Why Don't You Watch the GSL?

By Danl Haas

March 6, 2011

Starcraft II was released in July of last year, and for a lot of gamers, it pretty much came and went like any other major game launch. Anyone with the inclination went out and picked it up, played through the campaign, got stomped on the ladder a few times, and probably shelved the thing after playing the requisite tower defense variants on offer. Typical, right? A great game, but not something a lot of people spend any inordinate amount of time with.

What those people don’t realize is that game, and the community surrounding it, is unlike anything else that exists in the gaming world. They’re probably the same people who emit a derisive scoff upon reading the word eSports. They don’t understand the culture and the worldwide phenomenon that surrounds this game and composes the hardcore, competitive RTS world. Taking the forefront in this world is Korea’s premier tournament, the Global Starcraft II League. This tournament brings in the biggest names in gaming from around the world, competing for huge cash prizes, not to mention an opportunity to get attention from potential teams or sponsors.

Follow me past the jump, and I’ll tell you exactly why this somewhat under-recognized gaming subculture is worthy and deserving of your attention, and why your arguments against it are wrong.

The first two responses I typically hear to the “why aren’t watching it” are the following: either “Because I didn’t buy Starcraft” or “Because I’m terrible at Starcraft“. To address the former: Yes, you did. Don’t try to lie to my face like that. Starcraft II was the best selling RTS of all time, selling three million copies worldwide in just its first month on shelves. It also set a record for piracy, reaching another 2.3 million gamers that way. So you obviously played it, and that’s really all you need to be able to appreciate what’s going on in high-level games. Seriously. Trying to use the “But I’m bad” excuse it like saying “I could never win a Cy Young, so I can’t watch baseball,” or, “I was only a linebacker for two years in high school, so why would I watch professional football?”

That is silly. Stop saying it. Anyway, let’s move on to the next excuse you’d use: “Because it’s Korean.” Well first of all, dude, das racist. And second, it’s not actually in Korean. Yeah, it’s broadcast out of Korea, and yeah, most of the players are Korean, but when you actually watch it, you get to listen to the sweet sound of two of my favorite Starcraft personalities: Nick “Tasteless” Plott and Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski, known collectively as Tastosis, The Casting Archon.

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These two dudes, professional gamers in their own right, tirelessly provide their expert commentary over every single matched played in the GSL. Even if the games are uninteresting (admittedly, a rare occurrence) these guys hold it down by adding their own personality and charm to the broadcast, and they even make it easy for the relative noobs in their audience to appreciate what’s happening by providing clear explanations of the strategies in play. Honestly, if there were people like this commentating college football, I might actually consider watching it. They’re that good.

Then there’s the players. You might think that a sport consisting entirely of nerds who literally get paid to play one videogame for something like 13 hours a day might be somewhat lacking in the personality department, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth. Just as an example, let’s look at the matches to be played tonight:

It’s the round of eight, or quarterfinals, of the Code A tournament tonight. Code A is supposedly the GSL’s “lower” bracket, below Code S, where only gods dare tread. But that doesn’t stop it from being a really impressive night matches: we’ve got LiquidHuk, the Canadian heartthrob from TeamLiquid.net, one of only two white dudes remaining in the competition. In the very next match, you have the Zerg player Leenock, a chubby little 16-year-old kid who’s played some of the most amazing games I’ve seen in the GSL. What a baller


Then there’s Rain, a pretty controversial player who used a cheesy play style to work his way to the final round of GSL Season 3, but has quickly fallen from grace since then, now being forced to work his way back up from what is effectively the bottom of the ladder in Code A. What I’m trying to impress upon you here is that there’s lots of drama going on with these players, and it adds a lot of spice to the proceedings that can really come to a head within the games themselves. There’s rivalries and bad blood and espionage going on constantly, so much so that not even I feel like I can follow what’s happening all the time.

Really, I don’t know what else to tell you. Watching competitive Starcraft is fantastic, and I can’t understand why you don’t do it more often. It’s just like how your dad watches football, except it’s actually, like, interesting. And yet somehow, it seems like hardly anyone besides the game’s hardcore fanbase ever even talks about it. If we ever want eSports to grow outside of Korea, we’ve got to change that. So start watching the GSL. It’s the least you can do.

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Danl Haas

Danl is a home-grown Minnesotan gamer, artist, and programmer. He loves rhythm games, RTS, and platformers. He loves building computers, too. His favorite games include Phoenix Wright, Dance Dance Revolution, and Katamari Damacy.

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