Sunday, April 13, 2008


Everyone has their guilty pleasure. For me, it's Starcraft--the greatest PC game of all time.

I bought Starcraft in June 1998, 2 months after it came out. I had played Warcraft 2 (the precursor to Starcraft) and was long awaiting this epic game. The first week after I came home from my freshman year of college, I dropped $40 at Fred Meyer and began the next chapter of my life. I played throughout college, off and on from 2000–2006, and then picked it up again last year. (I also played Warcraft 3, the follow-up to Starcraft from 2002–2004.) The friends from college with whom I have maintained the best relations are my old Starcraft partner and some rival players.
In some ways, real-time strategy games have surpassed Starcraft--at least with regard to graphics and game-play innovation (Warcraft 3 is a clear example of this). However, Starcraft remains the best RTS game out there and qualifies as the best game ever for the following reasons:
  1. Variety in Game Play. The thing that Starcraft was able to do that no other game before or since has been able to equal was the variety in game play. There are three races from which a play can choose--Protoss, Zerg, or Terran--and each plays the game completely different. Yet, there is no "best" race. In a 2v2, if all four players choose "random", there are 81 possibilities for the matchup. That doesn't take into account the various strategies within each race and the different maps.
  2. Perfect Balance of Skill and Strategy. Stracraft is a strategy game, but the real-time element means that skill is just as important as strategy. This means that a beginner can learn a good strategy and compete with more skilled players. On the other hand, it means that very skilled players can overcome strategic mistakes with quick decisions. I have played games in which I have had better strategy, only to lose because my opponent was quicker on the keyboard. (Likewise, I have beaten people that way.) No other game has balanced skill and strategy like Starcraft.
  3. High Skill Ceiling. You can always improve at Starcraft. With most other games, you play for a couple of months and you have mastered it. I have been playing Starcraft for 10 years, and I still run into players online in which I say, "Wow. That guy is awesome."

If playing the same online video game with your friends for 10 years is a crime, then consider me guilty. If it makes me a nerd--so be it. Like I said, we all have our guilty pleasures.

I played some Starcraft with my friends this Saturday. We must have played 15 games. In the game's heyday, we used to dominate. Now, all of the casual players are gone, leaving only the professionals (yes, you can make a living playing Starcraft) and the otherwise very good. Now we only win about 45% of the time. But, when Starcraft 2 hits the shelves later this year or next, the casual gamers will be back and we will dominate again!

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