Part 1: R & R
Before senior year of high school I essentially had 0 social life. Just about every day after school I would go to whatever extra-curricular activity I had (which were quite a few) and then head home, do my homework and whatever else I had to get done. If I had free time afterward I would watch tv, play videogames, or read, and I was generally in bed by 11. I didn't think much of it at the time, but looking back on it I had surprisingly little interaction with my peers outside of regularly structured events.
All of that changed in the summer of 2011. My parents moved across the Atlantic Ocean, leaving with a very capable host family, a car, and whole lot of freedom. First with the purpose of collaborating on physics homework, and then later just for straight up relaxation, I started to go out on almost a daily basis to visit friends of mine at their houses. Most of the time we would all meet at the house of one friend of mine (who we'll call C) who had a spacious basement and a decent internet connection. C's parents were perfectly happy to have people over and so we spent many an afternoon (and night) in said basement, working on homework or playing games, mostly starcraft 2, together.
Over time the group would grow to include a few regulars as C and I taught other people to play SC2 and enjoy the entertainment that the GSL had to offer. Essentially every night of the week (unless I was busy with one of my extra-curriculars) I could be found in C's basement, either watching, playing, or anticipating video games. It was the first time that I can recall where I regularly set aside time to relax in a social setting, and it was wonderful.
This isn't supposed to be one of those blogs that begs your pity for a poor socially awkward kid who never had a chance to make friends. I was heavily involved in various clubs in school, so even though I never really had a lot of time to just socialize, I had hardly been starving for interaction with my classmates, and I was quite happy all through high school. I just wanted to share this sort of initiation story into a world where I felt I could sit down on the couch, grab a coke, and spend some time doing frivolous things with my friends. I got to do far more interesting stuff in school than play video games and yet many of my fondest memories from that point come from late night sessions in the basement.
Part 2: You Can't Go Home Again
Today I played a game of starcraft 2 by myself for the first time in ages. Its probably been 6 months since I played a game solo, and even counting the very occasional game that I played with friends, I had hardly paid much attention to the game. It struck me today that I was intimately familiar with the interface and layout of the game, and going for my usual 15 hatch, 16 pool, 17 gas felt like getting back in touch with an old friend.
And yet we are estranged. Starcraft as a game always frustrated me, particularly when trying to play without friends. During 2v2s or other team games, it was easy enough to mess around if you started to get behind, but 1v1's at times would stress me out even to the point of yelling at my screen. I don't want to say that I didn't like the game, but had it not been the game that a majority of my friends play, I might have picked up something else.
As for the professional starcraft scene, my interest has recently plummeted. I haven't watched a single game of proleague (although at the time of writing, I'm ranked #86 in the FPL), and I don't even really bother to check for SC2 vods. Even last semester I would essentially only watch when there was something big on like a WCS regional finals or something like that where I could get involved in the LR threads and the like. Coming from someone who at one point would watch ever single game of the GSL, and then be upset that they didn't show some Code A matches, its been quite a change.
My move away from SC2 happened for a couple of reasons. First of all, I'm a lot more busy now than I was my senior year of high school. My biggest projects that year look like my average weeks homework load here, and I don't mind because I'm in a field that I really enjoy, but it does take a toll on your free time. Another major contributor was the fact that many of my friends switched to playing dota (and I subsequently converted a few of my original SC2 friends). Now when I want to get together with my friends and play, we play dota instead.
I suppose another major contributing factor is that when we get together now we generally do it over skype. I no longer have a permanent residence in Kansas City, and C's family has moved to a different part of town. My friends from high school are largely scattered to the winds and my chances to visit with them are few and far between.
In light of that, I think part of why it feels sad for me to try to play starcraft again is that it reminds me of a bygone era in my life, and of a particular group of friends who are slowly, but surely drifting apart. I feel like I can't play again like I used to, mostly because I can't turn the clock back to 2011 when that activity was a major part of my life. I'm happy here, and I know that the changes we've all gone through are inevitable, but part of me still mourns for a time not that long ago when the thing I was looking forward to most on a saturday night were monobattles and mountain dew in the basement.