“You require additional pylons.”
Although this phrase is often used as a meme now, it was a phrase that I heard often. Throughout the hundreds of games I played during high school, I was frequently reminded that I needed to pay attention and improve my performance.
To many people, this seems like it would be aggravating. A game that constantly gives you feedback on how you need to improve sounds like torture. At first, I felt a little annoyed. It seemed like the game was dead-set to remind me how bad I was.
With time, I learned that these constant reminders provided the foundation for me to get better and enjoy the game at a deeper level. I learned to enjoy gradually improving mechanics. With a grasp of the fundamentals, I could focus on the more fun parts of the game.
It may seem weird for a then 14-year-old to discover a revival of a game from the early ’90s. After all, I was not around when the first game was made and my parents were not much into video games. My first introduction to Starcraft happened purely by chance.
An Accidental Encounter
So, how did I first come across Starcraft II?
I have always loved sci-fi and fantasy. By chance, someone I regularly played TCG’s with told me about their excitement for Starcraft II.
At first, I didn’t think anything of it. Despite my initial thoughts, I looked up the reveal trailer. I was instantly hooked.
I started to await the release date and watch all the gameplay footage. I discovered a community of people who loved this game and were willing to share what they knew. I fell in love.
At the time, Starcraft just seemed like a very fun game that I couldn’t wait to play. Little did I know this game would teach me lessons to last a lifetime.
Lesson 1. I Can Improve
As a young teen, I suffered from some self-esteem issues. I did not think of myself as particularly bright or gifted. Sure, I breezed through school, but nothing else came easy. At this point in my life, I thought I was broken.
When I first played Starcraft I was, unsurprisingly, placed in the lowest level. I had a lot to learn. The game is demanding and complex. I saw my placement as a challenge. I wanted to see if I could become better.
I started playing several matches after school. I watched all the pro footage from Esports tournaments. I watched a lot of online tutorials on YouTube. To say I was obsessed was an understatement.
Thankfully, my obsession paid off. Slowly but surely, I rose in the ranks. I moved from lowly bronze to a respectable low-platinum. My ability to improve in the game started to challenge my belief that I was broken.
To this day, I reflect on my gradual progress in Starcraft II as a reminder that I can improve.
Lesson 2. Gamers can Form Communities
Day was my first experience with a gamer community. Before this point, my experience with gaming was lonely. I did not have many friends and felt my interests were too eccentric to bond with people.
Day and the Starcraft community changed that.
Eventually, watching people connect over something a bit out there inspired me to make new friends in high school. I channeled the spirit of Day and connected with other people over our mutual love of video games. I was slowly able to grow my friend group.
I also realized for the first time that video games could be more than an escape from the real world.
Video games let me form some strong friendships that I still carry to this day. Even now, I use video games as a way to keep connected with friends who live hours or days away. Video games, like any other hobby, open the door to deep and meaningful connections.
My friends and I started to get into the game. We watched tournaments together, played matches together, and just had a good time being goofy.
Lesson 3. You Don’t Have to Excel at Everything
As much as I would like to say I eventually became a high diamond-level player, that simply is not what happened. By some combination of my lack of practice and competing priorities, I only ever was a low platinum player.
In school, the message was that I had to excel or it was not worth doing. There was constant pressure for me to perform and excel — socially and practically.
Starcraft II provided an outlet. It was a game I could still improve in but did not have to be the best in. Despite not being a top-tier player, I was able to make more friends and have more fun than I had in a long time.
I carry this lesson with me in my writing and my artwork. I am far from world-class in either. Despite my inadequacies, I enjoy the process of improving. Writing and art provide creative outlets for me.
When I get frustrated with the quality of my work, I reflect on my lesson of perfect imperfection from Starcraft II.
Lesson 4. Nothing Lasts Forever
Impermanence is a melancholic but important lesson. Starcraft II is one of the games that brought Esports more into the mainstream in North America. At the time, most competitive gaming was done in Southeast Asian countries. Esports was still primarily underground in the North American scene.
When Starcraft II came out, it dominated the Esports scene. Back then, Starcraft II took center stage, and up-and-coming games like Call of Duty and League of Legends had the side stages.
Nothing golden can ever stay though.
With time, interest in Starcraft II began to wane. First Person Shooters and MOBA’s like League of Legends became the flavor of the month. As I set off to start in university, Starcraft II’s time as the number 1 Esports game was coming to an end. Although bitter-sweet, it helped me learn to appreciate the moment and how to let go.
I still occasionally play Starcraft II with friends. Although it is not nearly as popular anymore, it still provides comfort and a sense of nostalgia.
Starcraft II is a game I will always look upon fondly. It let me become more comfortable with myself, helped me grow my friend group, and provided life-long lessons. I believe this is just one example of how video games can be transformative.
Sometimes, people ask me why I still play video games. I use this story to help them understand why digital pixels mean so much to me.
How about you? What game has changed the way you see the world? I would love to read your story in the comments below!