Cracking the Code: Foreign Hope

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I don’t know if it has quite hit most of us yet, in fact, I don’t know if it has hit the fluffy-haired Frenchman himself, but Stephano (now legendary Zerg player) has retired from competitive StarCraft.  Whether you loved or hated him, you do have to admit that the world of StarCraft will not be the same without him.  As with most eSports competitors, Stephano is quite young and whether or not this “retirement” will last is yet to be seen, but I took this time to re-examine something that has always confused me in competitive gaming…

Stephano as a player has been controversial to say the least (see compLexity/Millenium mess and numerous steps into the not-so-lime light), he was often referred to as the “Foreign Hope.”  Why exactly is that a status that all professional SC2 players outside of South Korea strive for?  Why does this title hold any weight?  What am I even talking about?…Well, maybe we should start there.

In the world of professional gaming there is a cycle which games typically will follow.  A game will be produced by the company, once it is released Americans and Europeans will begin playing said game along with the rest of the world.  As a game gains a larger following and the market is there for competition, leagues and tournaments will be organized.  This is how eSports are born.  However, shortly after a game has made it through “season 1” or began to walk on its own, the game is often dominated by players from Korea.

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This strange phenomenon has been witnessed time and time again, League of Legends and StarCraft 2 are a few of the games currently in which the Koreans have a stranglehold.  So what is it that makes Korean players better than  those from Europe, the Americas, or even most of the rest of Asia?

Many argue that the Koreans are better because they get more.  More of everything.  More time to play, more time in theory crafting, more time in analysis, more competition, just…more.  Although that may have been true in the past, today many teams outside of Korea provide their teams with nearly the same treatment.  Many teams live together in the same home, play together daily, have strategy meetings, and worry about nothing but the online arena in which they compete.  Yet, now that the playing field has been leveled (more or less), foreigners are still not turning in the numbers.

You may read this article and think “This doesn’t make much sense, the guy isn’t really saying anything at all.” or “We all know the Koreans are better, what’s the point?”  Well, it’s happening.  That IS the point.  Are the Koreans genetically superior when it comes to quick decision making and pressing tiny buttons, or should we be expecting more from the rest of the world?  I don’t have an answer, but the fact that there is “good” and there’s “Korean good” is a frightening thought on the virtual battle field.

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