Guest Article: The Nerds Made Me Do It

Written by WellPlayed
Jul 21 2011, 1:28 PM EDT

alt text This week will be showcasing the submissions of the candidates for our writing positions. We have a talented group of writers covering a wide variety of styles and subjects for your enjoyment. Your feedback will help us make our decisions, so please tell us what you think!

Written by Owen "Quatrain" McLellan
Art by Peter Kozlowski

The Nerds Made Me Do It
One Man’s Unintentional Discovery of the Power of StarCraft

Have you ever been bored?

I don't mean bored in the casual there's-nothing-on-TV kind of way, but at a general loss for stimulation: a feeling that you're not being pushed and motivated as thoroughly as you can be. A listlessness pertaining to your interests; bouncing from hobby to hobby, lacking a sense of making subtle yet satisfying progress against some obscure, implacable force. Do you know what it's like to feel as if you're not being pushed to your absolute limits and having your mettle tested on a daily basis?

Well, if you're reading this and you play StarCraft, then no, you probably don't know what that's like.

But there is such a man who knows what that's like. He is the hero of our story, and his name is Brian – though you may know him as LeTemps. Like anyone would in our hero's position, he sought a cure for his lack of focus. In our modern, fast paced, work-a-day world, there's really only one logical place that any sensible, well-adjusted person would look for a cure for such a condition, and that place is Reddit.

Historically, Reddit has been known to cure people of many things, most notably free time and a sense of self-worth.

All jokes at Reddit's expense aside, helping people – from random acts of pizza to genuinely helpful advice for people in times of crisis – does seem to be a large part of the what the site is all about. In this case, though it may not have been a crisis, there were still any number of solutions be they philosophical, practical, or philanthropic. Only one, though, would be LeTemps' new focus, and it would be decided through the upvoting process. Hobbies and interests of all kinds were suggested. Everything from intellectual endeavours like learning a new language or musical instrument to functional ones like cooking and carpentry. Even unconventional hobbies like falconry and juggling were put forward alongside more common ones like physical fitness and self defense.

Dozens of suggestions were made; however, in a cutthroat world that lives or dies by the upvote, there can be only one. And soon enough, there was one suggestion that reigned supreme over all others.

StarCraft II.

That's right, folks, StarCraft has now essentially become a self-propagating force, using its fans as carriers in order to introduce itself to new hosts. And I, for one, welcome our new StarCraft overlord, though I wish it still had Detection.

Either that, or StarCraft simply has a legion of devoted and enthusiastic fans who are eager and excited to share their passion with new people. This is the more likely scenario, and it is representative of the current groundswell of eSports in general and StarCraft II in particular. After all, hundreds of man-hours are put into Starcraft on a daily basis. Millions of people love it for all different kinds of reasons: a competitive endeavour, a mental exercise, an emotional outlet, a lifelong passion. It means all kinds of things to all kinds of people. Let's find out what it has come to mean to the man who unintentionally stumbled upon it over a month ago.

Quatrain: Hey LeTemps, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Could you give me a brief background about yourself and your history in gaming?

LeTemps: Well, I'm 29 years old, work in retail, and was having one of those "What am I doing?" moments in life, hence the "Reddit Help Me Pick A Hobby". I grew up playing almost exclusively console video games, everything from the original Nintendo to Xbox 360. It's always been a part of my life, like many of those my age I assume. I do have a history of never finishing games, though. The only one I can really remember finishing is Contra. The past few years, after a brief stint in WoW, have been mostly RPGs like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect on the Xbox 360, with some Call of Duty thrown in with friends.


Q: What was your initial reaction when you learned you'd be playing StarCraft II for a year?

LT: I had posted the request to Reddit around 4am before I went to sleep. When I woke up, “Playing the Piano” was the top-voted submission. It sounded interesting and a good skill to have so I was excited. When I got home from work that night and checked, StarCraft II was the top voted submission by a loooong shot. It took me a second to take that in. I wasn't sure how a video game would work as a hobby, given my history and desire to do something different. But after looking at what Starcraft actually is, and realizing I had never played a game like it, I started getting into it and trying to figure out how I would go about completing the year.

Q: How has your opinion of StarCraft II changed since you first learned you'd be playing it?

LT: My respect for the game has grown immensely. There are so many little details to the game that make it incredibly intricate. It takes all of my concentration to play. When I first started, I had the television on in the background like I normally do when on the computer, but after a week or so of that I had to turn it off and just focus. Now it's headphones in, the world blocked out, and I'm zoned in.

Q: How has your opinion of the pro scene surrounding the game changed since you started playing? Have you been following any tournaments?

LT: The only tournament I've watched was MLG. I've caught a few games of the others, but have been trying to focus on playing. I don't want to get to a point where I'm watching more than I'm playing. I was surprised with how much I enjoy StarCraft as an eSport. I've never watched video games played by others before this, and it's actually really fun.

Q: Have you started to follow any pro players, streamers, or other notable figures within the community? If so, what drew you to them?

LT: I've watched a lot of Day[9], as he was recommended to me by almost all of r/starcraft. His dailies are great and have helped me learn about the game and inspired me with his excitement and passion for the game. I've watched Destiny's and Idra's stream, to see how the upper league Zerg plays, and enjoyed both.

Q: A lot of people consider the Zerg to be the hardest race to play, especially for newer players. What was it about the Zerg that made you choose them as your main race?

LT: When I first played Zerg, it felt very alien to me after playing the campaign as Terran. I didn't understand how to do anything, and this made me focus on it to try and learn it. That's what I really enjoy, and what this game has given me a lot of: things to learn. So, after figuring it out at a basic level, I found I really liked it. There is a lot going on with Zerg, and I have to pay attention to a number of different things as I play, which keeps me focused on the game. I also really like Banelings and how they explode. Probably my favorite unit in the entire game. Throwing fifty of them at a walled-in Terran just feels so good.

Q: How do you feel about the community's reaction to you, and the amount of attention you've received?

LT: The community has been nothing but amazing. There is no shortage of help and offers of games. Having over two hundred people watch my placement matches was crazy and nerve-wracking. My hands were actually shaking when someone told me how many people were watching the stream. As it is now, it's a lot of fun to have people watching me play and giving tips and encouragement. I was told to expect some trolling or spamming, but haven't seen much of that. I think the community is generally a nice bunch of people who are happy to see someone enjoy their game.

Q: Are you often motivated to play beyond your two hour per day commitment? And on your day off as well? What's your take on the fact that there are people who play the game as a full-time job?

LT: Almost every day I find myself going over the two hour commitment, and I have amended that (to myself) as more of "at least" and not a goal I'm shooting for. It makes it less of a chore. I have actually found myself unable to sleep and getting back on the computer to play one or two more games for the night. It's an addiction now, and I'm loving it.

Q: You seem to have set a lot of short-term goals for yourself. Looking ahead, do you have any long-term goals you hope to achieve by the end of your year of StarCraft?

LT: I'd like to be in Masters by the end of the year. I don't know if it's possible, as I have a lot of work to do to even get to that point, but it's where I'd like to be. It's not a set in stone, "this is where I'm going" goal, because I don't want to be upset at the end of the year if I don't make it. That's not what this was about, and the focus on one thing is the point, but I'm working towards that.

Q: Still looking ahead, do you foresee yourself continuing with StarCraft II beyond your year long obligation?

LT: Definitely. I will at least follow the tournaments and the community as a spectator. At year's end, I see myself taking a break from the game, probably not knowing what to do with myself with all the free time, and jumping back into it relatively quickly.

Q: Some people may feel that StarCraft II is not as valuable an activity to devote one's time to as other suggestions that were made in your thread, and that it's merely a frivolous game. The rules of the upvoting process aside, what's your take on this? Is StarCraft just a fun diversion, or can you see it being something more?

LT: The whole idea of letting Reddit pick something was to make myself focus on one thing in particular. I have a problem with focus and have flitted between hobbies and interests all of my life, never staying with something for more than month or so. So, the thing picked wasn't the point, but the public devotion was a way to force myself to do something. At the end of the year, with whatever was picked, I will have focused for longer than I ever have before.

StarCraft can and probably will be a lot more to me. I already love the game and I'm only a little over a month in. And I've made a lot of friends in the game. So it's a part of my life already and I can only see that growing.

Q: Do you have any experiences from the last month that stand out as being particularly surprising to your pre-StarCraft self?

LT: I find the idea that people actually want to watch me play as surprising.

Q: /r/starcraft: great subreddit, or the greatest subreddit?

LT: Pretty damn great.

Q: Any final words or shoutouts you'd like to make?

LT: Just a big thank you to all those who have helped and followed along with my StarCraft II "journey.”

You can follow LeTemps's progress at his blog here, and watch him stream matches here.