[Over the next few weeks the staff here at Gamer Limit will be sharing their personal favorite game of the past year with the community in build up to Gamer Limit’s Game of the Year Awards for 2010.]
After waiting for twelve long years gamers finally got what they’ve been begging for: StarCraft 2. I mean, is it really any surprise that SC2 is my pick for Game of the Year? Let’s run the numbers: it’s a PC exclusive that has a rapidly growing competitive scene complete with celebrity professionals (Idra, Huk, TLO, etc.), its own culture, icons, inside jokes (Day9, the Graken), and most importantly, a fantastic community that’s dedicated to evolving the game. When you really think about it, SC2 is a complete entertainment package for gamers of all levels of commitment.
That said, StarCraft 2 is not a perfect game. The writing in the single-player portion wasn’t exactly what I would call great, and the story really doesn’t reflect twelve years of work. However, the actual gameplay easily makes up for these faults. With multiple, persistent tech paths, as well as secret levels and branching story lines, there is more than enough content to warrant multiple playthroughs.
The real heart of the game is the online multiplayer. Released alongside Battle.net 2.0, StarCraft 2 features a slick online GUI that makes finding games as painless as possible. Sure, the matchmaking system really doesn’t get a feel for your skill level until you play a lot of games, but what do you expect? I mean, people’s skill levels and play styles evolve after every game, making finding a perfect match pretty damn hard.
As I mentioned above, one of the main reasons SC2 is my game of the year is the whole culture that surrounds it. I constantly find myself reading TeamLiquid.net and Reddit.com/r/Starcraft to learn about the latest developments in the tournament scene, to see how standard play is evolving into something new, and to just have a few laughs at the inside jokes. Yes, you are bound to run into a lot of jackasses on Battle.net who do nothing but cheese strategies and talk shit. However, for every loser there is a Sean “Day9” Plott or a H-to-the-usky Husky: dedicated players who spend their time trying to help people learn the game.
For anyone who hasn’t checked out Day9′s “Daily” series, go do it right now. Not only is Day9 a charismatic, well informed shoutcaster/pro-gamer, but he is also takes on the role of philosopher musing over what players can learn about themselves by playing SC2. Sure, I may never be on the same level as Idra or TLO, but that’s no reason not to try and refine my play into the best I can execute it. As Day9 says “find something you love and love the hell out of it.” In my case, it’s the competitive aspect of SC2.
I have to say that I think a large part of SC2 success has been due to a fantastic set of coincidences. First off, you have competitive gaming leagues such as the MLG really blowing up and coming into their own. On top of that you have websites like stickam.com, Justin.tv, Blip.tv and ustream.tv which allow gamers (more importantly pro-gamers) to stream their practice sessions live. On top of building little cults of celebrity around these players, this utilization of technology also helps gamers learn new tricks and tactics which, in turn, helps evolve the game keeping things fresh and interesting. Lastly, there really hasn’t been a big competitive game on the PC in a long while (at least not one that’s been on my radar).
Also, don’t think that just because you’re not playing SC2 that means you can’t enjoy any of the culture surrounding it. Back when MLG was hosting its DC and Dallas tournaments, I preformed a little experiment and invited some non-gamer friends over to watch it with me. After rigging my computer up to my TV and running to the store for a few six-packs, my buddies and I settled in for a long day of pro gaming. You’d be surprised how quickly people who have never seen StarCraft picked up on the basic mechanics of the game. A huge part of this ease of observation comes from the art design Blizzard used. Each unit looks unique as is matched with abilities that makes sense visually. After my little experiment I successfully converted a large part of my friends into SC2 gamers.
I guess if I had to summarize why SC2 is my Game of the Year, I would have to say it’s because the game is a complete package. When you buy StarCraft 2 you’re not only getting a great single-player experience and a constantly evolving online component, you’re also getting a complete culture that values any form of involvement, be it watching pro-gamers do their thing to picking up the microphone and really getting involved and contributing to the community. If there is one thing I’ve learned from StarCraft 2 it’s that you get out of it what you put in it.