Getting Your Friends Into StarCraft
There are few things as fun as hanging out on a Sunday afternoon with a pizza, some beer, and a group of friends watching your favorite team play an important match in whatever sport you and your friends most enjoy. And that’s pretty easy to do if you and your friends are all into football or baseball, but for those of us who are into StarCraft II, we sometimes find ourselves stuck after the pizza and beer part. It’s not that we don’t have friends, it’s just that most of them aren’t StarCraft fanatics . . . yet.
It can be difficult to convince people that watching someone else play a video game isn't just something you do when you’re waiting for your turn with the controller, but something that can be as exhilarating as watching the Super Bowl. The easy thing to do is to download the trial version and tell them to play through the campaign, assuring them that they will understand. Unfortunately, that will not work in many, if not most, situations.
Sometimes your friend will dislike the mechanics of real-time strategy games specifically, or even PC games in general, preferring the feel of an XBox controller in his hand; other times he’ll just have no interest in sinking time into a videogame at all, no matter what genre or medium. In these cases, if you force your friend to play, you are more likely to frustrate him and turn him off to the scene entirely than you are to endear him to the game.
Then you think that perhaps you should let someone explain to him why the game is so great, so you turn to the voice of eSports himself, Day, and his “My Life of StarCraft” Daily. Even this can have its failings, however. As passionate and funny as you may find Day, asking someone to watch a two-hour video of some guy they’ve never heard of sitting in his room talking into a webcam about a game they’ve never played is a request that your friend is likely to put off for weeks or months. Or worse, they might watch it and get bored by Day’s descriptions of Brood War gameplay and miss or ignore the human side of the story. If you do decide to go this route, be sure to set aside time to watch with your friend and let them know that they can ignore this or that technical part, but know that even if you do this, Day just is not for everyone. He can be very hit-or-miss, as many people find his voice annoying and his mannerisms obnoxious.
And while Day may be a roll of the dice in terms of likeability, there is one person who (theoretically) is guaranteed to be well-suited to keep your friend’s attention: you. You may not be a professional gamer or an eSports personality, but you do have the advantage of knowing your audience. You know if your friend likes flashy explosions or intricate, well-executed strategies, and you can answer questions as they arise.
You don’t need to spend weeks writing and rehearsing some kind of speech, but you should put some thought into how you want to present everything if you are really serious about getting a non-gamer into the scene. Know what angle you want to take to hook them in from the beginning, and have some videos in the back of your mind that you can show them as examples. Nothing is more awkward than having someone be ready, maybe even excited, to be introduced to something that is obviously important to you, only to fumble through Youtube looking for a half-remembered clip of that one Korean Zerg doing this crazy Spine Crawler rush (that would be IMNesTea’s rush against anyproPrime.We if you’re curious).
Below are my five favorite videos for introducing people to StarCraft II. You’ll notice that the one thing they all have in common is their length; four of the five are only about a minute-and-a-half long, and the fifth is closer to four, but is just a compilation of Tastosis quotes and can be turned off at any point. Brevity is key, because no one wants to be drowned in anything, even if it's something awesome. The goal here is merely to introduce them to the idea of the game, not to teach them everything they need to know to follow the GSL the instant you are done talking to them.
Destiny's Baneling Analogy:
The first two videos are introductions to three of the biggest personalities on the scene: Tasteless, Artosis, and Day. Like them or not, they cast in most of the major tournaments and they are good to recognize. These videos are only tangentially related to StarCraft, but that’s okay because, again, we want to ease them into this. Plus, it helps illustrate that when watching a game you are going to get more than just bland descriptions of the action – you get jokes, stories, and bromance.
The third video is Destiny’s analogy for Banelings and Zerglings as he teaches a young Zerg how to catch and kill a Marine/Marauder ball. If your friend is sensitive to crude language or making light of topics like rape then you should probably skip this one, but I use it whenever I can since it not only introduces another personality in the scene, but also shows a good example of the gameplay and some of the excitement inherent in battles.
Next I added HuK’s win over IdrA at MLG Dallas 2011. This clip show an actual game being cast at a major tournament, and your friend may already be able to recognize Day’s voice when he begins to talk. You will probably have to give at least a minor explanation at this point as to what the win conditions are to a game of StarCraft (that is, why was IdrA leaving such a big deal), and why the win was so ridiculous (let them know that Hallucinations do not actually deal damage, and maybe let them know of IdrA’s history of leaving before a game is actually over). This video even gives you the opportunity to explain that a number of rivalries already exist, and you can talk about the mind games that HuK plays with IdrA when he tells him about the Hallucinations at the beginning of the next game.
Finally, I included Liquid`Jinro’s defensive nuke against FXOchoya at MLG Anaheim 2011. Although the battle can look messy, if you let them know the basics, that the techy aliens are pretty much ripping through the human forces when a nuclear bomb suddenly wipes out the alien army, then I think the explosions will do the rest of the work. In addition to the flashy gameplay, though, your friend also gets to see a large, live crowd getting excited and holding posters while cheering on the players. That, more than anything, is important to see. The knowledge that so many people can get excited over a game lends to the legitimacy of your effort and shows that, if given a chance, this could be a pretty cool sport to watch.
There is no substitute for you when it comes to talking to your friends about something, so pawning the job off on some video just will not cut it. So remember, you cannot just attach these to an email with “Watch These!” as the subject line and expect them to become raving fans of the game. You need to sit down and introduce them little by little to this game, making sure to answer questions when they come up and assure them that, yes, there is a lot to learn, but no, it’s not important to know it all right now.
And not everyone will end up becoming interested in the game, no matter how well you promote it – just like not everyone enjoys watching soccer or basketball. All you can do is your best, and there is really no harm in trying. MLG Providence is right around the corner, and even if your friends are not fluent in StarCraft by that time, the excitement can be infectious if they know enough about the game to understand when the big events are occurring.
And, if all else fails, you can always invite your friends to a BarCraft event. If they get bored, there's always more beer.