BITMAPS 102 – Finding a Home in StarCraft II
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, attending the North American Star League (NASL) finals in Ontario, California gave me an incredible perspective on something I’ve been missing out on for most of my adult life. I can finally say, after nearly three decades of being alive, that I understand why people like Football so much. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’ve never witnessed a level of mass solidarity like that before, and I have the NASL to thank for that experience.
If you’re into videogames or other nerdy fare, you (like me) may not know what you’re missing out on. I had to learn a level of tactful omission when talking about my hobbies and passions in social settings. Despite eclipsing the movie industry and obtaining near-ubiquity in North American culture, games still have a stubborn stigma that refuses to go away. Oddly enough, this still scales down to nerd circles. Talking about my love for professional StarCraft as a sport generally elicits mockery and condescension, even with other nerds. I can’t blame them either, I did the same thing when a friend told me about his fervent desire to see an entirely fake pop idol perform synthesized songs before I realized it’s no less fake than any other pop idol.
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Watch this and try not to judge. I dare you.
As such, I’ve settled into a comfortable solitude when indulging my StarCraft jones. Good viewing experiences revolved around my sitting at my computer with the headphones on; awesome ones included a bag of chips. This is mainly due to the sport’s extreme popularity in South Korea and the large stretches of ocean between us. I’d catch the errant clip of a pro match on YouTube, but the lack of English commentary made the matches very hard to follow. When GomTV finally launched English commentary, I’d spent so long without that merely having English commentary was enough. Dreaming about finding a local community to enjoy that with was a pipe dream — even thinking of it was automatically ungrateful. The idea that events like that could occur terra firma was impossible to conceive.
So, when the NASL final landed just an hour away from my apartment, I was honor-bound to attend. There I found the intersection of two elements that created a profoundly new experience. It’s one thing to watch games on my lonesome, occasionally screaming at the monitor and freaking out my girlfriend. It’s quite another to be in a room of people who all yell and catch their breath in anticipation in unison. There’s an intoxicating feeling of solidarity there — a combination of acceptance and validation not unlike cheering along with thousands for your favorite sports team. It’s the first time I’d experienced that, and I can’t think the commentators and organizers of the NASL enough for allowing me that.
This has applications for any nerd out there who has quietly accepted a lonely appreciation of their chosen pastime. You may be into something weird. You may have fielded enough scornful looks that you’re hesitant to talk about it anymore. Whether you’re in to digital pop idols or obscure tabletop RPGs, you need to seek out your community in person at the first chance you have. You’ll find something you didn’t know you were missing: camaraderie.