April 2, 2016

State of Play: Are You a Terran, a Zerg or a Protoss?

Where do you go to make hundreds of thousands of Euros just for playing StarCraft? To Seoul, my friend, to Seoul. Here, teenage boys and young men in their early 20s bang away at desktop keyboards with frantic fingers, hoping to achieve galactic domination (while a theater full of screaming, excited young girls watches them zap each other's avatars to death). But if you think these players conform to your stereotype of American gamers, you're in for a bit of surprise, as players resemble — moreso — K-pop members with their skinny black jeans, Bieber-esque haircuts and sporty "game time" uniforms. You wonder if the coaches and the management are looking for "cuteness," alongside quick reaction time, as a prerequisite for new recruits.

It's a bizarre world, indeed, although I wish writer-director (and producer-cinematographer) Steven Dhoedt had given us more footage of the matches themselves as the accompanying play-by-play commentary is highly entertaining when overheard in the brief clips we see. I was also curious as to what kind of training the gamers undergo. (A montage of superstar Lee Jae Dong doing pull-ups and walking the treadmill suggests that prep work involves more than sitting at a console 10 hours per day.) I would've also liked more info on this particular video game itself: Why do some players choose to be a Zerg? What are the special abilities of a Protoss? Are Terrans the closest things to human beings? Do players have signature moves? How did StarCraft II differ from the original? State of Play skips a lot of details. Perhaps it would've benefited from focusing on less people, especially the gushy fan-girl, to make more time for these kinds of facts for someone like me, an admitted video game ignoramus. It's like a documentary on a rock band that short changes you on their signature music. I needed a little more concert footage and a little less product placement for Dunkin Donuts.

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