Nerd ballin’ for a cause
Despite philanthropic efforts and competitive success, StarCraft club struggles to keep members
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
There were over a dozen students in Knox 14 on Saturday, but all was silent aside from the hum of clicking mouses and keyboards. None of the students so much as glanced away from their computers.
All attention was focused on the game: StarCraft II.
StarCraft II is a two-player, real-time computer strategy game, in which a player wages war with an opponent. The competitors set up bases, search for resources and fight battles with the goal of being the last player standing. UB’s StarCraft team, which is entering its second year of competitive play, is looking to have an impact beyond the game.
The club held a charity event Saturday in Knox Lecture Hall with all proceeds going to the Southtowns Family Justice Center – a local organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence. The function coincided with domestic awareness month, and it was held in honor of UB alum Aasiya Zubair, who died from domestic violence in 2009. Participants donated $5 and had the opportunity to play the computer game alongside the StarCraft team.
Founding member and club President Michael Hassan, a senior computer science major, organized the event.
“The club is really a bunch of guys wanting to get together and play StarCraft,” Hassan said. “I thought: ‘Hey, I'll make it mean something.’”
Hassan and a few friends formed the StarCraft club in the fall of 2011. They wanted to meet fellow StarCraft enthusiasts and play competitively against other schools in the Collegiate Star League (CSL), an international StarCraft organization that holds StarCraft tournaments.
The club has added more than 30 members since its creation.
“At first, I thought it would just be me and a couple friends playing together,” Hassan said. “But I kept putting fliers up and people kept emailing me wanting to play and join the club.”
The StarCraft phenomenon began in 1998 with the release of StarCraft: Brood War by Blizzard Entertainment. Fans know professional players by name and stream live professional matches. Official listings rank the world’s best players every month. This year, the North American Star League held a tournament in which the prize pool totaled over $100,000.
StarCraft players – who call themselves “nerd ballers” – say the game’s emphasis on management and tactics, instead of speed of play, are what sets it apart from other games.
The club started off strong, winning its first six matches in the CSL. In its first season, the team finished 11-5 and made the playoffs for the North American region, though it lost in the first round.
Wen Luo, the StarCraft club treasurer and a junior business administration major, said the team is above average but it is a level below the best.
The team starts its second season in November and hopes to see improvement this year, though the players mix hope with tempered realism, according to Hassan. Poor attendance has caused the club to reduce its meetings to once a month, though members can still play against each other online whenever they want.
According to Hassan, StarCraft players must learn to balance school, social life and work – a challenge which has caused some players to drop from the club.
“We lost some people this year,” Hassan said. “They got too tied up with school or got a girlfriend and didn’t have time to play anymore.”
Despite the obstacles, Hassan is looking to expand. He’s focused on improving the team’s competitiveness and ensuring its survival after he leaves UB at the end of this year. He plans on setting up another charity event next semester and encourages anyone interested in StarCraft to join the club.
“Anyone who wants to play is welcome,” Hassan said. “Just come to our events. I have to graduate sometime and I think about what standard I want to leave. I’d like for UB StarCraft to keep going.”