5 reasons why Starcraft is the new Chess
Posted on May 26, 2014
Starcraft II is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game where players build and defend fortifications in a top-down 3D world. It attracts a high degree of loyalty and commitment from the thousands of people who play in the official leagues. What is less well known is how similar it is to Chess, and why (although some have noted parallels before).
1. You can play against a computer, but it’s hardly worth it
Both Chess and Starcraft are playable as single-player: I remember computer chess back in the 80s, and even though as a kid I found it challenging, the computer really has limited strategies and power to play. So too with Starcraft, although it does have a better story! Both games are infinitely more challenging against a human opponent who can discern your personality and strategy, and adaptively strategize against you. This means almost infinite replayability as you are effectively playing a new game every time you compete against someone new.
2. It is the basis for massive tournaments
Some people ask, “What’s E-sports”? Competitive gaming arguably started in South Korea, where Starcraft II became so popular that tournaments began attracting massive crowds of spectators and where career gamers can earn six-figure salaries. Starcraft players across the world play in highly-structured leagues which require test matches against quality players to move through the leagues. This is serious play, and serious spectatorship – perhaps on a bigger scale than we’ve ever seen with Chess, powered by the intent and social media.
3. It involves zero luck
Many games involve some degree of luck: if there are dice, cards, a spinning wheel, or any randomised device (including digital) that introduces an element of chance, it dilutes the skills of players. However, both Starcraft and Chess start at an absolute baseline, and from the beginning every move and every omission shapes the outcome of the game. This means that skill, strategy and learning are particularly important where luck is not in the mix to act as the great leveller.
4. It is highly strategic
As suggested by the name of its genre (Real Time Strategy), Starcraft is highly strategic. Just like Chess, to successfully play Starcraft requires a sense of overall approach, be it aggressive, passive, stealthy, economic, military, or balanced. Of course, strategies must be fluid, and adaptable to the situation and opponent at hand. This overarching strategy needs to be combined with more local-level tactics, and immediate responsiveness in a particular situation and context (i.e. supporting an ally or being attacked by enemy units).
5. It is now understood as an even better site for studying cognitive activity
Simply watching a game of Starcraft II will convince you of the thinking capacity required to play successfully (not to mention fine motor skills). However, some researchers are now observing Starcraft II players instead of Chess players in order to study expertise, or what (cognitively) distinguishes between average players and highly successful ones. In short, experts are more able to complete a high numb of actions per minute (APM) and keep their attention on a wide range of game elements. Of course, this makes the playing of Starcraft II an activity that is highly learnable, and of interest to researchers who want to explore all the factors that contribute to good learning.
So there you have it: Starcraft and Chess are even more similar than you may have thought. File this under ‘video game achieving cultural status based on accepted formats’. Which do you prefer: Starcraft or Chess? Comment below!