To really trace down the origin of esports, one would have to look back at when people competed for high scores or did speedruns. However, the current iteration of organized competitive gaming, one that enters the realm of “sports”, was undoubtedly brought about by the original StarCraft.
StarCraft’s success can be somewhat attributed to its release time in 1998, which was the golden age of real-time strategy games such as the C&C series and Total Annihilation. In some ways, the global hype building up to the announcement of StarCraft HD Remastered last March is a testament to the massive nostalgia the public feels for that era.
Among the people who would be ecstatic about the remaster is the current OGN commentator and announcer Jaekyung Um, who was one of the founding fathers of the StarCraft esports scene.
In an interview with Inven KR, Um said it was a coincidence that he started casting StarCraft and that he didn’t know it would succeed at the time. His initial misgivings couldn’t be further from the truth, as Yo Hwan “BoxeR” Lim, the Emperor of Terran, and Jin Ho “YellOw” Hong, the Storm Zerg, first appeared in StarCraft scene and then went on to become legends. Soon after, other prominent players like Reach, Nal_rA, iloveoov, and NaDa followed suit. Um drew from his comic book writer background to play a pivotal role in shaping these players, helping them become more than simple mechanical gods and instead turning them into endearing icons for all gamers to admire.
“Creating interesting personalities is very important for leaving a strong impression on fans. Making and selling stars is a must for any sports or entertainment to be successful. Having said that, you can’t force someone to become a star. In order to create a personality, players first have to apply themselves and get good results. Fortunately, there were many qualified candidates for stardom in the early days of StarCraft. For instance, BoxeR had the makings of a star in him and worked hard to achieve consecutive tournament victories. He became a star on his own.”
Even though StarCraft ushered in a new era, its popularity slowly waned after ten years of being the de facto king of esports. Many factors contributed to the decline of StarCraft, like new games entering the market and match-fixing scandals. Um especially lamented the fact that StarCraft 2 didn’t fully transition players and fans from the predecessor to the sequel in an ideal way.
He was, however, glad to see Blizzard President and CEO Mike Morhaime announcing the reveal of StarCraft HD Remastered.
“Even in my father’s generation, people only got to consume so-called “entertainment” up until they were in their 30s. There was no time to do any of that being the head of a family. Times have changed, though, and it’s a very effective marketing strategy to target people in their 40s and 50s. Entertainment that both children and adults can enjoy works. It offers something new for kids and brings back nostalgia for adults. Case in point is StarCraft. I’m sure other remakes will inevitably follow. I think it’s an excellent marketing opportunity.”
He didn’t see everything in rose-tinted glasses though, as most dominant esports titles of today have long moved away from RTS and gone to MOBAs like League and Heroes. What he cautiously predicted was that the remaster is a meaningful step in revitalizing glory of the past.
“All cultures are taking more casual and instant gratification approaches. Video games are no exception. Instead of RTS games to command massive armies, games that let players control one individual character like LoL and Overwatch are now mainstream. I don’t know if StarCraft Remastered can swim against the current flow, as evidenced by StarCraft 2, which gave way to other more popular genres. Still, I believe StarCraft can captivate teen gamers because it’s more intuitive and more fun than the sequel. I wouldn’t be surprised if a chunk of SC2 players turn to SC:BW. It would pale in comparison to the peak popularity back in the day, but it’ll definitely be bigger than it is now."
While some people criticize the remaster as a simple re-skin or an another way to exploit nostalgia, Um told Inven that, “the remaster will be satisfying for older gamers simply by bringing the past excitement to the modern age.” He said that we shouldn’t give too much credit to the skepticism out there and hinted at the possibility of returning to casting SC:BW if the remaster takes off.
“I saw the remastered graphics in person at the live event, and the visuals were phenomenal. One of the reasons I stopped playing BW was the outdated graphics with noticeably square pixels. I’ll spend a considerable amount of time on the remaster when it launches. The campaign is getting localized as well. I have high hopes."
Will StarCraft HD revive the glory days? Only time will tell. One thing is certain however; the remaster will serve as a bridge connecting the older and younger generation gamers. Um precisely touched on those subjects and concluded the interview with a message to all young people living in this turbulent day and age.
“No one knows the future. It could be grim, or it could be bright. The future could be turned upside down with the advent of artificial intelligence. I don’t want to echo other adults and tell you that a bright future will be there for those who apply themselves in school. If you don’t want to focus on your studies and feel that you’re not cut out for school, there is little reason to religiously follow the system set by adults. As adolescents, repeating what adults have done in the past is a fool’s errand. If you only focus on school work, you’ll remember nothing else when you look back to your precious childhood. I hope you don’t worry too much about the future and enjoy your life.”