StarCraft is the premier science fiction franchise in gaming, and one of the pillars of esports competition around the world. Today’s StarCraft II pros regularly perform inhuman feats of dexterity and display unfathomable map awareness and multitasking ability to emerge victorious at the highest levels of play. The StarCraft franchise has also made an impact on popular culture and the world around us. As we celebrate seven years of StarCraft II, please join us in looking back at seven ways StarCraft has left its mark on the universe.
#1. The Birth of Twitch
Our friends at Twitch had a vision for the future—to enable players from around the world to share their passion for gaming through a broadcasting platform built for livestreaming video game content. We recently got in touch with Emmett Shear, CEO and co-founder of Twitch, who shared how that vision came about.
“In 2009, I had been waiting for over a decade, along with every other Brood War fan, for StarCraft II,” Shear recalled. “When the beta was finally released, a lot of people started streaming it on Justin.tv and I got hooked watching. Since we were trying to figure out what the next move for Justin.tv was, I began wondering if it would be possible to just focus on gaming content. That's how StarCraft II was the first impetus for Twitch.”
“It's been an honor to be able to build such a close relationship with Blizzard over the years since then, including several major collaborations this year,” added Shear. “And I can't wait for StarCraft: Remastered."
#2. StarCraft Among the Stars
Science fiction books, films, and games aren’t just fun. They stimulate the imaginations of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, and astronauts, the trailblazers who will lead the charge as humanity one day sets out to explore our solar system—and one day the stars.
In 1999, NASA astronaut Daniel Barry was able to choose a personal item to bring with him on STS-96 Discovery, the first mission to dock with the International Space Station. He chose to bring a copy of StarCraft into orbit.
Barry recently shared some of his thoughts on why the StarCraft series resonates with him.
“The games that appeal to me are easy to learn and hard to master,” he said. “I think that’s a characteristic of a really, really good game. One of the things that appeals to me, especially about StarCraft, is the effort that was put in to let people play the game who are not necessarily gamers, and yet maintain the extreme difficulty of becoming a master. I think Blizzard has done a really good job at that.”
Barry also said that “the storyline was much more developed in StarCraft II, so the lore got really interesting, but the essence of why [my family] played, and how we played, didn’t change from StarCraft to StarCraft II.”
#3. Building Bonjwa 2.0—StarCraft II and AI Learning
In the 90s, Deep Blue was developed by IBM to take on reigning chess world champion Garry Kasparov. Today, the Google DeepMind project is on a scientific mission to continue pushing the boundaries of AI, developing programs that can learn to solve any complex problem without instruction. Games are the perfect environment for AI learning research, and the DeepMind group is working with Blizzard and the StarCraft II team to propel their research into the future.
#4. Zerg Rush
Much like the zerg, language adapts and evolves over time. The term “Zerg rush” entered the lexicon to describe any overwhelming swarm of basic attack units meant to quickly take out an unprepared opponent. Google implemented an Easter egg paying tribute to the zerg and their defining strategy that you can still enjoy today. Just go to Google.com and search for “Zerg Rush” to take on the challenge!
#5. Dwight Is the Queen of Blades
One of the fun side effects of the gaming audience continuing to expand is seeing beloved television characters make references to the games we play. Who can forget Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, making an appearance on The Office as an iconic StarCraft character?
#6. Train Your Brain
“StarCraft is the chess of our generation. StarCraft requires the dexterity of a pianist, the mind of a chess grandmaster, and the discipline of an Olympic trainee.”
— Sean ‘Day’ Plott
Increasingly, educators are finding that games are able to confer benefits beyond mere play—they’re also powerful teaching tools. For example, students can develop high level understandings of StarCraft II by taking the Intro to StarCraft course offered by NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Academics are also studying ways that games stimulate brain activity, with one study exploring how games like StarCraft II may boost the brain’s flexibility by improving a person’s ability to deal with dynamic problems—research that could lead to new treatments for people with brain injuries or conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Others are exploring the learnings that leading software companies are drawing from their experiences with StarCraft II and applying those concepts to their businesses.
Sure beats memorizing multiplication tables!
#7. The Hearts and Minds of the Swarm
In our eyes, the most profound way StarCraft has changed the universe is in the impact it’s made on our players’ lives. StarCraft is more than just a game—it’s the memories shared by the friends, families, and fans who play, watch, and support StarCraft every day.
We experience this first-hand whenever we’re watching a StarCraft II World Championship Series event—as part of a live audience, at a local BarCraft, or cheering along from the comfort of home on Twitch. We see it in the incredible StarCraft cosplay on display at BlizzCon and around the world. And we even hear it in fun parody songs like Kwame ‘Temp0’ Mensah’s “When I’m Grandmaster.”
We also feel it in the passion of our players—from the Bronze league heroes working to improve their play to the amazing StarCraft II WCS competitors who continue to amaze us with their passionate and inspirational play.
So thank you, StarCraft community, for being with us on this journey and for being the most amazing group of gamers in the universe.