StarCraft 2 Tournament at IEM and Can the Game Thrive in Esports?
In the Hall of Fame of eSports one game will have its well-deserved place as a “founding forefather,” and that game is StarCraft 2.This amazing title from the house of Blizzard has enticed millions to watch the fascinating tournaments and cheer for their favorite players and teams. But never mind the history; how is the game doing in eSports, specifically in a StarCraft 2 Tournament like IEM Pyeongchan, and does it have a future?
Now, let’s be clear, StarCraft 2 will never again achieve the level of fame it once had, or belong to the top eSports titles such as DOTA 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or League of Legends. These games have become undisputed giants and any attempt to join their ranks is, it seems, an exercise in futility. They are simply too great and leave little-unoccupied space around themselves. But for an eight-year-old game, StarCraft 2 is remarkably resilient and has managed to gather and keep an impressive amount of players and followers. What is even more remarkable, its metagame, the way how top players are evolving and changing their tactics from tournament to tournament has remained as fascinating as it was at the very early stages of StarCraft 2 inceptions. After the incredible Wings of Liberty that was focused on the human campaign, the game received two more expansion, Heart of the Swarm (2013) and Legacy of the Void (2015), which brought us closer to Zerg and Protoss races, respectively.
Every expansion has brought new, fresh blood into the fold, by adding carefully designed units for all races to the mix, subtly changing the balance of power yet never actually breaking the game itself. This has reflected not only upon hundreds of thousands of players of the game but on the professionals who played the tournaments as well. However, if one is actually paying attention to StarCraft as a whole phenomenon, then one should talk about its 20 years of history since that is exactly how long it is since the original StarCraft game has been published. Along with its expansion, The Brood Wars, which was one of the most popular expansions of all Blizzard games, the original StarCraft has been played by for over a decade until its long-awaited sequel was released.
Hell, it’s About Time!
StarCraft 2 tournaments have established this game as one of the primary examples of how to make perfect synergy between the game; its players, the professionals that devote their entire lives to it and finally the eSports that make this circle complete. Soon enough the first stars of the tournaments began emerging, and we began hearing the names of rising stars such as NesTea, MvP, MarineKing, Flash, INnoVation everywhere. Even the best of them managed to keep their fame at the zenith and their winnings limited only to short bursts so that the absolute boredom of never changing leaderboards never materialized.
But not only did the players become famous, some of the broadcasters rose to the fame that was equal, yet even longer lasting than most of the champions of StarCraft 2 tournaments. One prime example of this is a couple of broadcasters called Tasteless and Artosis. Nicolas Plott aka “Tasteless” and Dan Stamkoski aka “Artosis” have developed such an amazing synergy during their time of hosting countless StarCraft 2 tournaments that they got a new, dual nickname “Tastosis.” The two American commentators both started their careers off as StarCraft 2 players, only to eventually be approached by the Korean broadcasting company International eSports group (IEG) and invited to host Korean StarCraft 2 tournaments. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even after all these years, the StarCraft 2 eSports is attracting huge crowds of people that are religiously following all the spectacles across the world, even though the majority of those are taking place in South Korea. There are others, though, such as the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) StarCraft 2 tournament in Katowice, Poland, which featured almost 80 players and a total cash prize pool of $400,000! This event proved to everyone who was ready to write off real-time strategy genre as a thing of past in eSports that both it as well as its major representative, StarCraft 2, are both thriving on and are still capable of throwing down a true spectacle.
It was StarCraft 2 at its best. The numerous matches showed the variety and flexibility of the metagame, and we could see anything from short, cheesy matches ending with well-timed rushes to prolonged and dynamic engagements where two players would exhaust the resources of entire maps while trading blows. At the very end, the Zerg player Rogue was able to take home the significant reward of $150,00 after soundly defeating the Protoss player Classic. Perhaps the only (slight) letdown of the tournament was Classic’s defeat in the finals; he wasn’t able to adequately resist Rogue and adapt to his tactics. Rogue “manhandled” (to use one of the favorite expressions from Tastosis commentator team)Classic and easily defeated him 4-0, depriving us of an exciting finale where we hoped for two equally skilled players duking it out in grand style. Nonetheless, IEM Katowice was a prime example of how StarCraft 2tournaments are still popular and able to equally fascinate both large crowds and eSports scene itself.
Women in eSports
eSports is still sorely lacking more women participating in it, so when we get the occasion to present some of them we are especially thrilled. StarCraft 2 tournaments have seen several of high profile female players, but overall their impact was rather negligible compared to their male counterparts. This makes the event of Scarlett winning a major StarCraft 2 tournament, the IEM Pyeongchang, even more significant!
Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, a Canadian StarCraft 2 veteran is generally considered one of the best foreign players in eSports usually dominated by South Korean predominantly male players. Scarlett, a highly versatile Zerg player made history recently when she soundly defeated one of the top Protoss players of all times, Kim “sOs” YooJin. Scarlett started off strong and confident, quickly racking up three wins in a row, and when sOs managed to resist and take the fourth game he found himself being rushed by the Zerg in the early game and lost the tournament by 4-1. Scarlett won the prize pool of $150,000 and became the first woman to win one of the prime StarCraft 2 tournaments.
StarCraft 2 is not over, not by a long shot, and still has the power to attract thousands to watch, attend and compete its various tournaments, as well as providing for very competitive eSports experience. We are certain that it has many successful years ahead of itself and are looking forward to experiencing more from this legendary Blizzard title.