We're coming up on the biggest weekend for StarCraft II eSports in 2013 so far, with both the Korean and American WCS Season 1 finals concluding the first round of Blizzard's new, worldwide tournament format. The Korean finals between INnoVation and Soulkey will have already started by the time you read this, but you should be able to check out the WCS archives shortly after the broadcast. The American finals, beginning with the Round of 8, will run throughout the weekend.
This commemoration of StarCraft 2's first year of release, entitled "One Year Down," has got it all; the highs of tournament success and worldwide recognition, the lows of crushing defeat and near misses. Praise be to Laxx for putting it all together, and kudos to the SC community for embracing their passion.
Hm? No, I'm not crying. I just got something in my eye, that's all.
The final of one of the biggest StarCraft 2 tournaments in the world will be held outside of Korea for the first time this year. The GSL final will take place in front of a live audience at Blizzcon 2011 in Anaheim. Anyone with a Battle.net account will be able to log in to Blizzcon.com for free and watch the best StarCraft 2 players in the world do battle live this October.
I love e-sports. I mean, I really, really love e-sports. I love e-sports so much that when IMNestea played the then-named BoxeR in the Global StarCraft II League's season 2 final, I woke my girlfriend up at some unearthly hour in the morning and crowed at her about marine splitting until she had to physically leave the room. I've organised parties based solely around the activity of watching other people play games, many thousands of miles away. I say it here, on this wide internet, and I don't care who knows – I love e-sports.
But I didn't always love e-sports. If I went back in time to exactly one year ago, found myself, and said “YOU WILL LOVE E-SPORTS IN A YEAR'S TIME!”, year-younger me would've scoffed in my face. I've been aware of e-sports for as long as I've been a PC gamer: I lived through the false dawns of the early 21st Century, the Sujoy Roys and the Jonathan Wendels coming so close to pushing the activity of pro-gaming into the spotlight, then falling short at some intangible hurdle. Time and again I was promised the rise of Quake, or Counter-Strike, or some other competitive game in the televised market; time and time again they failed to ignite among the wider gaming community.
I could well have reacted like Kotaku's Jen Schiller did, when she repurposed an interview between Team Dignitas' David 'Zaccubus' Treacy, and top-end PC hardware types Alienware. Her post treats e-sports as weird and unnatural: a vestigial limb on the wider gaming animal that we'd all do better to hide under a coat. She makes her feelings about pro-gaming clear:
“Don't get me wrong, I love watching people who are better than me at video games play them for money, especially when I don't know those people.
Oh wait. No I don't.”
Jen penned another response, after seeing the reaction her original post dredged up from the e-sports community. Jen defends herself by claiming ignorance of the scene. A year ago, I could've claimed the same.
In any sport, there's a loser for every winner. Every time a champion is showered in champagne (or Diet Coke, if they're underage) and raises a trophy to a screaming crowd, there's a player who stands silently to the side, humbled, overshadowed and defeated. Lee Jung Hoon has been this player four times. At 17 years old, he's a StarCraft veteran, one of the best Terran players in the world, and he's incredibly successful. His fans rank among the most passionate, his games as the most exciting. Jung Hoon is well-mannered, exciting, emotional, a little bit shy, all while maintaining his status as one of the most dynamic figures of StarCraft 2. Yet he's never won a major tournament.
If you've ever been tempted to check out StarCraft 2 as a spectator sport, you should definitely watch the recent Team Liquid Starleague tournament. The whole competition is available to watch now for free on the TSL site. It's got it all, incredibly talented players, tense match-ups, and expert narration from some of the best shoutcasters in the world.
The TSL has become another regular fixture in our StarCraft 2 calendar, alongside the GSL and Day's regular casts. It's fair to say many of us have become completely hooked on watching StarCraft 2 (find out how Tom got hooked here). We think you might like it, too, so we gathered together ten of the best StarCraft 2 matches to help get you started.
South Korea's Global StarCraft II League and the USA's Major League Gaming represent the twin peaks of global e-sports. Through a new league exchange system, those peaks are beginning to merge together to one glorious, truly international mountain.
The system kicks into gear in June, with MLG's Columbus leg. Four Korean players – up and coming stars ST_Bomber, IM.LosirA, SlayerS_MMA, and ex-Warcraft III hero FOXMoon – will be added to that show's lineup to compete for the title.
In the still-early life of competitive StarCraft 2, we've seen hundreds of incredible, memorable matches. Many professional players' fame or infamy has been earned by toppling the giants who came before them. That shift in attrition, that expert pivot of micro-management or creativity in a single match can surge a single player's reputation—when an unknown kills a Goliath (no, not that one) he becomes an Internet champion, epitomizing the wonderful parity that's emerging with competitive SC2. Everyone loves to root for the underdog and watch a good upset—here are StarCraft 2's top four.
Nicknames can say a lot: Lim Yo-Hwan, a man who plays Starcraft and Starcraft II as SlayerS_BoxeR, is nicknamed The Emperor. The story of Starcraft's phenomenal rise in South Korea, and in particular its emergence as an e-sport, is inextricably bound to Boxer's star-crossed career. Today, that career has taken a new turn and created the biggest transfer story in E-sports history.
SlayerS_BoxeR has applied to join the startup North American Star League. The NASL's inaugural season kicks off on Tuesday 5th April, a North American alternative to Korea's superb Global Starcraft League (GSL), with 50 players and a prize pool of $400,000 dedicated exclusively to Starcraft II. So why's Boxer applying? Click more for the details and his application video.
The final of GomTV's second Global StarCraft 2 League is about to kick off - at 10am GMT, 2am Pacific Time. It's free to watch live, but if you miss it, you need a season ticket to watch it later ($20, likely reduced once the tourney's over).
Both in terms of prize money and the talent it attracts, the GSL is the biggest StarCraft tournament in the world, and one of the biggest e-sports tournaments ever. The English commentary is done by my personal favourites Tasteless and Artosis, who make high-level play easy to understand even for noobs - season one of this tournament is what turned me around on e-sports. Grab breakfast or a midnight snack, depending on your time zone, and check it out.