Previous articles have discussed the fundamental problems concerning E-sports itself and the governing bodies which dictate its behaviour as a whole. However, there hasn't been a wide-spread discussion in relation to (selected) dream scenarios as a domestic/foreign community. Those wishes that may never be granted (or already have been) , but which fill the hearts of the overseas (and Korean) fans with pride, hope and sometimes even amusement.
~ Bringing back the Heroes. ~
~ JulyZerg - a return to form or simply good timing? ~
When JulyZerg (STX Soul's Park Seungjoon.) steam-rollered over Do Jaewook (BeSt of SKT1.) in a demolishing charge during the finals of the EVER OSL one of these dreams was realised for a wide spectrum of fans within Korea and watching from afar.
JulyZerg is a long-standing figure in the progaming scene. He has won five major titles
(iTV, Gillette, KT-KTF, IOPS, EVER 2005 and EVER 2008.) and his influence upon the way Zerg is used as a race in the current gaming climate is undeniable. He's been through his fair share of drama and changes including three transfers in recent memory Now he has finally joined STX Soul where he has settled in amidst a flurry of young players and fellow veterans like Jin Yeongsu aka. Hwasin.
The queue for the EVER OSL finals had to be seen to be believed. It stretched all the way around the central Seoul venue of SETEC (a massive convention centre and arena.) This stage was truly befitting of such a potentially glorious come-back for a much-loved player whose progress had been as subdued as several others of his caliber and vintage for a significant time before he climbed the ranks of the EVER qualifications. SETEC provided the platform for his return in a way the Incruit OSL's COEX hall failed to hail Stork's (Song Byungoo) eventual OSL gold success.
Older fans mingled with teenagers and the support for Do Jaewook paled in comparison to the overwhelming enthusiasm (and noise.) of the fervent STX Soul fans who turned out in their droves to cheer him on to a decisive victory.
Regardless of how individual games could be debated and brackets deemed a breeze for certain experienced players such as JulyZerg it is hard to argue with the fact that seeing a classic name rise from the ashes to claim yet another title (as well as the coveted Golden Mouse.) brought the Esports scene to a stand still out of respect and in many cases, surprise.
As fun as it can be to root for dominant forces within Korean StarCraft such as current kings of the scene Lee Jaedong (Jaedong) Kim Taekyong (Bisu.) and Lee Youngho (Flash.) Those who have been involved in the Korean esports scene since its inception cannot help, but feel a special warmth towards certain veteran players who have continued to game when others might have graduated on to commentating (such as TheMarine or Garimto.) or begun their mandatory military service.
For these fans (and they are not slim in numbers upon either side of the pond.) the chance to see their older favourites revitalise themselves and claim another title is a compelling thought. For example the pure fervor of Lim Yohwan's devotees when he returned to the SKT1 fold and resumed his daily life as a progamer was nothing short of overwhelming. His performance (and that of the squad over all.) might have been lacking during his stint with AirForce ACE. However, nothing seemed capable of denting the loyalty felt by those who witnessed Boxer at his peak and those who have since begun to look back at the vast shadow he has cast over the world of StarCraft.
Ma Jaeyoon (SaviOr) is another player who both needs no introduction and also perfectly illustrates an example of this long-standing community based purely upon faith (despite what hard results might suggest.) Famously, the Maestro was toppled from his throne by Kim Taekyong (Bisu.) who heralded the era of Taekbang along with fellow Protoss Song Byungoo. Despite his struggles to overcome extroverted rival Lee Sungeun (Firebathero.) and his lacklustre proleague and individual standings he still draws a crowd only rivaled by that of the Emperor himself.
~ SaviOr: We still believe. ~
Korean fans still believe and within the foreign community, Jaeyoon's statement about 'Destroying everyone in 2009.' has become a slogan, a catchphrase and a mantra for all those who still play, watch and learn under his banner.
The idea of seeing a veteran once again reclaim their former glories appears to hold the same coveted position as that of watching a fresh hot-shot unexpectedly tearing down the competition.
~ A little More Conversation. ~
The communities within both parts of the world seem to be divided over the issue of how to fundamentally approach the way in which live events are run. There are those who long for the days when players cried with happiness when they clasped an important victory, hung their heads low when everything went wrong and even engaged in some of the most random and comical behaviour seen on the MBC and OGN channels.
Elements of these times still remain and some have been improved upon for the fans who enjoy the spectacle and experience of attending live StarCraft. The mascots of KTF and SKT1, the ceremonies wheel and the competitions to win prizes which are becoming more and more frequent in relation to teams such as Hwaseung OZ.
Others have been restricted to the point where controversy arises and the whole business of professional gaming in Korea appears to be just that, business and commerce without heart or passion. In game chat, mistakes when typing and the ceremony restrictions have caused uproar which implies that the majority of fans are longing for a bygone era in gaming.
~ R.E.S.P.E.C.T ~
StarCraft is an esport and a community largely dominated by men. There have been women's leagues during the past, but due to a lack of interest and a general lack of female gamers willing to throw away everything to compete they eventually found themselves lumbered with cancellation.
A single woman remains as the lone figure of female (StarCraft) progaming, Seo Jisoo (ToSsgirl.) of STX Soul. Some may argue that she has no place in the progaming scene, but unfortunately her role is largely defined by two basic aspects; her gender and her perceived attractiveness. Pigeon-holed by the very company she works for, Jisoo is now regarded as not only a player with no chance to advance beyond the ranks of the middling male progamers, but also as so-called 'eye-candy.' Dressed in mini skirts and tight fitting tops she fulfills the same role as the Star League booth girls.
~ ToSsgirl waits for her turn at GOM TV. ~
However, there is a vital difference - her function within StarCraft *should* be that of a player - someone who is there to entertain at the same time she participates and strives for victories. The boothgirls upon the other hand are there as decoration and (unlike several other Esports which use women as a marketing tool.) they serve no other purpose.
ToSsgirl has recently been announced as a member of the 'Old Stars' tournament at the impending EStars in Seoul event. When placed next to such legendary names as Kangmin (Nal_ra) and Choi Yeongseung (Iloveoov) a significant amount of fans asked the question 'Why is she regarded as a star?' (let alone one of similar calibre as the others gathered for the event.)
Yes, she is the most competant female gamer of her time, having been dominant in her respective women's leagues. However, how many people actually remember this when she is constantly paraded around in visually appealing clothing and trotted out to do more promotional work that she ever does actual gaming?
This is not to say that her image should be with-held in its entirety. However, there doesn't seem to be (as with many elements of Korean progaming.) a balance between illustrating a positive ideal of female gamers for other women to aspire to and simply marketing her as the 'sexy' aspect of the team and nothing more.
Maybe, StarCraft needs to pay more attention to other increasingly visible Esports such as Dungeon & Fighter League which hosts more female gamers (such as the second-in-command of the team 20:3) since its fourth season than ever before and FPS gaming where women gamers are mandatory additions during Special Force Leagues and do not have to rely upon skimpy clothing for live events. The system might do itself and the spirits of those women gamers who look up to their professional counterparts if it stopped looking for 'pretty' or 'bankable.' and started seeking out 'talent' and 'motivation' instead.
~ Coming out of the Closet. ~
This issue mainly affects the foreign community. However, even for those living within Korea it can pose an annoying and tedious barrier as well. It's an idea that has been raised time and time again by forums and individuals; the lack of access to merchandise.
~ Lee Jaedong advertises shoes worn by the Hwaseung team at Winners League. ~
Teams including CJ Entus are slowly cottoning on to the outside demand for progaming clothing, equipment and general merchandise. However, the vast majority of fans still have to get their goods via the third party access of a Korean connection.
Emulating ones heroes or simply demonstrating casual allegiance has never been so difficult.
The only team with a physical shop is that of MBC Heroes (which is located in the horrific design disaster that is LOOX.) Unfortunately due to under-staffing it is closed more often than it is ever open at this current time. The only other channels through which to aquire merchandise are by utilising the seasonal sales posted upon Korean gaming site Fomos (most of which require the wiring of currency and a Korean bank account.)
This presents a depressing dilemma for fans everywhere. None more so than those who have no access to the Korean social security numbers required to register upon the team sites or those who cannot journey to the Hero Centre in person.
The situation appears to be changing little by little - with the opening of the CJ online shop and the generous actions of various Korean fans who have set aside their own time and money to provide this much desired method to purchase Korean goods. Also eSTRO now hosts an English language sign up section for their official site which is another step in the right direction when it comes to bridging the divisions between the two communities and the teams themselves.
~ The Future? ~
Will women gamers ever recieve as much respect as their male counterparts?
Can foreign fans bridge the gap between Korea and themselves?
Who (if anyone) will make a return in 2010?
Will Scaramanga ever get himself a KTF t-shirt?
These and many other questions can only, truly be answered by the passage of time. Esports governing body Kespa ultimately holds the reins to professional StarCraft, but it is the fervor of the fans, the netizens influence and the players themselves who can, in their own various ways change the face of Esports forever.
Just to round off the article, here's a little question for anyone who wants to answer it;
What changes/hopes/wishes do you hold for StarCraft (and esports in general.) in the future?