Shutting down a country
South Korea's national sport (it's a video game) has a home in Houston: Are youready for Starcraft II fever?
This week's launch of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty was one of the most anticipated video game releases this decade. While the old stereotypes of gamers being pasty, pimply, introverts is quickly fading — thanks to the fact that 67 percent of Americans admit to playing video games regularly (including more and more women) and that the average video-game player is 34 years old — the games that created the old image aren't leaving the stage.
It took over a decade for Blizzard Entertainment to bring the real-time strategy game Starcraft back in a sequel with improved graphics and charm.
The game is expected to sell 4.5 million units by August. It had midnight launches worldwide — in every continent except Antarctica (always so far behind the times) — which brought large crowds and doubts that many would even get the game in their hands.
It all brought back memories of the original Starcraft that was released worldwide on March 31, 1998 and has sold over 9.5 million copies since its launch. It is widely considered to be one of the best video games of all time.
Starcraft is a real-time (not turn based) strategy multiplayer game that essentially is like a Risk-type board turned interesting. You raise an army of either Zerg, Protoss, or Terran races and plot attacks against other armies while gathering resources, creating units and getting the shit beaten out of you by Koreans.
The game is hugely popular in South Korea and is best characterized as a national past-time there. The country holds nationwide Starcraft tournaments and even has a televised competition of the game annually. CNN called Starcraft' South Korea's national sport. It's that serious in K-town.
South Korea might actually become a ghost nation with Starcraft II out. Video game blog, Kotaku.com reposted a photo from The Straits Times (a newspaper in Singapore) of the very first South Korean player in line for the game, who broke down in tears as his dream of getting the game first came to fruition.
Security around the game was more than Secret Service tight. Even if you happened to somehow get a copy of Starcraft II earlier than Monday's midnight launch, Blizzard Entertainment blocked the installation of the game on PCs and Macs.
For Houston's Reuben Rodriguez — a 23-year-old recent college graduate — getting his copy turned out to be much easier than he thought.
"I actually pre-ordered it about a month back in order to get access to the beta; but then a week ago, I found out my order was canceled because Best Buy screwed something up," Rodriguez said. "I went to Best Buy (Tuesday) hoping they might still have a copy — I thought they might be sold out — but no, they had tons of them apparently.
"I thought they were out because there were none on the shelf. Then I asked someone and they said the sales had been so popular that day, that they just had them at the cash register."
Even though it still hasn't been installed on his computer, Rodriguez states that the game is great. "I have been playing the beta which just ended a week ago. I like the game. It looks pretty cool, has great strategy elements — it's like chess on steroids, and with guns and aliens."
Although the very recent computer science graduate from University of Houston-Downtown is looking for a job, Rodriguez doesn't think that Starcarft II will inhibit him for earning an entry-level position.
"I don't think this one game is going to hurt," he said. "I've been doing OK managing my time. I might have a day or two where I take a productivity hit but I should be OK."
Employers in the IT sector may see more employees than usual calling out sick though. Hey, it takes time to strategize against a Zerg rush. Who can fit a 10 a.m. meeting at the office around that?