The Grubby Commentaries and why you should listen to them

In his spare time Grubby also leads a nations defense against Saxon invaders

In his spare time Grubby also leads a nations defense against Saxon invaders

Manuel Schenkhuizen, better known as the Warcraft 3 master Grubby, has been posting a series of commentaries on great Warcraft 3 matches he played against other high quality opponents, aptly named “The Grubby Commentaries”.

Given that WC3 seems destined to go down in gaming history as the less successful cousin of the RTS behemoth Starcraft (or that game that kills your children for those displaying higher levels of ignorance) you may well be thinking “why the hell should I care”? I feel that it’s my civic duty as a cognizant member of the wider gaming fraternity to explain to you why these videos are worth watching, even if you’ve never played WC3.

A big part of what makes games so enjoyable is the the acquisition of mastery over the game’s rules and mechanics. Everyone who plays games knows that intensely satisfying feeling you get when defeating a particular scenario or challenge that had proven difficult previously. When the challenge is outwitting a human opponent that satisfaction is multiplied exponentially. Being a fan and occasional participant of real world sports, it’s easy to see that exact same feeling mirrored in both pastimes. It’s almost inevitable to wonder why select video games shouldn’t be counted as sports. At their best they’re entertaining contests of skill and fierce competition. What they lack in athleticism (despite 400 APM being beyond the capabilities of the average person) they make up for in mental agility and strategy. Watching two highly skilled players try to overcome the particular flavor of problem the other is throwing them happens to be pretty interesting too. Whether video games deserve to be classified as sports is a discussion for another time, but when played at a high level WC3 is a game that showcases the very best electronic sports have to offer.

Grubby was (is) a player that posseses everything we love in our favorite sportspeople. He was incredibly successful, consistently performing perfectly on the biggest stages with a circa 2003-2009 Federer like record during his heyday. He was personable and literate, speaking very well to the media and was regarded highly as a person amongst teammates and opponents alike. Best of all he played the game with an almost sixth sense. He wasn’t the fastest player, though he was close, but he often overcame opponents who had (slightly) faster reaction times with guile, intelligence, consistency and at times sheer audacity. You had to always be on guard against him or his unmatched knowledge of the game would allow him to exploit a minute weakness you didn’t even know you had. His success combined with a notably resourceful playstyle earned him the fervent support of followers of the game.

In this video series he talks you through some of the greatest games of his career, and by extension some of the greatest moments in the professional WC3 scene. Think MJ talking you through “The Shot”, Maradona describing the “Hand of God” or Ali commentating the “Rumble in the Jungle”. Given that in an RTS’ the action is far more cerebral than in traditional sports, having the player run you through how he approached a game gives you a far greater insight into the nature of the contest than any other sort of commentary can.

What you’ll be watching is a game worthy of high level e-sport status being pushed to its absolute limit. Good RTS’ are notable for their complexity and depth, with literally uncountable in game possibilities, and seeing someone stretching it to it’s capacity is something I think you’ll find engaging even if you don’t follow WC3 very closely. The intense mental war between two incredibly resourceful and intelligent players (and the tangible respect they have for each others skills) is where the whole thing jumps from engaging to awesome.

Last but not least it showcases what’s great about the multiplayer component of one of the best competitive games ever released, and it does it far better than one could summarise in a simple article. They’re pretty long, but if you love games I doubt you’ll end up seeing the time as wasted. If you love competitive WC3 this will likely be one of the most epic things you’ve ever watched.

Five Ten episodes have been produced so far, as more become available I will update this post. Don’t forget to “Like” the videos if you find them enjoyable.

Episode 1 (recommended) – Grubby vs Zacard – Orc vs Orc – Blizzcon 2005 Grand Final – Game 1

Episode 2 (highly recommended) – Grubby vs Zacard – Orc vs Orc – Blizzcon 2005 Grand Final – Game 2

Episode 3 – Grubby vs Suho – Orc vs Night Elf – World  e-Sports festival 2006 Semi Final

Episode 4 – Grubby vs Moon – Orc vs Night Elf – World eSports Masters 2009 Grand Final

Episode 5 – Grubby vs Lucifron – Orc vs Orc – Warcraft 3 Champions League

Episode 6 – Grubby vs FoV – Orc vs Undead – ESWC 2005 Pool Match

Episode 7 – Grubby vs Infi – Orc vs Human – Blizzcon 2010

Episode 8 – Grubby vs TeD – Orc vs Undead – NGL ONE Season 6 (2009)

Episode 9 – Grubby vs ToD – Orc vs Human – WCG 2008

Episode 10 – Grubby vs Lyn – Orc vs Orc – eStars King of the Game 2009

The violent influence of games: Ending the argument

Innocent until proven guilty

Innocent until proven guilty

Alec Meer from Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently wrote an article decrying the glee with which public opinion, headed by certain sections of the international mainstream media, has looked to link the recent mass murder in Norway with video games. The phenomenon manifested in several retail outlets pulling a selection of video games (including World of Warcraft) from their shelves, citing respect for the victims. Meer argues that there is no link between video games, even violent video games and acts of violence in the real world.

He is of course, correct in the most pure sense if the word. Anyone who has even a passing interest in the medium would know this instinctively. Playing a video game doesn’t stir copycat fantasies in the mind of a sane individual and if you’re frequenting this site you would likely know that from personal experience. Even if you don’t have experience with video games you could do some simple napkin arithmetic on the number of games sold around the world and the number of spree killings occurring and come up with the same conclusion. If you wanted to go even further you could look at the demographics of spree killers, (males under 35) look at the rate of video game participation in this demographic and calculate the likelyhood of them NOT playing video games. Failing that you have the frustratingly unprovable line that it’s seeping in to your subconscious. I would have thought the simple fact that the vast vast majority of 20-30 year olds haven’t become mass murderers had that one covered. There is a theory that a violent game could make that disturbed fraction of the population that has the propensity mass murder in their heart more likely to go through with the deed but there has never been any link found between playing violent games and doing violence in the real world. Never. It’s very easy to get the sense that the media might have the cart leading the horse on this one. This would all of course be very rational.

Yet when Anders Breivik in a few sentences of his chillingly disturbed and violent thousand page document of raving (I refuse to imbue it with the title “manifesto”) mentions video games as part of his daily routine the uproar begins. Quoth England’s The Telegraph “Anders Behring Breivik emailed his extremist manifesto to a Dutchman he had met while playing an online computer war game that included scenes where players kill unarmed civilians.” The Mirror proclaims “His Facebook page says he loves bodybuilding and Call Of Duty – where players can shoot people on an island.” You can no doubt find similar media proclamations in the mainstream media of your country of residence.

Like the subject in a Pavlovian conditioning experiment you can almost hear the unspoken accusations. Video games are implicated. Complicit in this tragedy. Part of the problem. Must be controlled. In a world where our governments are looking for as much control as we the people will give them, the thought of the content of video games being heavily regulated is a disturbing one. Hailing from Australia I feel this concept more keenly than most.

The cart leading the horse

The cart leading the horse

So why, when a rational mind and all the studies in the world can so clearly demonstrate no link between virtual violence and real violence does this outcry exist?

I should point out firstly that in this, jumping solely on the back of the media for the prevalence of this phenomenon is simplistic. The media are merely the mouthpiece for a section of public opinion. Sometimes society’s majority opinion, but always the majority opinion of their target reader base. In other words there’s a lot of people out there who think the media are spot on.

No matter how well reasoned the argument against, these people are not going to be convinced. They will continue to see it because the opportunity to be convinced otherwise has been around since the absolute infancy of the medium and yet we are here nearly 20 years out from Doom dealing with the same flawed perception. As much as folks like Meer will rail against it, all the rebuttal arguments in the world will do absolutely no good. The people you need to convince are doing the crebral equivalent of sticking their hands over their ears and shouting gibberish at you.

How churlish!

How churlish!

The outcry is in itself is an understandable manifestation of the fact that despite the perfectly natural aging of gamers over the past twenty five years, we remain a relatively young and politically insignificant group as a collective. In western society the sheer numbers of folk in the 40+ age bracket mean that their views will get a disproportionate amount of airtime in the public domain. There’s also the fact that there are relatively few heads of multinational media organizations under the age of 40, and those that exist likely spent a significant portion of their adult lives surviving in the corporate jungle and not forming informed opinions about video games. You’re looking at a problem which has it’s roots in generational perception.

If you were like me you argued long and hard with at least one authority figure that the particular first person shooter or real time strategy war-game that you were playing wasn’t about violence. There was no way to make them see that what I was engaged with was a battle for in game space, virtual resources, knowledge to foil the actions of my opponent, or just exercising my hand-eye coordination. They were completely unable to look past the pixellated splatter, and projected that that’s all you were seeing as well.

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but what is for certain is that the demographic that accepts and understands video games will grow in every measurable aspect. The natural and unalterable regeneration of the human race will do it’s work. We will become the majority stakeholders in public opinion of the future and that means issues around gaming will become more readily understood. That means the “video games kill people” line of reasoning will die. Slowly, painfully for those of us who know better, but it’s days are undoubtedly numbered.

We’ll be too busy trying to deal with the underlying social problems that lead to terrorism of both Islamic and far-right Neo Nazi persuasions to give it much thought.

NOTE: The blaming video games train is arriving in Londonriotsville. Of course this newly discovered phenomenon of the riot is a direct result of children playing Grand Theft Auto.

Retrospectives: Heroes of Might and Magic IV

The winds of change touch the Heroes of Might and Magic series

The winds of change touch the Heroes of Might and Magic series

Game: Heroes of Might and Magic IV (Vanilla, The Gathering Storm, Winds of War)
Developed by: New World Computing
Published by: 3DO
Release date: March 28, 2002

The five games in the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise are like a demographically diverse set of siblings. They all look different, but have a similarity of features that confirm their parentage. The eldest is starting to show his age, but a quick glance at the younger ones will confirm a deep respect for his achievements. The second is quirky and charming, though his looks are also fading he still has enough in the bag to impress people at parties. The third was the sibling that had it all. Looks, strength of character, friends, fame. His popularity spread beyond the family to anyone he touched, to the degree that all other siblings pale in comparison. The fifth wanted to be so much like the third that people can’t look past the similarity, now despite his youthful appearance and noble characteristics no one takes him seriously because all they see is his older brother.

Given that this venerated, slightly dysfunctional family will soon be getting a new brother/sister from a different parent (in this case the hard work of the folks at Black Hole Entertainment), I thought it would be a good time to look back at the fourth, and least understood child of this series. The red headed stepchild that was always teased about being adopted if you will.

Heroes of Might and Magic IV was a game that came at a difficult time for it’s developer, publisher and indeed the franchise as a whole. Heroes III had brought the series into the bigtime. It fleshed out the gameplay that had proved so popular in the second installment, added a deeper layer of strategy, covered itself with shiny state of the art graphics, a well worked UI, pretty much bug free engine, a mountain of content on release followed by 2 content bloated expansion packs. It was well received by fans and critics while hitting sales numbers not seen by any turn based strategy game outside the Civilization series. In short it was a winner on every conceivable measure and, as games like that have a tendency to do, it made it very hard for any sequel to tread the hallowed ground it walked upon.

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