherit from their parents, culture and schools.

    I’m sure it’s not coincidental that organised sports are so heavily subsidised by governments. “I’m going to devote myself to this team because I happened to be born in the same geographical area and everyone around me supports them. They’re MY team and anyone who’s against them is against me.”

    I hope this isn’t too political, just trying to respond to your thoughts on the human inspiration for sports.

    • LunaticFringe says:

      Also not trying to be political (well maybe a little), but I absolutely loathe the fact that sports takes the front page over important news stories all the time. For example, recently there were three major Presidential scandals and a major political scandal within the Canadian Senate. What were the Ottawa papers running at the time? Front cover stories about the Senators hockey team being in the playoffs, with much smaller stories within the papers about ACTUAL news. Even after they lost this continued, with two straight days of covers where the players were discussing their disappointment. Marx infamously said that religion was the opiate of the masses but I feel professional sports are much more appropriate.

    • Scampi says:

      Funny-sometimes I have no specific animosity with a team but the fans are what annoys me;)

  19. Zock says:

    One thing to note here is that with traditional sports it is a lot easier to identify with a specific player. Most of the time you as a spectator have a clear view of what an individual player is doing and it is also easy for you to imagine what he might do next or why she has done the things he did.

    With StarCraft it’s hard to identify with the player as most of the time you don’t have a clue of what she’s doing, or, if the feed happens to cut to the player, there’s a guy who’s sitting in front of computer and making no visible movements. There’s nothing interesting happening there. I don’t want to identify with that.

    What’s shown on the screen is a bunch of nameless units which are blindly following an outside force. If one of the units happens to do something heroic it was a fluke which doesn’t have any effect in the following games. If I start cheering each time a zergling appears I’ll get disappointed very quickly as those zerglings get mowed down time after time.

    In addition to being excited of the events unfolding the spectators need something to identify with for the sport to become popular. In StarCraft, and a lot of other eSports, that thing just does not exist. Yet.

    • Syal says:

      I for one do identify with the immobile face of someone playing God.

    • Thomas says:

      This is why streaming and tournaments are cool. If you follow a player who streams a lot (like TLO or DeMuslim) then it builds up that connection, and tournaments devote a lot of time to interviews and even reaction shots with the latest WCS. Over the course of a tournament you probably can get to see more of an individual player than you would in an ordinary football(soccer) match where the camera is pulled out and the action is too constant for breaks.

  20. Chris Robertson says:

    Typo patrol…

    “The matches are often streamed live, and the broadcast just just chopped up and uploaded.”


    It’s just (just) my way of saying:

    Thanks for publishing all the interesting thoughts.

  21. Spammy says:

    I think everyone has a “sport” they follow. Shamus watches Starcraft 2 and I have no cares to give about Starcraft 2, and I’ve got a friend who’ll watch streams and recordings of Magic: the Gathering tournaments, and I don’t really care about those either.

    What I follow, at least casually, is competitive Team Fortress 2 through Teamfortress.tv’s Youtube channel. And I wonder now how hard it would be to get someone who is TF2 illiterate caught up with things in a 6v6 game. I suppose I’d have to explain that TF2 has rocket-jumping and that the number by the side of the Medic’s health total in the spectator HUD is how close they are to making themselves and a player invincible.

    But I’d imagine you’d understand that seeing a Soldier jump into skybox and start raining rockets is called a “bomb.” And that you have to stand on points to capture them, and you want to capture the other team’s last point. And in general that each team wants to shoot the other.

    The other nice thing from a spectator’s position is that the spectator HUD shows each player’s name and class as well as the name of the player you’re watching, so that along with TF2’s cosmetic options means that in each match you can start putting names to digital faces.

    So if there’s anyone out there who’s never played a second of TF2, I’d like to watch some matches with you and question you afterwards.

    • Thomas says:

      I’ve never played a second of TF2 but I’ve probably already absorbed too much knowledge of the mechanics through pop-culture osmosis to be useful =D. What I don’t get about watching shooter games is, isn’t the action too spread out and all over the place to reasonably be captured on a camera? When you’re watching the Heavy storm a fortified position, you’re missing out on the spy backstabbing a medic or whatever.

      It’d be less of a problem with objective matches, because at least the kills aren’t so important and there’s a central area of focus, but you’re still trying to follow 10 people individually acting out high tension high strategy manoeuvres at once aren’t you?

      • Spammy says:

        Well, TF2 isn’t about the deathmatch mode. What you see on Sixes play are king of the hill maps where you have to take and hold the point for two minutes or five control point maps where you need to capture all the points in a line to the enemy base.

        What helps mitigate teams getting spread out is that the TF2 casters now have a wallhack that shows player outlines, so you can always see where people are. In addition, you’ve still got the kill feed in the top right so if two people are off on the side fighting you can see the winner. Also, Snipers, Spies, and bombing Soldiers make for really good watching, so if one of those classes come out the cameraman will usually switch to them as they’re getting in position.

        The other thing of it is though that teams tend to stick together, and it really didn’t take long for me to start to be able to pick up on where the teams as a whole are.

  22. Starcraft is interesting, but for the true future of Future-Sports, you should check out the video for Justice’s song, “New Lands.” Maybe someone can make a mod based on it?

    Fans of cheesy 80’s sci-fi movies will find lots to love as well.

  23. AzaghalsMask says:

    To watch spoiler free VODs, try SC2links.com.
    For any infomation on SCII, Liquipedia is your friend.

  24. Baytor says:

    Probably not exactly the kind of things you’re looking for but still – these essential ones might be useful:

    As mentioned – SC2links, a database of almost all available SC2 videos on the internet. All spoiler-free, advanced search options etc.
    The famous TeamLiqiud community site, central point to all Starcraft things, home of Liquipedia,.. somewhat hard to navigate though.
    And the popular reddit site (regularly visited by people from Blizzard, other professional organizations, players etc.) with all usual ups and downs of any other reddit thing. Useful for following current trends, anticipated matches and that kind of things.

    Plus for fun the acclaimed (collaboration with Blizzard, MLG) animated parody series “Starcrafts”

  25. Adalore says:

    Ah yes, I find it silly how often your stances on things like this align.
    Maybe it’s just a hindsight ego boost. :P

    My understanding of Starcraft 2 is scatter shot. I know enough to watch and get giddy about the plays.

    What I understand as far as Esports goes, is “League of legends”, I know how so much of it works that I just sit there going “AHHH AWESOME” and “…He just stunned a minion and not a champion…Oops?”

    Also on spoilers, TotalBiscuit’s upload’s on his… totalbiscuit channel (not TotalHalibut)He puts in filler videos that prevent spoilers like that. :D

  26. Blake says:

    “It depends on what you're looking for in a sport, of course. Soccer and basketball have continuous physical activity, but their lack of physical contact makes them a bit tame for people looking for substitute warfare. Football has the more direct conflict, but the pace can be maddening for people who don't grasp the overall rules.”

    You should check out some Australian Rules Football (Footy in the local vernacular), 4 quarters each going for around half an hour, an average of 52 scoring shots per game (around half are goals for 6 points, other half are worth 1).
    It involves lots of running, lots of tackling, kicking, handballing, no offside rule, people jumping off each others shoulders to mark the ball, always stuff happening and some really nice big come from behind victories.

    It’s basically a finely honed spectator sport, spectacles for the newcomers, depth for the experts.

    No other sport I’ve seen has moments like these

    • Humanoid says:

      Newbie-friendly in the sense that veteran followers are likely to end up just as clueless as the newcomers. No one knows the exact rules for every given week. Not the players, not the spectators, and not the umpires.

      I exaggerate, of course, but the point is this: It’s interesting to me that the sport’s been around for a long time – a century plus puts it in line with most other sports – but is, in terms of rules, very immature. The last meaningful rules change for association football for example was the offside rule change a couple of decades ago. Australian Rules football tweaks its rules (they call it ‘interpretations’ when it happens mid-season but whatever) multiple times a year.

      I’ve also had a hell of a time explaining why the format of the competition is not a double-, or even single round-robin. It’s, uh, a one-and-seven-seventeenths round-robin. Each team in the 18-team competition plays each other once, then plays 7 teams for a second time. The matchups played twice are not determined by the team’s standing in the tables, nor is it random – the matchups are selected to ensure the ones that draw maximum crowds happen twice a year. A competition with structural integrity this isn’t.

      I guess that’s what happens when there’s essentially only one meaningful competition associated with the sport, with a geographically captive audience.


      I apologise if that came across as a rant against anyone’s personal tastes. I do appreciate that it’s often a kinaesthetically pleasing (sorry Chris) spectacle, and do watch the odd quarter every now and then. But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m watching some choreographed theatre instead of an equitable competition.

      • Alecw says:

        Aussie rules, as much as I have always been put off by the culture, can be simply awe inspiring to watch – the speed and scale of a game where the focus of play flicks back and forth across more than 100m+ in seconds, the aerial acrobatics…

    • Disc says:

      The most baffling part to me is the obvious lack of protective gear. You’d expect the injury rate to be ridiculously high with that kind of stunts pulled off regularly.

      • Humanoid says:

        Collisions tend to be not as brutal as those seen in rugby and its derivatives. Tackling a player, for example, usually doesn’t involve two players running in opposite directions at maximum speed. The tackled player is usually either stationary or moving in the same direction as the tackler. Consequently there’s comparatively little head contact in general play.

        Not so say that there aren’t a lot of injuries, but they’re more often soft tissue injuries when a player is all on their lonesome, or ligament injuries due to limbs being twisted to odd angles. Protective gear wouldn’t really help in either scenario.

  27. Chris says:

    I’m actually a fan of Life’s a Glitch TV (or LaGTV), which is the channel run by MaximusBlack and NovaWar. MaximusBlack is a Masters-level player, almost Grandmasters, and he offers most of the technical commentary, while NovaWar has an amazing voice but hasn’t really played Starcraft since Brood War and is mostly there for color commentary. They cast games that their fans send in, from pretty much every league between Bronze and Masters, mostly Silver and Gold though. They frequently give advice on ways to improve (much like Husky) but they also really celebrate weird things (like Day[9]). They also have an extremely popular series entitled “When Cheese Fails” where they cast a game where one player “cheeses” (uses a cheap, simple strategy to win the game without working too hard or utilizing the majority of mechanics, such as a cannon-rush, a six-pool, or something similar) and the other player defends and ultimately wins.

    I will note that they are EXTREMELY NSFW, and they have a tendency to get massively off topic, which is actually one of their major appeals. If you want a laugh, I recommend checking out some of their videos, this is a great one to start with if you’ve never seen them before: When Cheese Fails 101 Episode 7

  28. Andy says:

    If you want to watch a tournament in chronological order one way to do it is to go to the broadcasters twitch channel and watch the full vod of the recording your interested in. You have to skip around a little to find the spots you want but an entire day of content can often be on a single video without spoilers.

  29. Humanoid says:

    One issue I grapple with in the concept of eSports is that often it ends up feeling that the human versus human element is entirely superfluous. Sure, having two skilled players duke it out in an RTS can be entertaining, but is it any moreso than watching a single person beat Super Mario World really fast? Or for that matter, watching Reginald Cuftbert incinerate the Brotherhood of Steel?

    Ultimately I feel the appeal of watching someone play a videogame is neither helped nor hindered by the presence of a human-controlled adversary. It’s just having fun watching someone play videogames. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • Thomas says:

      Well that’s the same as watching one-guy do keepy-uppys instead of a full football match. The skill level between two humans competing with each other is almost always going to be higher because it’s not capped by the game as much and it’s more intense because there’s emotional engagement, people try harder when they’re competing against others, and there’s a much more ready measure of success. If someone is speed running Portal there’s easily understandable bar of comparison for success, how much better is 1m20s than 1m10s? Does it matter that he’s a second off on this run? Whereas between two people competing directly against each other, the success and the stakes are more obvious

      • Humanoid says:

        Oh I know that, but the idea is that eSports don’t *show* that element in anywhere near as personal a fashion. There are just so many layers of abstraction that removes that empathetic appeal.

        Watching a football game (whatever flavour) you see the players making gut-busting runs, then pause, hands-on-knees exhausted when nothing comes of it. The delight, the song-and-dance ritual, when they score. When the final whistle blows they might collapse to the ground, completely spent.

        I mean with eSports, even if you do show the players, it’s just some guys staring intently into the cold glow of their monitors. It’s technically a human-versus-human interaction, but dressed up so completely as a machine interaction that it becomes functionally all-to-similar to a pure machine process.

        Maybe this is a problem that will be solved when they invent holodecks. But until then, the lack of the visceral man-on-man (no, not in that way) action is something that I don’t feel they’d ever come close to compensating for. And to miss that is to miss the majority appeal of “real” competitive sports.

        • Thomas says:

          I don’t know, I feel like I’m closer to seeing the players react in something like SC2 than in football(soccer), maybe because I’m comparing a 1v1 to a team game. But in a football match a lot of the time I’m thinking about the team as a whole and when a midfielder is challenging another one, I’m not thinking about their match history together or them as a player, only the play as the team as a whole, but in a SC match you know the whole history is going into their decision making. When people commentate football there’s not much room for the personal, but in sc they’re always talking about how it’s affecting their emotional balance and what decision making they’re likely to draw from past history and their philosophical differences in strategies. In football when the focus is drawn to the players it can be pretty negative sadly

          And maybe it’s because e-sports is tiny and they can get pretty close to the players. I don’t really have images like
          this or this so often when watching football.

          It’s probably the 1v1 vs team difference. E-sports is definitely a lot worse at conveying the player involvement, but I think the difference between team and individual competitions is even more pronounced and overrides it a little. (one of the worst aspects of competitive football anyway is how far away the camera has to be to capture the play. So I’m not even comparing the strongest sport to the e-sport I guess)

  30. Thomas says:

    As a heads up, it’s the World Championship Series American finals this weekend. It’ll probably be fun even if the only non-Koreans are an Australian (Moonglade again!) and a European

    It starts 1pm ET, so that’s 6pm Central European and it’ll be on Saturday and Sunday

  31. LunaticFringe says:

    Walter Camp described football in the exact context you do. He saw it as a way to train young men into supporting American nationalism (and Roosevelt’s imperialism to an extent). It presented tactics, teamwork, generalship (the QB) and alienation of one’s foes to an audience at the perfect military service age.

  32. brunothepig says:

    I just finished watching the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour (one of the biggest competitive Magic events of the year) and that naming problem you brought up is a constant source of frustration. I now have a system that for any major event, I’ll have my girlfriend message me the video URLs for the quarter/semi/finals so that I don’t have it all spoiled for me before I even get up to it. Not to mention that as soon as we have a winner it’s announced in a headline on Dailymtg, which is a really cool site with columns every weekday done by the developers and whatnot and I can’t visit it during tournaments for fear of seeing who won on the damn front-page.

    Sorry for hi-jacking this post for my little rant there, slightly more on topic I think I will start watching Starcraft 2 some time. If I find myself with some extra time. Your recent posts about it have got me intrigued, and I haven’t followed any competitive VIDEO-gaming since my brief time with League of Legends early last year. Also, Day[9] was actually at the latest Pro Tour, on a special invite thing for being a big community guy or something. I hadn’t heard of him before then, so I’m not sure of the specifics. Unfortunately he didn’t make it past day one, but I heard he didn’t expect to (which is understandable) and even had to take off immediately because he had other commitments the next day.

  33. RTBones says:

    Baseball is very much a “thinking man’s” game, with complex strategies used on almost every pitch (bowl/throw). The problem is that like cricket, the game can be slow when compared to other sports – especially if you dont know the rules or how the game works. For those that don’t know a lot about the game, it is similar to Rounders.

    • Klay F. says:

      I don’t know about “Thinking man’s game”, but I’ll agree with you purely out of personal bias. I was raised on baseball, and played it up to college level my first year. If there was a gene for baseball, my family would definitely have it.

      • RTBones says:

        A lot of it is subtle. When to switch pitchers. When to let your pitcher ‘work through’ a tough inning. When to switch players (offensively or defensively). When to double switch. When to shade outfielders. When to put your infield at double play depth. When to pull your infield in. When to squeeze. When to hit and run. When to send a runner. How to stack your batting order. All of these are really subtle things – many of which you can see during a game and not really understand. A particular hitter may have a history of pulling the ball EXCEPT against a particular pitcher, against whom he has a habit of hitting into double plays against. That pitcher may only come into the game for one at-bat. That sort of thing.

        If you cant tell, I am an NL fan. You take the field, you swing the stick, IMO. We wont even get into different strategies between leagues.

        • Klay F. says:

          A lot of that stuff I’m willing to give you, but some of it ventures into metagame stat-crunching, which is usually where I draw the line. I acknowledge that kind of stuff is important, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    • Humanoid says:

      A bit slow, yes. The longest cricket match in history had to be abandoned as a draw due to logistical reasons (the visiting team needing to catch the boat back from England from South Africa). That happened after nine days of play.

      Nowadays there’s a five-day limit on matches. :)

  34. There is one noticeable difference between normal sports and video games in general as sport: The way the rules operate.
    In physically played sport, one source of confusion is often, basically, what constitutes a foul or violation of the rules. So in hockey, you can bodycheck in certain ways but not certain other ways (charging, crosschecking), you can pass the puck certain places but not certain other places (off side), you’re not allowed to hang on to the other player (holding), yadda yadda, and there’s all kinds of grey areas around just how solidly certain rules are enforced, and the ref doesn’t see all violations, and so on.

    In a video game, there normally isn’t any of that stuff. “The rules” just describes the ways in which the computer defines the universe the game operates in. If an upgrade gives your Dark Templar +1 damage, you can’t choose to give him +2 damage instead and hope the ref doesn’t notice–the +1 damage is just what happens. If there’s no holding, what that means is your units aren’t physically capable of grabbing other units. In this respect video games are simpler to deal with–if the players are doing something, they’re allowed to. If they weren’t allowed to, it wouldn’t be possible.

    Looking at it a different way, video games typically don’t actually have rules at all, in the sense sports do. You might say that what we call “the rules” in a video game, in normal sports isn’t “the rules” it’s “the laws of physics”. Video games do have objectives, but that’s not quite the same. It’s like if in hockey the objective was still “Get the puck in the net the most times”, but you were allowed to do it by killing all the opposing players and then putting the puck in the net all day.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      That’s a really good point. Video-games run under the “all’s fair” rules, in the same way as total war is carried out in real life. In that sense, they aren’t really games or sports at all, merely brutal no-holds-barred struggles in some simplified platonic alternate reality. Of course, there usually are ways to “cheat” even in video-games. Using bots, mem-hacking, and gathering extra-game intelligence on the opposition are all good examples of things that are generally “against the rules” even though the software itself rarely enforces it.

  35. klasbo says:

    Speaking of spoilers. I know that reddit is … divisive, but the spoiler free StarCraft subreddit is great for avoiding the spoiler-problem. It’s also great for getting all the VoD’s from a single event nicely package in one place.

  36. tengokujin says:

    I think what I can take away from the above commentary is this: everyone wants to defend what they know as “easy to understand”. Which probably stems from, “Look, I’m not the smartest person, and *I* understand this, so so should you.” which fails to take into account exposure as a form of experience and thus, knowledge.

    That said, I’m not the smartest person. But I do know the majority of rules for a large number of sports and games, which makes spectating a lot easier. :3 Even when I may not know the specific game’s rules, I can extrapolate. Maybe I should thank my lucky stars.

    … Nah.

  37. Faguss says:

    > It's part of our heritage as mammals… creatures that don't compete don't get to survive.

    I find these statements ambiguous because they cannot be proven nor disproven. I could give you examples of the opposite: human body consists of trillions of individual cells working together, there are more bacteria then cells in a body, we’re social creatures and have social needs.

    • Competition and co-operation aren’t really opposites in that construction. It’s just a question of who you’re competing against and how hard. Bees that are better at getting along with flowers do better than other kinds of bees and maybe some non-bee kinds of bugs (eg butterflies). They’re not competing against the flowers, they’re competing against other things that suck up to flowers for a living.

  38. Michael McGurk says:

    I like your mental floss articles, at least the spirit of them, and the fact that English spelling is absurd is worth noting (in an article about sports it’s a wonder this is what I chose to comment on). But none of these articles have anything to do with football/american football/soccer. I don’t know what the story of those words are nor when they took on their names, but it has nothing to do with the peculiarities of English!

    Also, if you’re going to bring up how messy English is, you have to mention the phonetics! Nothing is screwier than how we pronounce words versus how we spell them.

  39. Falling says:

    I am of the opinion that SC2 isn’t as a spectator friendly as us SC fans would like to believe. Armies clump a lot, battles are over in seconds, there’s a TON of spells that cover the screen and bunch of other things.(Collosus that cover up their own troops and then have massive long lasers that cover up even more of the screen.

    Personally, I think it’s predecessor SCBW was far more spectator friendly except for the “LOL, old game” group. If there was an HD option, we could probably silence that crowd because it still has a strong visual style, the battles are far more spread out, way less spells cover the screen.
    And most importantly, there is a TON of micro that didn’t involve spells.

    Attack-retreat micro is very similar to the sort of emergent behaviour like strafe-jumping of Quake and combo moves of fighting games that got left behind when SC2 was made. But it is very easy to see the micro and see the effects of it. Blizzard missed the revolution :(

    My SC2 recommendation would be the Tasteless- Artosis combination. aka Tastosis. If you ever look for SCBW, then I’d reccomend Sayle at http://www.youtube.com/user/SayleBW.

    The vods for the SSL will be going up soon (Korean amateur league started because Korean fans liked BW too much to let it die when the big leagues switched to SC2.) And for our own local tournaments, there is also the TSL2.

  40. Xythe says:

    Day[9] is indeed an awesome dude, not just for the pro-gaming scene, but for gaming in general. He also just shared one of your Reset Button videos on Facebook, oyu you guys obviously have some mutual appreciation going.

  41. Joveus Molai says:

    An FYI:

    IIRC, “Football” is called such not because the ball is transported with feet, but because, back when it was invented, it was called that to be distinguished from ball games played on horseback. So it was “football” in the sense that it was “ball game played on foot”, not “ball game where you use your feet to move the ball”.

  42. Alecw says:

    Fantastic article Shamus, couldn’t agree more so nothing to really add :)

  43. Thomas says:

    Blizzard have introduced a feature where you can have friends play at the level of SC2 you own, so now if you’ve got one copy of HOTS you can still play HOTS multiplayer with a friend (or family member =D). It even allows you to play proper games with friends who only have the demo!

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