A Moratorium on Foreigner Success

Written by Offsajdh
Sep 27 2012, 3:30 PM EDT

"Keep Calm and Carry On" was a slogan used by Britain during the second World War. Its original purpose was to raise public morale in the event of an invasion. However, in recent years the poster has made somewhat of a resurgence as an Internet meme. The message has proven to be strangely appropriate on several occasions, and optimists among us could even apply it to our current western StarCraft scene. Some may argue that simply "carrying on" as we have for the past two years won't suffice. The invasion of the British isles never happened, but our StarCraft foreigners have been under siege for well over two years now, and it's not looking like the pressure will let up any time soon.

With a few rare exceptions, the western scene has been unceremoniously stomped by the frankly superior quality of players originating from Korea. It mattered little that foreigner participation vastly outnumbered the handful of Koreans who flew halfway around the globe to compete in foreign events. With jet-lag and all they stepped up on stage to make sure that the top eight would predominantly be a Korean affair no matter when or where. Foreign failure quickly became par for the course.

It is worth mentioning however that the rare tournament victory by foreigners has kept hope alive among fans, HuK and Stephano proved that it was possible, albeit very unlikely. Fortunately most people enjoy rooting for the underdog, and the inability of western SC2 professionals to keep up with their Korean counterparts has put them firmly in that underdog category. But it is a perilous category to linger in, because if the chance for victory diminishes even further, to the point were a one-sided slaughterfest is guaranteed, that's when the audience will look away in boredom. Competition needs to be just that: competitive. There is no excitement in watching a Grandmaster stomp a Silver League player, and where there is no excitement, there is no audience. 

ESFI published a wonderful article showing that the foreigners so far have had an overall winrate of a mere 26% against Koreans. With the arrival of the true Korean heavyweights under the KeSPA banner, there is good reason to worry that this already poor win ratio will suffer even further. How sad it would be if a year from now, well into Heart of the Swarm, we look back on Wings of Liberty as the "good old days" where foreigners still stood a chance, when in fact, as the numbers show, they never truly have.

Paraphrasing Artosis from his "After Thoughts" with JP:

Actually, to be honest, I feel like with KeSPA joining the scene... you guys thought Korea was hard to beat before? [laugh] Wait until the end of next year. Anyone who doesn't come to Korea and spends massive amounts of time here is basically going to be off the map as far as top level players goes. I feel like the entire non-Korean scene needs to really understand and realize this... If you have 16 teams of super dedicated Korean players, all talking to each other, all playing 12 hours a day in training houses helping each other, how is anyone going to keep up? I feel like the entire foreign scene needs to get with it immediately and players that really want to have an impact on StarCraft II in the future on a world scale, not just a regional scale, anyone like that should probably think about moving over to Korea and stay here for long periods of time... It is going to be unbelievably hard, maybe a few will keep up, but it's hard to imagine.source

Paraphrasing Total Biscuit from his "After Thoughts" with JP: 

Pro's need to get their f***ing act together, especially foreigners... Koreans are not naturally good at the game, [but] they have the work ethic and the established training regimen, and we don't have that in the foreigner scene... I don't see any evidence that foreigners are practicing like Koreans, [or] that they will accept this Korean training regimen. It doesn't mean that they will suck as a result; Stephano I think is a great example of a player that flourishes without that, Mana is a good example of a player that flourishes without that. But the vast majority of foreigners need that work ethic and they don't have it, they just flat out don't have it right now. And that's a real risk because... the KeSPA players are coming. Start to get a little bit worried. And also start to get really worried if Koreans actually develop a personality, because you're f***ed then. That's the only edge you actually got over them. If people start liking Koreans not just because of their play but because they are actually animated personalities and brands in their own right, you are screwed. You are absolutely boned. You might as well just give up right now and go back to school guys...source

Consider this: a half-hearted Korea who never really warmed up to StarCraft II in the first place, still threw together enough B-teamers to take virtually all the tournament prize-money in the western world. Conversely, in the west, StarCraft II blew up to unprecedented popularity, a true eSports phenomenon wildly exceeding anyone's expectations, yet the scene was still unable to foster players capable of winning their own tournaments, let alone those within the borders of Korea.

All that talk about how StarCraft II was a new game and that the playingfield would finally be even proved to be mere wishful thinking. All those grandiose discussions by western players on how "effective practice will be king, not mindless grinding", it all proved to be hot air, nothing more than elaborate fig-leaves designed to mask their own inability to produce results.

So by all means, "keep calm and carry on", see how far that gets you in 2013.

To the foreigners who are busting their asses off in Korea, I salute you. To all the rest, well, it was nice knowing you, goodnight sweet prince. You will be missed.

Written by: Joel “Offsajdh” Hakalax

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