Saturday, December 25, 2010

Kinenne'

This week for my column When the Moon Waxes in the Marianas Variety I wrote about video games. I wrote about how for most of my life I harbored a very secret dream, un gof mana'atok na guinife, that somehow, someday the cards of fate fall in place around me and I get the chance to make a living by playing video games that I enjoy.

Although most people know me as an activist, an academic, an artist, most people don't know me as a video game geek. My brothers and I poured plenty of our lives long ago into games like Final Fantasy 3, The Secret of Mana, NBA Live 95 on the SNES. I later poured some more of my life into some Gamecube games like Eternal Darkness, Super Smash Brothers Melee and my first online game Phantasy Star Online. When I started grad school all of this video game playing stopped as I switched my spare time mode from hours staring at the TV screen with a controller in my hands, to hours spent reading books and searching through archives. The only real video game that I played regularly through my Ph.D. program was Guitar Hero and Rock Star Band, because while the financial investment in the games could be high, the time investment could be limited to a song or two a day.

Since finishing up I started finding more and more time to unwind each day playing video games. Last Christmas I got myself Rock Star Band: The Beatles, which kept me busy for a while working on singing and playing bass at the same time. I later transitioned to Monter Hunter Tri for the Wii, which was my second ever online game, which I really enjoyed for a while, but started to feel the strain that so many of those types of leveling up, RPG, Hack and Slash games induce. The game is what you put into it and so if you don't put in enough time, you find all your friends leveling up and moving on, while you remain the same. If you do decide to make it a priority in your life, then there is the guilt of thinking as to whether or not it was a good idea to ignore your children this afternoon because it allowed you to finally get all the materials to make the Tenebra sword. Then there was also the issue of the fact that the internet seems to be, more than a great means of communication and sharing, an ultimate weapon in the terms of asshole behavioral stimulation. For every fun hunt with a good party of people, there would be hunts where someone would spend the entire time boasting in ways which made you wonder if they were human or simply random egotistical statement generators. People who whine about noobs before they do noobish things and then a surprisingly large number of people who become indignant and puritanical when you are a certain sex and don't play that sex as your character.

The internet, with its perceived cloak of anonymity, the idea that one might never have to back up the things which are said or pay the price for saying them to someone's face was in full effect in MH3, and that was something which definitely ended up dampening my enjoying the game. I didn't play much games for the next few months, as I became busy with activism, art and academic things. But when my brother began to get into Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, a few months ago, I found myself being dragged right into another game. I really only began playing Starcraft 2, to pass the time and also to find out what was keeping my brother glued to his computer for hours each day. I had heard plenty about Starcraft 1 from my brother, because it was one of those games which had been successful when it was released, but as the years went on, had achieved an iconic status. Part of the reason for this status was that an entire professional world had been created around Starcraft. For both SC1 and SC2 there are international tournaments that take place around them, and there are professional players who are sponsored by sometimes major corporations and make a living playing these games. While I was in South Korea I was shocked to see on the TV of my extremely inexpensive hostel room that there were SC1 games being broadcast between players who were considered to be sort of celebrities. My brother Kuri is pretty good at SC2, so good he is at the top of his league in it, and regularly ranks in the top 500 players in the world and top 200 in North America. I got into the game to support him and try to find some ways of helping him get better and support him should he ever try to take his gaming to the next level.

Although my interest was at first just superficial I've slowly gotten into the game quite a bit. Part of the reason was enjoying the game not just as a purely personal leisure activity, but more as a form of "esports," something which you follow along with a community just as if it were one of the more "mainstream" sports, such as baseball or cricket. I actually have favorite players now and enjoy watching matches between high level players. Last week the 3rd GSL, which is a major SC2 tournament in South Korea wrapped up and we even had a party at a friend of Kuri's to watch the final matches. My only other leisure activity in this vein is following international cricket, but unfortunately being on Guam it is difficult to impossible to watch any matches and so I am always stuck reading the commentary on Cricinfo. At least with high level Starcraft tournaments there are numerous ways to watch the matches either live or via people who have uploaded them to sites like Youtube.

But part of the reason why I enjoy playing SC2 now is the fact that I can play online with people and work with them on developing good strategies for winning games, and that cooperating and winning is a great feeling. The best part of video games is that team aspect, the working together, fighting on the same side for a purpose. I'm hoping to eventually start up a Guam clan for SC2 players and have been talking to some people about holding a local tournament next year.

Put este na nuebu na guinaiya, because of this newfound love of Starcraft 2, I have even started a new blog for some of my random thoughts or updates about the game. If you're interested in reading more about it, you can click here: Inetnon Starcraft Guahan.

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