Gather 'round children while uncle Chef rambles to himself
The Power of Having a Future
ASL 2 was already good, and ASL 3 is quite a level beyond it. As we rejoice in the updates Blizzard is giving Brood War, and eagerly anticipate remastered (including the already announced ASL 4 to be played on it), we are witnessing a change in our players.
It used to seem to me that the reason players weren't performing as well must be the lack of team houses, couching, room and board coverage, all these things that are representative of the KeSPA era of progaming. With the games I've been seeing in ASL 3, I'm not so sure those were the most important anymore. Of course those things were what sharpened the edge to the finest degree possible, and are probably directly responsible for many of the very best games we've seen, but the dullness we saw in the aftermath of the KeSPA scene vanishing was, I now think, caused by something different, which all of us with even a pinch of life experience of have went through ourselves.
You even see it in the English casts of Tastosis. Once the game heats up and gets interesting enough, they stop talking bullshit and start getting excited about what they're watching. If they only had more info about the players, they could fill that dead air at the beginning of the casts without explaining again and again the basic shape of the matchup. But that's kind of tangential.
What is making the games special again, giving the players that extra bump to push themselves in the match, is the heightened sense that they are working toward something, that legitimate fame and fortune is on its way, and this doesn't just have to be a short pit stop where they do streaming for awhile until the fans get bored. I don't know how any one of the players feels exactly, but judging by the games they're showing, there's a lot more energy in their hearts to win these matches than there used to be in previous leagues we've seen post KeSPA. Matches have been getting better and better as the course of Brood War has looked brighter and brighter.
How can you put your all into something that might be a waste of time? How can you devout yourself to something that might not matter in five years, in ten years? Sometimes we find energy to master something when it means making friendships (every rivalry ever, every clan ever). But once we're comfortable with our networking, once we're secure in that, we need much better reasons to keep going. A healthy adult can see ahead a year and know if they can't turn their hobby into a living, they can only give it a hobby's share of effort. Even if you spend all your time with that hobby, it's dead in the water, it's idle time if it doesn't mean anything for your future.
The difference in my motivation to learn and become masterful at what I do, despite an inherent interest in the topic, before and after I was paid for it, was dramatic. From a desire to just have the basics down in case it became a real opportunity, to a real thirst to understand every area of it. The difference between 2 weeks of an hour or two a day, to 3 years of full work days plus evenings and weekends seeking out whatever information I could get. How could I ever justify even just the evenings and weekends if I didn't have the confidence it would improve my future?
The more literature I've read about disadvantaged groups, the psychology of peoples who are in ruts, and comparisons in my own personal life, the more I've realised how important it is to think that what you're doing is going to help you soon. It's not enough to have access to good resources, you also have to have good access to opportunities to make use of the skills you would gain. In this world where each of us has an ego the size of the moon, where any place we get to is a place we got to because we worked harder, when you take a step back and wonder how can you help yourself when you're in a hole, how can you help others, it's stuff like this that comes to light and makes you realise how vulnerable we are to our circumstances, how much latent potential we have if only we can find something to bring out the best in ourselves.
I love that StarCraft can make me think about stuff like this. And much more so as it grows bright again.