Friday, October 5, 2012

Mike's Starcraft Story

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Alaskan in need of anything at all must be in want of a Costco. Seriously. They really do. When I was growing up we looked forward to going to Costco more than we did the mall (this is still true for me). We even got a lot of our clothes there. And I definitely bought all my computer games at Costco.

This is The Costco of my youth. Google Street View will
get you right into the parking lot!
In the early summer of 1998, I began to hear rumors of two new games. Unreal and Starcraft. I was a little more excited about Unreal because I the graphics were supposed to be amazingly awesome. Starcraft looked cool too, but I already had Warcraft 2 and Red Alert and I figured it couldn't possibly be better than those.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend with both of them. I went over and we tried them out. Unreal was, just like I expected, completely awesome. The guns all did more than one thing. And you could aim up and down, in addition to left and right. Then we tried out Starcraft.

Starcraft blew my mind. The three races were fundamentally different from each other. The campaign was full voiced acted with a dramatic storyline. The Terrans were funny, the Protoss were mysterious, and the Zerg were scary. There was blood! When you used nukes, they actually blew things up! (This was Red Alert's major downfall.) To the point: I had to have this game. My friend let me borrow it (what a pal!)  so I could show it to my brother or something. And we proceeded to play the crap out of it for about a week. We went all the way through the storyline, cheated like crazy in skirmishes against the AI, and I even gave it a whirl online. I got my butt handed to me, of course, and we only had one phone line at the time so that complicated things a little. Then Friend wanted it back. Boo.

So my brother, Dave, and I hatched a plan. We'd save all our money and the next time we went to Costco he would get Unreal and I would get Starcraft. Somehow this happened pretty quickly. I'm not sure how we ended up with $80 together but I distinctly remember us having a budgeting summit where we had all of our money (and all the money we could find) lined up in piles on our bedroom floor. Now that I think about it, I think I was a little short and Dave gave me another $5 or so. That's a good brother for you. A few days later, we heard the magic words: "We have to go to Costco."

We went. I had done my homework too. There were three different covers for Starcraft, one of each race. There also appeared to be a re-release of some kind because the version with the three different races was rated M, while the originals (of just the Protoss cover) were rated Teen. I definitely had to get the Teen one. I was 11 at the time, so I guess I wasn't going to try and get away with any more than I had to. Game ratings were so new then I don't think my parents even knew to look. Either way, I got the Teen rated Protoss box, Dave got Unreal, we paid, ate Costco pizza (why wouldn't you?) and we headed for home!

I recall few drives home from Costco more joyous than that one. We both had awesome games in tow and each had a good manual with lots of info in them. We read our own manuals, switched, and then switched back. It was the best of times.

That's when things started going downhill.

Unreal, it turns out, wouldn't run on our computer because it didn't have enough RAM or something. That sucked. Then, two days later, my mom overheard Arcturus Mengsk swearing up a storm during a campaign mission and she said I had to return it! CURSE YOU MENGSK! It got worse from there. Mom then mobilized The Mom Grapevine and pretty soon all the moms in our neighborhood knew that Starcraft had cussing in it and all the kids were getting in trouble. I didn't take too much flak for it in the end, but it was sad knowing that I had blown it for everyone.

I was now Starcraftless. At the beginning of the next year, I heard about Brood War coming out but didn't get to play it until three years later (at that same friend's house). I wasn't even aware of the pro scene or anything. And I spent a few years being obsessed with the Final Fantasy series. But that nostalgic feeling came back when I heard that a Starcraft 2 was approaching. Naturally, I pirated it off the internet and playing through the campaign again. It...hadn't aged well. Still awesome, but pretty ugly by 2008.

Starcraft 2 happened a couple years later and I bought it the first week it came out. Thinking back, I should have sprung for the collector's edition, but whatever. After a few weeks of playing the campaign and messing around against the computer, I decided to go online and see if I could get some tips. I found a lot of tips. I also found the infamous Husky, The Starcast, Day[9], Teamliquid, and the Global Starcraft League. This was when Starcraft became much more than a game to me. It was a skill and an art with a huge community of players and followers. For lack of a better word: it's a sport. The first computer game to make eSports a real thing in my mind. The first sport I ever really cared to follow and be a part of.

Sure, I've had some long spans of time between actually playing the game and I'm still in Bronze league, but I've finally decided on one race and I'm determined to start climbing that ladder! I bought the digital edition of Starcraft with Brood War a few months ago to finally make good on it (it's even uglier after playing SC2). I even wrote a critique of it for a term paper last year. I am psyched for Heart of the Swarm and want to get into some casting once I have some better game understanding. There's totally some wing places near my apartment where I'm hoping to get some BarCrafts going in the next couple months. Watch for it on this blog!

Also, should you come by a Heart of the Swarm beta key, feel free to send it my way.

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