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Competitive Video Game StarCraft Finds Strong Following at Michigan State

Sam Tracy

StarCraft Has Been Long Popular in South Korea, but Now Is Spreading at the Collegiate Level

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Since the beginning of competitively played video games, South Korea has been the premier country for global success. It is home to champions in numerous e-sports, and until the most recent World Championships, South Korea had the last five League of Legends World Champions.

The most popular game in South Korea is StarCraft, a real-time strategy game that debuted in 1998. StarCraft also has a following at MSU, with the competitive club being successful on a national level.

Michigan State’s SC II team made the final 16 last year of the Collegiate Starleague, which is made up of universities in both the United States and Canada. MSU’s club members like the challenge of making real-time decisions against another opposing player. They can choose to play as one of three different character classes.

“The hardest thing about RTS games is the mechanics you need to play the game,” said John Estapa, a member of the board for the MSU SC II club and a player on their competitive team. “StarCraft is specifically one of the most challenging RTS games because of how fast paced it is.”

With StarCraft being a single player game, a team is just all possible members that could match-up against another school’s players. Players have a specific character class, and usually, don’t vary. In other e-sports, your role or character can vary from game to game, but in StarCraft, once you master a certain class you usually only play in that class of characters.

Since the game and its decisions all take place in real-time, multitasking is one of the most crucial skills to be successful in the game. It is also a game where the ability in a casual player is much lower than a professional’s. The amount of mechanical skill required to play the game at its highest level is much greater than most casual players will have.

In other words, StarCraft is an intense experience. The game’s influence is felt far from South Korea, as international interest is growing. The impact is felt all the way to MSU.

Credit Sam Tracy

“This year was the first time in the history of StarCraft that a foreigner (someone not from Korea) won the World Championship,” Estapa said. “That is something that has brought a lot of new people into the scene. On campus, we have had our largest membership increase since I started the club three years ago.”

Club member Sam Tracy sees the game translating well beyond Korea.

“There’s been a lot of growth in the foreigner scene recently due to foreigners catching up to the dominant Koreans,” said Tracy, who is the club’s public relations representative. “The viewership is up on Twitch as well for tournaments. Naturally, I think more people are willing to play.”

The Collegiate Starleague was founded in 2009 as a strictly StarCraft league but has added several other e-sports over the years. It is among the most prominent college-level StarCraft tournament in North America. The most consistently successful collegiate SC II team is Temple, twice runners-up (2015-16, 2016-17) before winning the tournament last year.

Credit Sam Tracy

This year, Michigan State’s competitive team is competing in a different league, put on by Tespa. The Spartans reached the playoffs and will play the University of Waterloo in the round of 16 on Dec. 8.

“CSL has a group format where you play teams from your own region, whereas Tespa you play against other colleges around your skill level no matter where they are from,” said Estapa. “We did CSL the last two years, so we thought we would try to change it up this year.”

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