My brother, the Starcraft player

As some of you may know, I have a younger brother. Nothing totally surprising about that. This weekend, Kerry is up in Brisbane playing in a Starcraft tournament. Of course, because he’s my brother I know nothing about the tournament or what it’s called, so I can’t link to it. 🙂

I wanted to use this post to discuss the gaming industry a little bit and share some things that have become obvious as Kerry has continued to get better and better at playing. We’ve grown to understand the addiction that can come with playing ‘WoW’ and things like that, but the general punter probably hasn’t considered how much effort is required to push towards the top of the leaderboards in these games. Like anything, it takes discipline, effort and a lot of practice.

1. If he were a chess master…

Imagine the situation. Someone walks up to you in a bar and says “I’m a grand master chess player and I have just won a game that was watched by 150,000 people.”

You’d be pretty impressed. You’d also think immediately that this person you were chatting to was probably fairly intelligent and that they were a disciplined person.

Now consider the difference if someone said “I’m a master level Starcraft/WoW player and I just won a game that was watched by 150,000 people.”

You may not be so impressed. You may think “Phhff…Starcraft? What is that? A computer game? Lame!”

What I’m saying, is there’s not such a difference. Chess is well regarded, Starcraft and computer games in general, perhaps not so much. I believe we’re missing a very big opportunity here to celebrate people with very diverse, digital skill sets with this mindset.

2. More people watch Starcraft replays than many sports replays

Ok, I have no stats to back that up. 🙂

But following Kerry a little bit on his journey has opened my eyes to the various communities that exist on the internet to follow these sorts of games. Just last week, Kez had a game of his commentated and featured on this YouTube channel. The replay has so far had 145,327 viewers. That’s more than can sit in the MCG. Wow.

3. The gaming participants self organise themselves

I also used to work with Tom Stiller, a raid leader for a successful WoW guild. Tom was always happy to show me his world and walk me through how they selected and recruited guild members and how they trained and organised their missions. It was nothing short of a 20-30 hour per week job. The guild was about 15-20 people large, all contributing similar amounts of time.

Jane McGonigal spoke at TED about gaming being able to save the world. With people like Kerry and Tom participating all over the world, developing the skills they’re picking up in these digital realms, I have no doubt that she’s right.

8 thoughts on “My brother, the Starcraft player

  1. Really good post Steve. 

    I have been a guild leader in WoW in the past, professionally though I’m a HR pro, with a keen interest in maximising human potential and the future of work. Combine those two perspectives and I see a real window of opportunity in combining the skills learnt in game to help solve real world problems in cool ways. 

    I wish Kerry all the best in the tournament! 

  2. The organisation that was required in the past in WoW to organise 40 people to all do the right thing in a raid all remotely is definitely not something easy to do, the kind of people that did/do it well could definitely apply those skills outside of gaming.

    With Starcraft it seems to me like there is actually a far larger variety of strategy and outcomes of play than something like chess. It’s also similar to speed chess in that part of being a good play is thinking and enacting plans faster than your opponent while still being able to consider an overview of where the game is at and what you are aiming for 5/10 minutes down the track.

    1. Thanks Rob, organisation indeed. I remember Tom walking me through the precision needed to defeat a new boss, and the way the guild would organise around that task. They would get down to second-perfect timing in order to defeat something, which I always found quite amazing. 

      Starcraft is, as you say, much more speed focused and overtly strategic in nature. Speaking to Kerry about it, he discusses his moves in a very similar way to chess. He has openings, mid-game moves and end game strategies. He once told me the the difference between the good and the bad players was this: That the bad players thought they’d lost a game because of what had happened in the last minute. The good players attributed their loses to what happened in the first minutes 🙂 

  3. Hey Steve – thanks for your thoughts. I’m heavily into Sc2 myself (Masters’ league protoss for anyone who knows what that means.) I think that the idea that SC2 players don’t have the respect they deserve is perhaps missing the point. As you rightfully pointed out, that game had 150,000 hits on Youtube. Other tournaments like MLG, GSL, NASL, IEM etc etc have live, unique viewers of between 10,000 and 100,000, with the videos and replays being watched by many, many more.

    I think rather than begging for respect from people who aren’t interested, the community is banding together to create a scene from the grass roots, and in a way that’s more satisfying and interesting than anything.

    Streaming will be (already is?) the next greatest internet phenomenon. You can watch professional starcraft players playing from their PCs with their commentary on what they are doing and why. At any one time there are roughly 50 different people streaming. Esports communities are taking advantage of it already but it can’t be long before it becomes even more mainstream.

    As for SC players – there are quite a few skills that are useful. It’s not just that the good player knows the game was won 15 minutes ago – he knows it was won because he took a small economic lead. They have an innate understanding of efficiency as well as strategy and mechanics in a way that lots of other gamers don’t. Plus they’re very good looking 😀

    1. Hey Alex, thanks for the great post. Particularly, I love this bit. 

      “I think rather than begging for respect from people who aren’t interested, the community is banding together to create a scene from the grass roots, and in a way that’s more satisfying and interesting than anything.”

      I love how you describe that they have an innate feeling for the game and understand how a small economic lead can result in a combative win. I will be watching more closely next time!

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