Monday, December 21, 2009

My favorite "athletes" #1 - Lee Jaedong

I think that Filipinos in general take "athletes" to be basketball/football/tennis/track-and-field/boxers/etc players. While yes, of course they are athletes, I think there's many more athletes that many Filipinos quite ignore. Let me talk about my favorite "alternative athletes."

Thanks to for the image

Pro-gaming - Lee Jaedong
20 year old Lee Jaedong is a Zerg progamer, and in my opinion one of the best Starcraft players ever. He has extremely solid mechanics. (very fast hands - over 400 actions per minute. Think about that. One action could be selecting a unit or morphing a larva or attacking a unit. 400 apm is close to 7 actions a second!) But more than mechanics, he has amazing game sense (timing), effective scouting, and even more effective aggressiveness/harassment. More on this later.

I can say that pro-Starcraft is a combination of several facets of other sports:
-> It is as strategic and rigorous as chess. "Build orders" or the order with which you build units, buildings, expansions, and upgrades are studied and practiced - think chess openings. As an example, in Terran vs Zerg, if you miss the timing for producing missile turrets by just 15 seconds, mutalisks will have already come in and ravaged your mineral line. Likewise, if the Zerg misses the timing for Dark Swarm upgrade, Terran siege tanks will have already destroyed your natural expansion. Which is why scouting your opponent's base is critical in Starcraft, to determine how your opponent opens, and know the appropriate timings of their attacks.
-> It requires as much alertness as contact sports like basketball.  On the spot decision making is critical in Starcraft. When an opponent attacks your base, do you pull your forces back, or do you counter? In Protoss vs Zerg, a lone dark templar left unchecked can kill dozens of drones unless you bring detectors and attacking units to fend it off. And more often that not, you only see it as a blip on the minimap. A sneaky shuttle dropping a high templar on your mineral line, if not stopped, will often kill your entire mineral line in a few seconds. Pros need to see these things and move their miners out a few seconds before the enemy drops, or take it out with scourge (Zerg)/placing anti-air (Terran and Protoss).
-> Apart from these, it requires multitasking like no other sport. Harvesting resources (and controlling idle workers), creating unit-producing buildings, producing attacking units, upgrading, attacking your units, harassing enemy bases, expanding. All these have to be done in rapid fashion to keep up. This is especially true for Zerg, as units are fragile, and the units require a lot of clicks to manage (lurkers, clumped mutalisks, defiler/ling/ultra combos, scourge suicide attacks). I can not multi-task like this, so while attacking, my production buildings are not running at full throttle. It's amazing because pro-gamers can simultaneously attack, defend, build units, expand and more.

Take a look at this recent Jaedong game. You can see how the points above come to life.

The level of decision making these players have to think about are generally split into two: micromanagement and macromanagement. Good explanation here, and I quote: Good micro means efficient and precise use of individual fighting groups in specific encounters, and good macro means economic expansion, mass unit control and production, and appropriate technology choices. While a few years ago great micro was enough to dominate, today the emphasis is much more on well-rounded players with macro skill that will make up for errors in their micro control. In other words, Starcraft continues to become more and more competitive even at its highest levels.

The only bad things here are that you have to do this sitting down, your hands will eventually give up, and your eyes will be messed up. Which is why some teams require their players to go to the gym.

And this guy is a practice freak - according to a coach, "The gamer that possesses everything a coach wants is Jaedong. Not only he has an amazing record, his mindset and attitude and everything else is flawless. For example, when a coach asks a gamer to practice over 100 games to win a game, many gamers complain. However. JD takes such a demand for granted - a natural way to improve himself. That's the difference of mindset." This is the Nadia Comanece principle.

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