My life of playing Starcraft (or at least 14 years of it)

Day[9] (Sean Plott) has been playing Starcraft since the moment it hit the market in 1998: it’s been 14 years.

He played Starcraft: Brood War professionally and qualified for the World Cyber Games in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He won the Pan-American tournament in 2007. Since then, he has worked as an e-sports commentator for Starcraft II tournaments and, since 2009, has been casting a daily show called the Day[9] Daily. You can watch his videos on Youtube, on his website or tune in live on Twitch five days a week.

Day[9] teaches people how to be a better gamer and occasionally explores other video games than Starcraft. He regularly tells stories from his personal life and the format of his show is pretty relaxed. It’s popular, too: on Youtube alone, Day[9] has roughly 298 000 subscribers and 64 550 000 views. 

His 100th Daily is titled My life of Starcraft. Notice that at about 1 hr 08 minutes, he gets choked up and worries that 3000 nerds are looking at him cry. Well here’s the thing: about 3 million views later, this video might be Day[9]’s most popular ever. In it, he details his journey as a Starcraft professional player. It’s about two hours long, and for someone looking for ethnographic material about video games and the importance they have in people’s life, it’s gold. And so it is that I bring you my analysis of Day[9]’s video.

Overview

Playing like a noob, cheating and developing a strategy

One of the most prevalent topic in the video is the evolution of Day[9]’s playing habits over time. He describes in length the various phases he went through, from playing against his brother to playing on a network with friends, using cheat codes, to finally playing online with the big fish. He admits to having disconnected quite often to keep his loses to a minimum, not realizing other players would later on identify him as someone who “discs” (disconnects).

He also describes his learning curve as a SC player. Growing up, he would read strategy guides, eventually learn to use hotkeys and wait in line to enter servers where the best players hung out, exploring  new tactics whenever one would start failing him.

When faced with a player that was most likely hacking and always winning, he chose to try to beat him anyway, constantly trying to improve his timing and the execution of his strategy. He was convinced that ingenuity and timing were more important that having hacks and extra info at your disposal.

Community

Day[9] states that the best part of attending tournaments is to meet people you’ve been playing with online face to face. He explains in great details the various strategies and attitudes of other players that have inspired him, revealing how much work they put into practicing and improving their game-play. FroZ, for example, practiced with his shoes on or off, with either the heating or the AC on, with his chair in different positions, and he switched his practice schedule around to be ready for anything.

«You learn the importance of community. No one in Starcraft hold themselves up, play by themselves,  and then came back and was better than everyone. Players play against each other, and discuss with each other, form really tight friendships over seas. Some of my best friends just live in Europe thanks to Starcraft. That community aspect is just so, so dear to me.

Day[9] also talks at lengths about the support he received from his family. I will come back to that later on.

Lessons learned

Amongst the various lessons Day[9] says he learned along the way are the following:

1. You can improve if you practice. After loosing at the 2005 World Cyber Games, he started practicing intensely. He created numerous accounts to start levelling from the ground up and focused not on winning but on improving his gameplay. This eventually paid off.

2. Every race in Starcraft, be it Zerg, Protoss or Human, has constraints that any player cannot overcome. Studying the way each race works and the key timings in their development allows for a better game-play, no matter who the adversary is.

3. Emotions are the effects of chemicals in your body. Anger of loosing or failing should not be directed at yourself: cool down and then analyse what you did wrong.

4. Failure should not be avoided or feared. Any game you lose gives you new data to learn from. Playing Starcraft has helped Day[9] deal with other failures in his studies or personal relationships.

5. Day[9] attributes his ability to take decisions quickly to his passion for Starcraft. He states that “Starcraft makes you proud to be a decision maker and makes you love being a decision maker”.

Analysis

Lazy brains abstain

You might notice, watching the video, the detail in which Day[9] talks about games that were played years ago, either by himself or other players. He also has a deep understanding of Starcraft mechanics: he knows what units cost, the timing for upgrades or builds, the time required to gather certain amounts of resources, and so on.

At this point, it should be clear that to be a good Starcraft player, you can’t rely on luck and you can’t have a lazy brain. You need to be knowledgeable not only about the race you are playing, but also about the limits and advantages your opponent has or the strategy he might be using.

Day[9] describes Starcraft as being similar to chess but more demanding: strategy is of the out most importance, but you also need great dexterity and quick reflexes to maintain a high action per minute (APM) rate. When you lose or win at this game, it’s all on you and luck or other circumstances have nothing to do with it.

No escape from reality

One particularly strong stereotype about gamers is that they play to escape reality. I briefly approached this in a previous post.

However, I don’t think all hard-core gamers can be said to be on a quest to escape their “real” life. In fact, what Day[9] describes is not something that allows him to disconnect with his daily life, but rather further connect to it: instead of escaping from reality to a game, Day[9] made the game an important part of his daily life.

While preparing for tournaments, Day[9] would invest incredible amounts of time and effort into practicing  He would juggle with studies, work and gaming, all while having a clear plan to improve his game-play.  Nowadays, he devotes all his time to casting his Daily and commenting at tournaments. He hopes to contribute to the popularity of e-sports and takes part in the organization of various events.

In addition, his family gathers around his passion for Starcraft: his brother is also a professional player and caster and their mother has encouraged them to pursue their passion for many years. Day[9] met many of his friends because of the game and insists that the feeling of community is something he appreciates from Starcraft players.

Conclusion

I recommend you watch the video. It’s particularly funny when Day[9] describes the Napoleon Dynamite look he sported as a kid. More importantly, only him can really express, and get emotional about, the encouragement he received from his mother and brother when attending tournaments. I cannot do a better job than he does at explaining how important Starcraft is in his life.

The goal of this analysis was to gather some data about the importance of video games in people’s life and the lessons they learn from gaming. I also wanted to put emphasis on the talent and effort needed to perform well in Starcraft.

Finally, I wished to bring attention to the fact that gaming, contrary to what stereotypes suggest, can reinforce  personal relations and community for gamers.  I will reference this post later on when I explore these topics again. Till then, I have a few video recommendations for you.

Image from Day[9]’s website

The Daily recently hit the 500 mark. For the occasion, Day[9] reversed the usual concept for his most popular theme, Funday Monday. Usually, he chooses a theme players must abide by and they submit their replays, which get analysed during the show. It’s really popular and there even a song for it. For the 500th Daily, viewers submitted their themes to Day[9], and the result was pretty entertaining.

Amongst some of Day[9]’s most funny videos is the Amnesia series he first streamed for Halloween last year. HILARIOUS. He repeated the experience this year and played Slender, Amnesia: Justine and SPC Containment Breach. Enjoy!

-The Geek Anthropologist

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About Marie-Pierre Renaud

I am an anthropologist living in Quebec city, Canada. I specialize in native studies and anthropology of health. I am a geek. I founded and now co-manage The Geek Anthropologist blog. I am working on transforming my memoir into a book and journal articles. I like to knit while watching Star Trek. Reach out to me for collaborations! https://mariepierrerenaud.co/

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