Back in high school I was part of the computer networking classes. Classes mostly populated by guys, who were awesome and found ways to be inclusive – including inviting me to their LAN parties.
So after I arrive, I start getting a feel for the game they’re playing… it’s called StarCraft and it looks pretty cool. The guy I’m sitting behind to watch gets word that one of our group needs to be picked up with his computer, so after showing me the basics he hands over the last little bit of his game as Protoss. I get the hang of what he showed me, which was basically building a few things, mostly carriers.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with StarCraft, Protoss are a warrior alien race, who consider themselves first-born into the universe. Theirs is a long history filled with nuance, intrigue, loyalty, and badass armor:
In the original StarCraft, a swarm of carriers is actually a viable strategy for winning the game. So my lesson was not as throw-away as it sounds.
Rather quickly that game came to an end, and the two best players, who had been forced to play on separate teams because of their skill level, requested a game where they would be allowed to play on the same team. To balance this, they agreed to play two of them versus four of us. The plan was that everyone who was experienced with the game would set their race choice to “Random” and I would be allowed to choose Protoss, as they were the only race I knew at all, in the interest of slightly evening up the playing field.
So Hank and Jamelle, our best players, formed their alliance, and the rest of the room settled in for a game we knew we would lose, but we were going to have a good time trying to take down our star players. The game started… well… awkwardly. On our team Charith was forced out of his base right away, so he started rebuilding on Jason’s doorstep, which meant our team’s chat was filled with them arguing like an old married couple about who was allowed to occupy that space. Quietly, I built some basic units, and kept leveling up my production until I could make those carriers.
After the banter and bicker died down, I realized I’d been at the carrier construction for a while, so I asked in team chat when should I deploy my carriers.
“How many do you have?”
“NOW! DEPLOY THEM NOW!”
(Note: this was the day I learned 13 carriers is a lot of carriers)
So my carrier swarm sweeps down across the map, looking for Jamelle’s base that someone on our team had located earlier. Because he was teasing us out loud, he’d slipped his headphones down around his neck, and his attention was on his careful probe of the map that he was engaged in. As a result, even though his base started screaming out alerts that he was under attack, he missed the heads up sounds.
With a gleeful giggle, I carefully swept through about two-thirds of his base unchallenged except by his passive defenses. Finally Hank looks over and points out that Jamelle is being wiped off the map and he might want to do something about it. “Oh crap! Who is… COLLEEN?!”
Queue the giggle of madness and triumph. Unfortunately two-thirds wasn’t enough, since the army he brought back was quite strong, and with my reduced skill level in comparison he was able to handily wipe out my carriers. Since most my eggs were in that basket, it was easy for him to sweep back to my base and with Hank’s help take me out entirely.
As a kindness, Hank and Jamelle agreed to leave one pylon. Without a “worker bee”, as I called them (more accurately a probe, a small unit that is responsible for all construction of Protoss equipment), I was helpless to rebuild, but by leaving that single pylon I was not “defeated” and could still watch the game. They also set the game so I had the fog of war lifted (on the promise I not share anyone’s information, since I was effectively dead in the water) to allow me to see all the action as the game went on.
And sure enough, the two experts did indeed take our disjointed and squabbling force out, bit by bit. Of course they forgot about my little pylon, so there was a momentary confusion when the game did not end as expected… but it was soon resolved and victory was theirs.
My first real StarCraft game, and I was indeed a force to be reckoned with. Never under-estimate the new guy! (Especially when all she knows is the over-powered carrier swarm tactic.)