Why I play StarCraft

I mentioned in my last post almost 2 months ago that I wanted to come back to the game. Well, that didn’t happen for most of the time until now. I can blame it on a major transition in my life since then, but the truth is that I just didn’t really have the motivation to play. Well, I finally found it last Monday and got back into StarCraft when I played some Brood War with 4 of my friends from high school.

The experience wasn’t really optimal. We had an odd number of people, Brood War bnet has a lot of issues with latency for unknown reasons, and we were all very rusty. Despite that, we had a ton of fun playing as we sat in a Skype call together and trash talked and caught up over a few games. Afterwards, a few of us talked for awhile longer on Skype, and then David and I played 6 games of 2s in SC2, placing us into silver (while playing platinum-level players: go figure).

Earlier this evening, David and I played another 4ish games on the ladder together, which I think we mostly won. Our skill levels aren’t a perfect match, but we’re close enough that it’s fun just to play and find something to do together having not really talked much since high school.

So hooray, I’m playing again, though without the intensity I desired from before, which I’m okay with. The big point I want to make with this post, though, is about why I play StarCraft. If reddit is to be believed, the StarCraft esports scene is crumbling to pieces as inferior games become more popular, and Blizzard is oblivious to and unhelpful in fixing the situation. I don’t think it’s that bad, but one possible root of all problems is that people just aren’t playing that much SC nowadays. Anecdotally, /r/starcraft doesn’t actually play that much StarCraft, and if that’s true, it’s inevitable that a reasonably accessible game like League of Legends will win over players and subsequently, the esports scene.

So where did I get off the bandwagon and stop playing? Mainly because it wasn’t actually that much fun. Somehow, SC ended up being a solitary pursuit for me where the UI was setup to make me play stressful 1v1 ladder games. I played a ton of Brood War back in the day with my friends, though, and for a long time. I played:

  1. a lot of big team games with my friends (3v3 or 4v4)
  2. BGH (Big Game Hunters: a “money map” of standard SC but where you didn’t really need to expand)
  3. a lot of UMS (Use Map Settings or “Custom Games”)

Somehow, none of this quite happened and sustained itself for me in SC2. The big team games never happened since I didn’t quite manage to find my friends in-game early on, and frankly, a lot of my friends have moved on from RTS. I don’t think I’ve found a similar experience to BGH, and the new setup for custom games just killed the environment for it early on.

I’m not really sure how to get the magic back. For me, the key is the social experience of playing games with my friends, and maybe the problem is us, not the game: in high school, there really wasn’t anything better to be doing, but 8 years later, our lives are a little different and not as conducive to playing.

People seem really down about HotS and the changes its making. Maybe they aren’t that big or exciting to people anymore, but I think that’s okay. A big release will get people back into the game, at least for a week, and with an improved arcade, maybe we’ll be able to drive the network effect a little stronger and create a stickier social experience for players. I myself am thrilled about a good reason to see all of my friends on my buddy list come back to the game and play with them for a bit.

So /r/starcraft, don’t worry: a lot of players still have the passion, and there’s still hope as long as we have that. Let’s hope that HotS comes sooner than later and let the game get big again.