Friday, December 12, 2008 - Irony and the Intergalactic Roshambo

Here we go again. I’m beginning to feel combat-weary as I open StarCraft. Each time I enter a pregame lobby, my mind conjures up images of my imminent defeat. But I press on, telling myself, “Maybe this time will be different.”

Sure, self. Sure.

In my first match I was dealt the Zerg. Ugh. Now I like the Zerg as a concept. They are aliens of the Bugger and Flood variety. They operate via hive minds - cerebrates who psychically control whole hordes of the creatures - kind of like Nintendo fans. But they also assimilate species and mutate them, like the Flood or a less sexy version of the Borg. You may have played another game about humans fighting religious aliens while some crazy gross monsters threaten them both. Bungie, you might've provided us with a Works Cited page.

The Zerg, designed to win wars through superior numbers, are not suited to my play style: awful. An overwhelming army must be built quickly and used without hesitation. Of course, I spent ten minutes coasting, only to get rocked when a Terran enemy rolled his siege tanks within firing distance of my base. His marines cut my drones to smithereens and tore down my command center. My ally fared just as poorly, having had to uproot his entire base after an invasion minutes earlier. Our ally, removed from the conflict in his ivory missile tower and yet surprised by the anemic performance of his isolated teammates, cried a generic “wtf guys” as I clicked the Surrender button.

Ignoring the sting of defeat, I dove headlong into another battle. This one showed promise: a 4 vs. 4 fight on one of these “Fastest Possible Map yadda yadda yadda” maps. Maps like this are where conventional StarCraft breaks down a bit. Whoever made this is a huge fan of identical, symmetrical bases with unlimited resources. No hunting for enemies, no running out of money. Just build shit as fast as you can. You can probably guess where this is going.

Seven of the eight of us were Protoss, one of my allies the lone Zerg. "u r in danger. they'll rush u" one of my allies told the Zerg player. The enemy couldn’t afford to let this threat grow unabated.

Would you be surprised if I told you that my Zerg friend was not the first one attacked? Would you be surprised if I told you that I was singled out like it was dodgeball and I was the fat kid with glasses reading Tolstoy? After only three minutes, enemy zealots come knocking on my door. Five of my own zealots answer. They fight slowly, taking turns punching each other with glowing fists – an intergalactic Roshambo. I stave off the first invasion, but lose all of my men to mortal groin injuries.

I’m caught unprepared for a new wave of attackers. Out of offensive units, I cancel all resource gathering and order my drones to unleash their little electric bolt cutters on the invaders. The enemy forces pop my workers like so many balloons. Amid this carnage, a third enemy builds photon cannons outside my base, killing allied troops as they arrive to help. Eventually, he builds a line of these cannons to my base, thus attacking me with defensive measures. Why aren’t these people working for the Department of Defense? They would know exactly what to do with these.

As my structures fall like dominoes, I inspect my allies’ bases. My Zerg friend, half of his structures hemorrhaging after a recent raid, declares proudly and without capitalization, “i lived.” With the message still hovering on my screen, a squad of twenty enemy zealots descends on his base, no doubt tattooing the word Irony on the walls of his headquarters with their mighty fists. I smile. My base falls. Another seven minutes of not-so-gentle humbling comes to an end.