Monday, October 26, 2015

Drama of the Week: Kerrigan Would Kill Over The New UI

Ever since we first started to see screenshots and concept art for Heart of the Swarm, I began to assume that Kerrigan's human model was a placeholder or somehow unfinished. She was just way, way too sexy, with baffling proportions and overly revealing "armor." Much to my dismay, that really was the official depiction. With the latest patch in StarCraft, the update for Legacy of the Void, the new central protagonist, Artanis, you can see that Blizzard really went all out to portray him as an incredible warrior. I really wished that Kerrigan had gotten the same treatment. This article was published in issue 32. Also, the initial title was "A Sex Object’s Objection."

Drama of the Week: Kerrigan Response to the New UI: It’s Still Missing SomethingBy: Mike Harrell 

StarCraft II players rejoiced this week with the implementation of patch 3.0, the precursor to the release of Legacy of the Void. The user experience for the entire menu system has been updated, and almost everything is just what the players have been asking for. Visually dynamic screens? Yes. Awesome new campaign selection screen that harkens back to StarCraft and Brood War? Oh, yes. Even the Arcade, which many players have all but given up on, was given a wondrous new “Join” page, which lists all of the games will open lobbies to join.  

More than anything, however, that new startup screen with Artanis charging out from the cliffs and laying some Zerglings low is 100% A+ 10/10 awesome StarCraft. It’s exactly what the game needed. When the player starts up the game, they’re greeted with the opportunity to gaze upon Artanis’ noble visage and peer into his fathomless eyes, followed by the new, beautiful “Space Clouds” screen, which effectively transports the player into another place and time. And then the player sees Artanis, leader of the Protoss, exert his majestic strength on the Zerg pestilence. Oh yeah baby, IT’S STARCRAFT TIME! 

Kerrigan Speaks Out 

There is, however, one person who is not impressed by the changes. Sarah “The Queen of Blades” Kerrigan is pissed, and she will not stew in silence. 

“The very nicest thing I can think to say about Artanis’ ‘glory jump’ is to encourage each person that was involved in the production to make sure your will is current and your life insurance premium is paid up,” growled a livid Kerrigan in our last communication. That’s right, the self-proclaimed “Queen Bitch of the Universe” is on the warpath, and it’s over the disparity in her and Artanis’ portrayals in the StarCraft title screen.    

“I can’t believe the difference,” Kerrigan continued. “Blizzard must have spent millions on the set, robotics, and post-effects required for Artanis to make that ‘jump.’ Seriously, they build a mountain, a bunch of robotic Zerglings, and add charge and shield effects to make him look like some kind of hero (as if that were possible for a Protoss). The last time I heard of Artanis, he was running around an abandoned Xel’Naga temple in his underwear because his home planet had been completely ravaged. Meanwhile, I was conquering the rest of the sector, and single-handedly defeated the United Earth Directorate. What has Artanis done?” 

Artanis Is Just Hype 

Kerrigan is correct on that point. As far as we can tell, Zeratul has been the driving force behind the Protoss’ relevance in the continuing narrative of the Koprulu Sector. It was Zeratul that led Raynor to the artifacts and convinced him not to kill Kerrigan when he got the chance. It was Zeratul that led Kerrigan to reclaim her lost power. I’d be willing to put down money it’s Zeratul that convinces the Protoss to stop screwing around and do something about Amon.  

Artanis has accomplished buying new clothes and turning a blind eye as the Tal’darim resurrected a dead god (that wants to kill us all). Hardly the kind of governance that merits the most awe-inspiring in-game animation to date. 

With violet bioluminescence flaring in her eyes, Kerrigan began to seethe, “I’ve been the death of billions across this sector, and I will be for billions more before I’m done. I can create life with my psionic ability alone. I have fought for and won my freedom again and again, from the Confederacy, from Mengsk, from the Overmind, from the UED, and now from an actual god. And how does Blizzard portray me? They recreate footage from my most vulnerable moments, when my strength had been taken from me, put me in some kind of bodypaint with LED’s glued to it, and have me stand around and flex. What a waste!” 

Kerrigan: The Ultimate Show of Force 

A waste indeed! If Blizzard was looking for an impressive show of strength and lethality, there is no better specimen than Sarah Kerrigan. As a Terran ghost she was a flawless assassin, and as the Queen of Blades she has become the single most dangerous and influential force in the known universe. It seems like she would be pretty hard to overlook in any kind of objective appraisal. 

I said this to Kerrigan and regretted it immediately. She stiffened and with terrible calmness she began to murmur, “The reason is that they fear me. I’m the only protagonist (or whatever) in this entire story that is actually dangerous without $50 million worth of equipment. In the blink of an eye, I could stop your heart with my mind, slit your throat with my wings, or transform you into discount hamburger meat by way of a 70-foot-tall Ultralisk. Blizzard sought to marginalize me due to my sex and usher me along out of view once my story was ‘over.’ I will not be forgotten so easily. They will know that I am I capable of more than walking in asinine chitinous heels and having breasts and a thighgap. Through their stinging tears and stifled sobs they will know the horrifying might of The Swarm.” 

Enfranchise The Players 

Putting aside the lust for murder, Kerrigan is right. If this new UI is the new StarCraft, all its heroes should be given equal treatment. Currently our heroes are represented as “Slayer Artanis,” “Had Some Work Done Barbie: Kerrigan,” and “Raynor’s Rear Bumper” (although it could easily be interpreted as Matt Horner’s bumper). Where is the equal opportunity in displays of power?  

We need a few more title screens added, featuring each hero (and villain!?) displaying their strengths and abilities in equally-inspiring fashion. It will be immersive and inspiring for players of all types. If it’s good for the player, it’s good for the game. Let’s get it done.

I really enjoyed writing this one. The way that Blizzard has portrayed Kerrigan in StarCraft II is such an incredible disservice. She was never meant to be sexy. She's powerful, dangerous, and ruthless. I hate that she reappeared in StarCraft II with hot air balloons on her chest. It felt good to finally get to get it out on paper (so to speak). Also, this is more or less the first time that I've attempted to think about what a fictitious character would say and do and write it down, as opposed to just referencing something and hoping for a laugh from the reader. I feel like it came out pretty good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Another Article of Substance: How to Introduce People to Esports

This article was partially inspired by an argument I had with another writer about the social acceptability of esports. He felt that it would never become a mainstream activity that people generally approved of. Or maybe that's not what he thought, it was very confusing. Either way, I was, and am, adamant that esports is on the rise, and will continue to gain popularity, even if the games change over time. The article was publish in today's issue, #33

This conversation revealed some defensiveness on the part of esport enthusiasts. Many of us have been burned in the past when trying to talk esports ("What? Why would anyone watch that? Sound stupid!"), but as videogames grow in popularity, it stands to reason that esports will as well, regardless of the"acceptability."

Additionally, there was some discussion about how it can be weird to tell people who don't know about esports that you write (or draw) about esports. Naturally, I decided that I should go ahead and write up a guide to help people talk about esports to the uninitiated. It really doesn't need to be much a big deal.

Drama of the Week: Esports for Dummies: Explaining Esports to the Uninitiated 
By: Mike Harrell 

Esports. We love it. Whether we’ve been following competitive gaming broadcasts back in the BW days before the west even knew about it, or just got into it this week, we observe a rich culture of spectating, commentary, and artistic contributions. We can also see that it is growing very quickly and stigmas surrounding it are beginning to crumble. 

That’s how things are on the inside. But how does it look on the outside? A reeking mass of sweaty neckbeards? Maybe people used to think that, but perceptions are changing. 

This article aims to be a guide on how to introduce other people to esports as a concept. This article is not about how to get your Dad, Grandma, Significant Other, or Cat to suddenly become a frothing esports fanatic. This is about presenting an emerging new pastime and the surrounding industry to people who are unfamiliar with it. We will do this by gauging their interest level of watching a competitive event with their perception of video games, and using that information to build a conceptual path to esports. 

Step 1: Set Reasonable Goals for the Interaction 

Seriously, we should all calm down a bit when we talk to people. Don’t be defensive. Don’t assume people will say it’s dumb. The vast majority of people simply don’t know that there are video games with the depth and format to merit an esport. And frankly, there is no single activity that everyone in the world understands the appeal for, or necessarily enjoys it if they do. Not everyone likes watching football even if they know all about it and have close relationships with people who do. The same goes for all forms of entertainment. Again, this is about increasing understanding, not conversion.  

Step 2: Preparing Your Pitch 

Here is a basic explanation of esports that you can use for anyone, “There are games like [use a game you like as an example] that have a lot of depth of strategy and competition has flourished around it. There are even some large scale competitions that get broadcasted online with commentary and it can be a lot of fun to watch!”  

If they seem interested, you can follow up with a “If you want to check it out, I can send you some good clips from YouTube, or invite you over to watch with me the next time there’s an event. ” The purpose of the invite isn’t necessarily to get people at your house to watch esports, but to be open and inviting. People will be more likely to give esports a fair shake if they have someone to go to for questions. 

The most important part of the explanation, however, is how you adapt and add to it to suit your audience. Let’s discuss that in more detail. 

Step 3: Gauge Interest as a Spectator 

The following list of activities is meant to be a loose scale to help you determine how similar your audience’s interest as a spectator are to esports. The further down the list they go, the more likely they are to understand the appeal of esports.  

Rock bottom: Does not watch tv for entertainment. 
Low: Will watch a game show (Price is Right, Jeopardy)  
Will watch others play a heated card/board game 
Casual: Will watch competitive sports on tv at a party/with a group 
Will watch competitive sports on tv alone 
High: Will watch others in the same room play a videogame with interest 
Highest: Will watch a youtube video of exceptional gameplay   

Step 4: Gauge Interest in Video Games Generally 

The following list of activities is meant to be a scale to help you determine not just your audience’s interest in video games, but also the likelihood that they are aware of the types of games that have become an esport. The further down the list you can go, the more likely that your audience will be able to appreciate esports. 

Rock bottom: Will not play any video game
Low: Will play digitized games on their phone  (Sudoku, Words With Friends)
  Will play casual games on their phone (Angry Birds, Boom Beach) 
Casual: Will play on a PC or Console at a party/in a group. 
Will play anything at all on a PC or Console alone. 
High: Will seek out and buy a game of their own accord on PC or Console 
Highest: Already plays a game with a strong esports scene. 

Step 5: Make Your Pitch 

Now that you’ve taken a few minutes to consider your audience’s interests, let’s put it together.  Here follows a list of several configurations as well as a suggestion on how you could begin a productive conversation. 

Rock bottom interest on either list: Don’t get your hopes up here. Stick with your basic pitch and hope for the best. 

Low Interest in both areas: Another hard sell, but not hopeless. Esports is probably not going to be their thing, but that doesn't mean they can’t be cool about it. Again, stick with your basic pitch and hope for the best. 

Casual Interest in both areas: This one’s hard because these are probably the people you WANT to get esports. Try to determine what appeals to them as a spectator or a gamer and emphasize those things in your portrayal of esports. Try not to come on too strong.  

Uneven interest: This is the most likely situation. Like the casual viewer/gamer, pick the activity that they seem to have a greater general interest in, and expand on that in relation to esports. If they love brackets or stats in sports, tell them about some esports upsets and facts. If they’re a big gamer, tell them how esports showcases the best gamers in the world.  

High interest in both areas: It’s easy at this point, it’s just a matter of figuring out which game they would be interested in seeing played at a high level and telling them about it. 

Highest interest on either list: Dude. They’re already there! Invite them over for WCS and don’t be surprised if they become more hardcore than you!  

Caveat: Some People Aren’t Ready 

Unfortunately, you may know someone, someone important to you, who’s just too set in their own opinion that they may willfully refuse to listen to you about the appeal of esports. If this happens, I’m genuinely sorry. It’s hard when someone is dismissive of your passion. Maybe it will give a little comfort to know that kind of feeling is not the growing trend. Esports is becoming more popular and “acceptable” every day all over the world. Maybe your friend/family member will come around in time, or maybe not. Either way, you tried. The rest is up to them.

Drama of the Week: Yet Another Fake Player's Union

Every couple of months there's talk of western pro athletes getting together for some union effort, so it's pretty ripe for parody. The week this article ran in issue 31 there were many, many, images with quotes of players and commentators. They started out okay, then got silly, then dumb, then just terrible. And then this article happened.

Drama of the Week: StarCraft Union Officially Forms: Players and Units Assert Their RightsBy: Mike Harrell

After a dramatic week of tournament results, GSL announcements, and countless “motivational” posts, the biggest news of all has risen to the top: A new StarCraft union has officially been announced! Defenders Against Nerds Keeping Marketing Efforts as Minor Esports Sensationalism  has been formed with the the following founding members: Scarlett, the Battlecruiser, IdrA, a Hydralisk, Artosis, Innovation, Boxer, Psione, White Ra, MarineKingPrime, the Hybrid, HuK, and the entire Protoss race. 

Taking Ownership

“The internet has long been rife with misquotations and misattributions on shareable images. Today, StarCraft says ‘No!’” said the Hybrid, the elected spokesperson for D.A.N.K.M.E.M.E.S. “It’s all fun and games until someone uses your words to justify the legalisation of Terrazine. Or, as what happened to me, being attributed the quote ‘l2p stupid 6pooler.’ I have never said such a thing. The buck stops here. Our words are valuable and we will not see them spewed across the internet just for your entertainment.”

The Hybrid continued, “We will be issuing a Take Down Notice in the morning to every website we find that hosts an image with a quote that alleges to be from any of our members without proper licensing through our media department. We will also be initiating litigation with r/Starcraft for the defamation and invasion of privacy of our members. Our words have value, and for the protection and peace of mind of our members, you can find all quotes related to them, motivational and otherwise, at    

A Culture of Misrepresentation 

It is true that the internet is a place where the bold pray upon the gullible. The supposed likeness and words of everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Mark Twain to Kermit the Frog has been used to forward the message of every group with an agenda for years. It stands to reason that a StarCraft players’ union would want to nip that kind of behavior in the bud before real damage is can be done.

Players and Units Speak Out 
lincoln meme.PNG

“Before being contacted by D.A.N.K.M.E.M.E.S., I was in a downward spiral,” lamented one Protoss archon, who wished to be identified only as The Archon. “I happened upon this message board and people had put my face and my words into an image for their own benefit. It was an image from over 15 years ago. I was a minor back then! How is that okay? I felt so manipulated and betrayed, it was like I was at the Fall of Tarsonis all over again! But now that we have real representation, we’re able to take our words and likeness back!” 

“This just the next step in StarCraft,” said the captain of the battlecruiser, “I try to keep things positive overall, and I appreciate that players agree with my ‘take it slow’ mantra. But my mantra is personal. I spent weeks crafting it with my therapist and I never wanted to share it. Blizzard never told us there would be cameras and microphones when we agreed to be part of the game. Now I see ‘take it slow’ posted online with my photo and it’s psychologically crippling. I no longer have any confidence. There was almost a mutiny last week because we were shot at by a Sentry and I announced, ‘Abandon ship!’ to the crew. D.A.N.K.M.E.M.E.S. is a godsend.” 

“I don’t see how I have anything to do with this.” said IdrA, who seems to get dragged into every StarCraft discussion, despite not being involved or interested in the game for years now. 

Just The Beginning 

Expect to see D.A.N.K.M.E.M.E.S.’ presence online more and more over the next few months as they champion player and units’ rights. When asked when they would be address concerns such as player health care benefits and tournaments who don’t keep agreements, The Hybrid stated, “Benefits? What? Uh...yeah! We’ll get to that too!”