NAU StarCraft Club expands gaming universe
By Alyssa Tilley
Home to a slackline club, a scooter club, an equestrian club and even a corndog appreciation club, Northern Arizona University (NAU) supports an array of different student-run organizations. After the spiking popularity of the computer video game known as StarCraft, another was added to the list as the school established its very own group of students dedicated to the game.
In 1998, the original StarCraft computer game was released for Microsoft Windows by Blizzard Entertainment. Described on ing.com, it is a real-time strategy game that takes place during Earth’s 26th century when the world is made up of three different races, fighting to dominate part of the Milky Way Galaxy known as Koprulu Sector. With three different races to choose from, players get to decide who they want to be. The Terrans are humans who are exiled from Earth but posses the latest and greatest tools in technology. The Zerg and the Protoss are the other two races, which are both alien based.
After the success of this computer game, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was released in 2010. This new and improved second edition is ranked fourth in the top 25 list of modern PC games from 2006 to present on ign.com.
With many StarCraft lovers on campus, NAU introduced the StarCraft Club in the fall of 2011.
“It’s very similar to an intramural sports team,” says junior computer science major Curtis Bilbrey, who is also co-captain of the StarCraft Club.
The Division I team consists of about nine players and the Division II team consists of 12 players. Like any other club or sports team on campus, the StarCraft Club practices regularly in order to prepare for competition in the Collegiate StarLeague (CSL).
“CSL is the equivalent to the NCAA,” Bilbrey says.
The league is about to tackle its sixth season of competitions. This year, the professional games media company Azubu and the Collegiate StarLeague are teaming up to present the Azubu Collegiate Champions.
Being the largest collegiate e-sports event ever, there will be teams from all over the world competing in StarCraft II as well as other games. $182,000 worth of prizes and scholarships are offered, and successful players will have the chance to attend the live grand finals in Southern California on Feb. 2 and 3.
CSL’s dream is to continue to introduce e-sports to North America and eventually gain enough excitement and passion for e-sports to “fill stadiums, be broadcast on television and ultimately become a part of mainstream culture,” according to their website.
During the StarCraft season, the NAU teams partake in two matches against different schools every week, and at the end of the season the teams with the top records compete in a long-term tournament where a champion team is crowned.
“It’s a surreal feeling knowing [we] represent a whole school,” says Cameron Gaskin, a freshman psychology major and StarCraft member.
The members of the StarCraft Club share a passion of the game for a variety of reasons, one being that it offers a worthy challenge.
“You have to put in time and focus to get better,” Gaskin says. “It’s not a game just anyone could pick up and start playing at a high level.”
Fellow StarCraft member Sae Heum Han, a freshman with an undeclared major, compares StarCraft to “chess on steroids.” He explains a player not only has to use their intelligence to beat their opponent, but also has to have good reflexes and critical thinking skills.
The social aspect of the club is another benefit of StarCraft. Many people think of video game players as couch potatoes who just sit around twiddling their thumbs all day while staring at a computer or TV screen. However, the members of the StarCraft Club frequently meet new people, some of whom become their good friends.
“The members’ interactions online are just extensions of [their] personal interactions in person,” Gaskin says.
Many of them are friends outside of the club, and Bilbrey even met his best friend through the StarCraft Club.
While relationships are growing within StarCraft at NAU, members also have the opportunity to interact online with StarCraft players from other schools.
“The StarCraft client that runs the game essentially has its own social network,” Bilbrey says.
Very similar to social networks, players have online friend lists and can chat and set up practice games with other players within the league.
NAU’s StarCraft Club also travels to Local Area Network events once a year, where clubs from various schools come together for a weekend-long tournament resulting in cash prizes for the winners. Participants bring their own computers in hand for this event in order to have the ability to partake in multiplayer games.
NAU’s StarCraft team is progressivley shattering the stereotype of gamers sitting in their pajamas doing nothing all day. NAU’s team is a great example of how e-sports are becoming more prominent in mainstream culture. E-sports can be interactive and social, but they also require intelligence, skill and dedication, and they strive for the respect and fan base that any sport deserves.
For any students interested in joining the NAU StarCraft Club, check out the NAU CSL Facebook page or contact one of the co-captains, Curtis Bilbrey and Richard Belles, before the sixth season begins on Oct. 25.