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I Dropped Out of High School to Play StarCraft

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2006 Zac Greer playing StarCraft II, illustration by O.B.B.

We started Trumbull in Summer 2004 as a jackass ‘zine to make our friends cackle and educate morton teenagers on the subtle charms of the Cro-Mags’ 1990s recorded output. We may or may not have failed in our simple task, but, somehow, our zines are out of print and remain among our finest accomplishments — yes, even more impressive than my high school crust band, or Owen’s undocumented hitchhiking adventures. Though the confusion our overwrought tomes to forgotten Air Maxes elicited gives us warm feelings still, this piece, about how StarCraft changed our friend Zac Greer’s life, remains a favorite. StarCraft II was released last week.

StarCraft,1 I would say, is the best and most addictive game ever. It was made by Blizzard, the company that had made Warcraft 2 and Diablo. It’s a PC real-time strategy (RTS) game that pioneered the concept of totally different classes, or races, of which there are three. What makes the races special — two different types of aliens, and “humans” — is that they are all differently but perfectly balanced in their skills, something that had never been done or to my knowledge still hasn’t been, even in Blizzard’s [then- –ed.] newest RTS game Warcraft 3.

In the game you start off with a building and four workers, and the goal of the game is to accumulate money, and eventually power, by way of decimating your opponents militarily, forcing them to rebuild, etc. The humans, Terrans, are the “n00b race” and are best for range attacks, although they’re not very mobile. The Zergs are the primitive alien race which are best at cheap, swarming attacks, and are the quickest to amass a large army, but are weaker. The Protoss are an advanced alien species and are aided by high technology — every Protoss unit and building has shields, but they’re the most expensive and therefore difficult to build.

I remember the first time I played StarCraft at a friend’s house and it blew me away. I would play it as much as I could. On weekends, I would stay up until 7 or 8 a.m. playing until I had to get off the phone line because by then his parents would be up and need to use it. One weekend, when his parents were away, I stayed up for 58 hours, with a four-hour nap in the middle, playing Starcraft almost the whole time, only interrupted by a Bane show.

All week at school I would think about playing and eventually it got to the point that I even had dreams about StarCraft. It wasn’t until the weekend came around that I could get my fix.

This all changed a few days into the new millennium when I got a new computer for school. It’s kind of ironic that the computer that I got at Christmas for school ended up being the reason I dropped out. After I got my computer I didn’t have to wait for the weekend to play, I could play everyday. I slowly stopped hanging out with my friends, starting missing more days of school and got worse grades, making it so I couldn’t play sports anymore, which meant I just played more StarCraft. I had more dreams about StarCraft than I can count, and all day on the days I did make it to school I would only be able to think about playing. I would stay up until 3 or 4 a.m. on school nights playing and would try to get up for school in the morning. I eventually went to school less and less and finally stopped going altogether.

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What made the game so addictive to me was the competition. There were always thousands of players online, and trying to be the best was what made me play. For the first year I played, I wasn’t very good, but I didn’t know that, I was playing public games and getting better there, but once I joined a clan I found out where the real competition was.

The thing about StarCraft was that you would get better the longer you played — if I took a break for a day or two I’d start off a lot worse than how I usually played, and it took me forever to get back to normal.

Playing other clans and keeping track of records on websites, from there I started to play different ladders (which is like a tournament that goes on for a month or two) where eventually the top players would play to see who’s the best. My ultimate goal was to get good enough to go to South Korea2 and play for money, where it was the fourth biggest sport behind soccer, basketball and baseball. There were also tournaments in New York City, and California had some big tournaments, but I never went to any, due to a lack of funds. A couple years into my playing, a player I had beaten a number of times won one tournament with a $10,000 purse, and at least two players I knew and had winning records against went to South Korea and did reasonably well. My best chance to get to South Korea was through the 2001 World Cyber Games in the online preliminary tournament of 64. I came in fourth place, and the top three got plane tickets to California to play in another tourney for tickets to the WCG Championships held in South Korea for a chance to win like, twenty thousand, for playing StarCraft.

After I missed out on Korea I started thinking about what I was doing but I didn’t quit it completely until my computer broke. Now that I look back I guess it was a big waste of time and it fucked up my life, but if I had gotten good enough to become a programmer, who wouldn’t want to play a game to make their living?

    Footnotes

  1. StarCraft was originally released 31 March, 1998.
  2. "The popularity of StarCraft, a military-sci-fi game, has given rise to an elite class of professional gamers who have been elevated to the status of national e-sports icons. The best are said to make up to $300,000 a year in televised contests watched online by tens of thousands of adoring fans."

3 Comments

  1. Howdy! This blog post could not be written much better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I’ll forward this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. Thank you for sharing!

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