The long running real-time strategy franchise by Blizzard Entertainment, “Starcraft,” is best known for its position as the number one professionally played video game in the world, particularly in South Korea. Now with the release of “Starcraft 2″ this past summer, several students on campus have begun to spread the love to Madison with a “Starcraft II” club as a place for discussion, friendly gaming and serious tournaments.
Alex Wyler, a fourth year computer science major, said that he founded the group after not finding an outlet for his interests when he first joined the campus community.
“When I came here as a freshman there wasn’t a club like this. And in fact, I had difficulties fitting in, interest wise, with the opportunities that were provided on campus … and I know for a fact that I’m not alone in feeling that way,” Wyler said in a recent interview with The Badger Herald.
Many gamers can attest to similar feelings of exclusion as their hobby doesn’t receive the same amount of recognition compared to that of other campus activities. A number of Google searches with keywords such as “housing,” “Madison” and “Ogg” paired with multiple video game terms and titles leads to no information about the “Halo,” “Guitar Hero” and other competitive video game gatherings that occur at Ogg once a semester.
In fact, the only other video game reference found in the search results, other than on-campus game rentals, was one reference to a “Halo II” tournament in the University Residence Halls handbook for 2011-2012. To put that in perspective, “Halo II” was released in 2004, there have been two sequels for it, and it seems only one of them, “Halo III,” has been played at these tournaments since its launch in 2007.
“There is a lack of a club like this on campus,” Wyler said. “The main goal is to provide something similar to what I was looking for as a freshman, and in that respect [the club] has been so successful to me already.”
Wyler has witnessed partial success with around eight or so “usual” members showing up at every gathering, and several students who attend intermittently. Although Wyler believes the “Starcraft II” club helps bring awareness to gaming culture in Madison he also hopes that professional gaming in the U.S. will one day become as big as it is now in South Korea.
“If you look at the extreme sports in the late 90s, there was nothing about skateboarding until this huge interest just came up and now you’ve got ‘X Games’ and stuff like that. It just took a generational shift for people to realize that it took skill, like just look at poker on TV,” Wyler said. “That’s seen as entertainment and a sport as well. All it takes is for people to get interested in it and to recognize the skill level.”
South Korean professional gaming has two television channels devoted exclusively to professional gaming, and each of these hosts their own “Starcraft” tournaments. Professional gaming in the U.S. has been slowly gathering steam but is generally only found through hosted web streams or by going to the events in person, which include games such as “Starcraft III,” “Warcraft III” and the recently released “Halo REACH.”
In terms of the game of “Starcraft” itself, Wyler isn’t shy about his favorites. “I play Zerg,” Wyler said. “It’s the hardest race to play and they’re also creepy and scary.”
The club had hoped to compete in the Collegiate StarLeague[JG1], CSL, against big-name schools such as MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins, and Duke, but due to technicalities will have to wait until next year to compete.
So for now, “Starcraft II” club meets Mondays from 6-7:30 p.m. in room 4210 of the Student Activities Center and are open to any UW students interested in playing or learning about “Starcraft.”
Jayson Grenwald is a senior majoring in English literature. Send comments, column suggestions and video game related news to firstname.lastname@example.org.