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Starcraft World Championship: eSports come to Australia

As the popularity of eSports grows, Australia will play host to the world’s leading professional gaming tournament, reports Andrew Passarello.

Audience watches as a tournament gets underway. Photo: flickr Xensin
Audience watches as a tournament gets underway. Photo: flickr Xensin

“MC has realised he’s lost, and Seed is just overwhelmed with emotion… he’s going to be this season’s Code S champion. He has destroyed the greatest players on earth to get here and win this. There is not a person happier on this earth right now.”

Korean player Ahn Sahng Won, better known by his alias “Seed”, is lifted with some difficulty onto the shoulders of his teammates as they celebrate his shock victory over Jang “MC” Min Chul, who remains in his seat with his head in his hands. These men are competitors in the GSL Code S, the most prestigious StarCraft 2 tournament in the world. The game has become a global phenomenon, with the Global StarCraft League (GSL) recording over 50 million views during 2012 alone, not including the legion of fans in South Korea, where the game is most popular.

StarCraft 2, developed by Blizzard Entertainment and released in 2010, is a computer strategy game revolving around three distinct factions who are constantly at war. There’s the Terran, redneck space-cowboys from Earth whose strength lies in the sheer power and versatility of their military; the Protoss, a dogmatic ancient alien civilization with the most advanced technology; and the Zerg, a parasitic “swarm” of many species that overwhelms the enemy with insurmountable numbers. Professional StarCraft gaming sees players duke it out as one of these factions in a one versus one, best of three series.

These matches play out like fast paced chess, except with aliens, spaceships, and explosions. Admittedly the concept of ‘fast paced chess’ isn’t overwhelmingly appealing; it could also easily be described as a boxing match or a tennis rally. Except with aliens, spaceships, and explosions. Players need to not only have the most military units, but the best unit control, otherwise known as macro and micro. So there’s something in it for enthusiastic economists too.

On the 11th and 12th of August, Australia will be playing host to the Oceania leg of Blizzard’s World Championship Series, organised by the Australian Cyber League. While watching competitive StarCraft 2 has proven popular in Australia and New Zealand, there has been a dearth of high level tournaments taking place here. The WCS Oceania tournament changes that, with top Australian and New Zealand talent like mOOnGLaDe, iM.MaFia, and xG.JazBas battling it out for $10,000 in winnings and a ticket to the WCS Finals in China. Joining the players will be some of the most famous and revered StarCraft 2 commentators, with Code S commentators Artosis and Tasteless being joined by HDstarcraft and PainUser.

Game director for StarCraft 2, Dustin Browder, recently commented that “every time I think it can’t get any bigger, it gets bigger.” Innuendo aside, Browder has fingered the truly astonishing thing about this competitive gaming sensation; despite the extraordinary quick rise of StarCraft 2, it is only amassing a bigger fan base, defying those who dismiss it as a craze. See for yourself this coming weekend: go down in person to the Australian Technology Park for the competition, or watch the free video stream online.

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