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eSports, Dawn of War 2, and StarCraft, part 1

Well, I’ve recently decided to try what I’m calling the “Dawn of War 2 Challenge.” That is, on Sunday, I decided that I would attempt to play Dawn of War 2 for 2 weeks to give it a fair shake against the juggernaut that is StarCraft 2. I’ll come back to this later.

For the past year, I have played little else aside from StarCraft 2. It’s a great game, and rather unique amongst Real Time Strategy games in that it has become something of a cultural phenomenon. With the eSports scene growing out of control in the United States, and events/tournaments such as , IPL, NASL, and, more recently BarCraft springing up, StarCraft has truly reached hights which other strategy games have never even considered. Even Blizzard’s own WarCraft 3 had only a fraction of the popular coverage that StarCraft 2 now enjoys.

All that to say, StarCraft has captured my interest, involvement and imagination like no other game I have ever played. It’s not just a game anymore… it’s a sport, it’s a way of life, almost. That being said, I have found my interest wandering away from StarCraft of late. Not the eSports scene: I love watching MLG with my longsuffering wife and baby son (who appears to enjoy the colors and sounds, by the way), but the game itself. For one thing, I’m not great at it. I have only attained the Gold league despite, as I previously mentioned, playing this almost exclusively over the past year.

Being mediocre at StarCraft 2 is only part of the picture though. Let’s face it, I’m a mediocre gamer in general, the thrill for me is simply competing and improving myself. The other issues I’ve encountered: I have a baby son. Being what I consider a fairly decent human being, I decided to not abandon my wife and newborn for StarCraft for 1-4 hours a day, and instead devote that time to cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, play, and other such fatherly/husbandly duties. This, unsurprisingly, often keeps me busy until 10-12 at night.

Therefore, I’m finding myself trying to keep up 60APM during the waning hours (nay, minutes) of my day, and trying to remember things like scouting, Larva injects, and harassment when all my poor, tired brain wants to do is shut itself off for 6 or 7 hours before starting over again.

This is not particularly conducive to effective play, even in the Gold league.

Now, how does Dawn of War fit into all of this? What does this other, less popular game have to do with eSports, StarCraft, and a 2 week sabbatical?

Good question.

As a gamer, as a strategy gamer no less, I demand a certain level of skill from myself. Especially in StarCraft, where regular practice is important to keeping up even a baseline of skill. All that to say, I’ve felt dispirited and discouraged about my StarCraft performance. Thus began a search for another game to play.

I’ll skip the sordid details and simply provide a list of games I turned to as an alternative:

  • Age of Empires Online
  • League of Legends
  • Dawn of War 2

Of the 3, I have enjoyed Dawn of War 2 the most. I’ll post about that game another time. For now, let’s just say that for a variety of reasons, it’s piqued my interest.

Now, since I began this quest to find a less intimidating game to play, my attitude has changed. I still like StarCraft, I still intend to play it, maybe about 50% of the time. However, I now think about it this way: many people enjoy watching football that dont’ enjoy playing it. I may enjoy watching the NFL (for the record, I don’t) but instead play basketball. I’ll share stories about both of these things with my friends, despite the fact that they may also like the NFL and not care about basketball, they’ll (hopefully) still care, if I tell the story well enough.

So now we come almost full circle. For reasons that I’ve already said I’ll detail elsewhere, I’m going to try and play Dawn of War 2 for 2 weeks, to give it fair shakes. I’m not giving up on StarCraft, I’m evaluating whether I want to play Basketball or Football, as it were.

To end this rambling travesty of a blog post and tie eSports back into all of this.

Indeed, eSports is the thread that ties this all together, believe it or not. See, StarCraft is great! It really is. But the primary reason I’m sticking with it is the community. The awesome, huge, engaged, passionate community of people from all walks of life, who are united by their shared interest in this beast of a game. I love RTS games, I’ve played a couple since SC2 came out, but none of them come close to generating this kind of fervor. That’s something that can’t be ignored, and is hard to let go.

I’m trying a “Dawn of War Challenge” but man, it’s hard to even imagine playing another RTS that isn’t an eSport.

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