Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn
July 22, 2014 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Meet Scarlett, North America's Top ranked Starcraft player. A complex, real-time strategy game with exquisitely balanced opposing forces, Starcraft is so popular that men can and do make a career out of playing the game. All but one of the top 20 ranked players in the world live and play in Korea. And all of them are men. So maybe it is not surprising that Scarlett, a 20 year-old transgender woman from Canada , is making huge waves in the gaming community.
posted by misha (37 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I would be lying if I said I had not spent an inordinate amount of time watching live competition feeds out of Korea waiting to catch a glimpse of her playing.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:37 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

is there a reference/dictionary to understand the reddit ama ? (It's like reading an EVE post here, I don't have a guide to grok what the people are asking, since I'm not eye balls deep in the game .. )
posted by k5.user at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2014

Interesting. Thanks for posting this.

That rant by Joe Rogan regarding Fallon Fox linked in the second AV Club piece is astonishingly transphobic.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on July 22, 2014

Thanks for the post! I've been puzzling for awhile over the question of why esports is so male dominated. Top DotA and LoL is entirely male players. And the e-sports broadcasts I see are about 90% male commenters, interviewers, analysts, etc. I've been looking to chess as another example, there's a lot of history with women in chess and a fair amount written about it. But everything I've read is self-conflicting; there's no simple answer as to why men dominate top level chess. Just a lot of specific stories about sexism, lack of role models, lack of money for pro players, etc.

Then on top of the basic gender disparity in Starcraft, Scarlett is transgender. I don't even know what to make of that. Other than she's awesome. From the links here she doesn't much like to talk about herself at all and has said almost nothing about her gender. Which, fair enough, she's got the right to focus on her gameplay. Just wish I knew more.
posted by Nelson at 11:10 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

is there a reference/dictionary to understand the reddit ama ?

this is pretty comprehensive
posted by p3on at 11:18 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been puzzling for awhile over the question of why esports is so male dominated.

I cant even begin to imagine how many hours of misogynistic bullshit hostility women would have to get through while trying to train themselves up to a competitive level.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

Scarlett is brilliant, and I'm glad she's getting a FPP - I'm a huge fan (my cat is named after Scarlett)

She's faced down the inevitable puerile transphobia that accompanied her rise and made believers and fans of thousands of Starcraft players and spectators who may have previously had very little contact with transgendered people, and although I know that she doesn't want to be an ambassador or symbol - that's what she has inevitably become. Seeing a crowd of bro-ish teenage american boys chanting her name after her famous baneling landline game against Bomber had me in tears.

She seemed to find confidence in herself after that match with Bomber - in the excitement of the moment running out of the booth and finally smiling, bowing and acknowledging the crowd. Now she even seems to have developed a sense of showmanship - her recent game against DongRaeGu in which she played as Protoss was just brilliant - it's hard to explain to someone who doesn't understand Starcraft, but this is something like the equivalent of a football goal keeper deciding to play as a striker, and then winning.

I'm so glad that she seems to be overcoming some of the crippling shyness that made it a little frustrating to be a fan - interviews tended to result in a series of one word answers and embarrassed shrugs. She still refuses to give interviews to the mainstream press, after apparently feeling misrepresented by the AV club article linked to in the post, but I wish she would. And I hope that at some point Team Acer stops making her wear that awful green hoodie in every public appearance.
posted by silence at 11:46 AM on July 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

That Protoss game is hilarious, silence, thanks for posting it. The look of happiness on her face when she wins is like pure troll satisfaction.
posted by Nelson at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Scarlett rules. I've watched that win over Bomber probably ten times and it's never not entertaining.
posted by echocollate at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2014

I'm a huge Scarlett fan, and I love watching her games with other people in her Team Liquid fanclub chatroom. I hardly even play SC2 anymore, but I still get big grins on my face when she does amazing things like that legendary baneling play and Protoss switch, or even when she just wins.

If you want some warm fuzzies, you can watch this vlog playlist of her friend Suppy surprising her with a visit in Korea!
posted by Corinth at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

A couple of Starcraft players have athletic visas, so you're a couple of years behind the times P-B-Z-M. I think it's actually for good reason; the pro players are performing over 300 actions per minute during the game, and a standard best-of-3 match will last for 1-2 hours. That takes some serious mental and physical stamina.

As to Scarlett, she is one of my favorite players, and the way she just demolishes Terrans makes my Zerg heart weep for joy. You will see her roll into these prepared defensive positions, full of bunkers and siege tanks, and 3-4 seconds later just every terran unit is dead and there are zerglings and banelings streaming past into their base. I have no idea how she does it, but it's amazing to watch.
posted by Balna Watya at 1:40 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Right P-B-Z-M? And fuck people who like Chess too, that's bullshit. It'll never take off.
posted by Imperfect at 2:03 PM on July 22, 2014

One thing that Scarlett is not given credit for is that she's a very good commentator, and that when she loosens up in her commentary she's damn funny.

One of the more popular Starcraft II events, Taketv's Homestory Cup, is a terrific event where somewhere around 16 of the progamers and commentators basically move into his apartment once a year for a very friendly tournament where a lot of the gamers you don't normally see sit around on a couch in groups of three to five to bullshit and commentate on the games going on. This last year Scarlett spent a lot of time on the couch and she her commentary was insightful to the point that it left some of the other commentators running out of superlatives to describe it and she broke everyone up laughing a number of times. Her comic timing on the Roddy-soundboard was first rate.

I don't have any particular links to video as the event was something more than 36 hours long, but you can dig them up here.
posted by bswinburn at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Actually, let me take the opportunity of this thread to insert a mini-AskMe: any great SC2 games/series I've missed this year? I haven't been watching as much as I did previously and if there's any standout single games or best-of-sevens from the past 12 months, I'd love to watch 'em. Preferably sans spoilers so that I can do my usual "arbitrarily decide one person is the underdog and root for them for the rest of the series" routine.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:12 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Very excited to see an FPP about Scarlett, I've been watching her on and off over the last couple of years hoping that she would find her stride. Being a Zerg player of the female persuasion is rough, even when you're not as ridiculously good at it as she is, and some of the flak I used to catch from people in the community when I told them I play Zerg is justified in the most delicious of ways when you watch the videos others have posted in this thread.

Having watched her come out of nowhere three years ago and dominate at the smaller tournaments, then get picked up by ACER and even sent to train in Korea (which is a huge deal for those who don't know much about professional-level Starcraft) -- it's all been awe-inspiring to hear about.

I don't keep up very much with the SC2 eSports events anymore, but it's clear she's doing very well for herself. (That off-race win against DRG was just tasty.) Scarlett fighting!!
posted by Snacks at 2:12 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

the pro players are performing over 300 actions per minute

Yeah, but how many of those actions are things like clicking the mouse eight times where once would do? I don't know why they do that, but that is probably one of the lesser reasons why I'm not a pro player.

I was going to make some sarcastic comment about the Protoss hate on reddit there, but that Scarlett v. DRG game retroactively gives her a pass for some trash talk.
posted by sfenders at 3:11 PM on July 22, 2014

@sfenders - then you might enjoy Scarlett's tweet a few seconds after winning that P v Z against DongRaeGu
posted by silence at 3:49 PM on July 22, 2014

btw- @sfenders - it's my understanding that spamming clicks like that mainly happens at the beginning of a game and during quiet periods, and it's a way for the player to keep up their rhythm and tempo. When a battle starts it's apparently much more difficult to "shift gears" and to suddenly start issuing 5 commands a second from a standing start than it is if you're already in the zone and clicking very fast anyway.
posted by silence at 3:54 PM on July 22, 2014

sc2casts has an index of not only her games but also games she provided commentary on (from the homestory cup matches bswinburn mentioned)
posted by p3on at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've followed Starcraft II since it was in beta, and I've loved watching Scarlett play since she emerged out of nowhere to beat Koreans at IPL 4 in Vegas. It's worth pointing out that at first, Scarlett was not universally liked. Many, many, many commenters spewed absolute bile about her. After Scarlett won a women-only Starcraft tournament 2 years ago, the tourney's admin became obligated to remind everyone that yes, transgender women had featured in past tournaments and no, Scarlett wasn't faking being transgender in order to gain unfair advantage in women-only tournaments.

That was the srs debate at the time: was Scarlett faking her transgender because doing so presented privilege? (I want to live in that world.) Were transgender women really women? Did Scarlett's performance mean women-only tournaments were unnecessary? But eventually, Scarlett stopped being "that transgender player" and became "The Foreign Hope," and we finally got to talk about Starcraft again. But the conversation only matured when she continued to win lots of games. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Scarlett hadn't kept winning.

If you love watching Scarlett play today, please consider reporting transphobic bullshit when you see it online. Challenge hate when it gets past moderation teams. Support women in gaming. The next Scarlett may understandably be waiting for a less hateful community; I'd rather she or he get that chance to play today instead of tomorrow.
posted by Avarith at 5:14 PM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Speaking of women in gaming, since my habit of leaving a web browser playing Starcraft games on has returned over the past couple of weeks, I've seen a lot of ZombieGrub commentating on basetradetv. She's good at it. Not as constantly talkative as most commentators, but that works well and somewhat balances her more manic co-caster. Good to see.
posted by sfenders at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2014

Yeah, there's still a ton of hate directed her way. I moderate her Twitch channel when she streams practice games (which isn't often) and have to delete a lot of crap that's absolutely vile. The SCreddit and TL mods have stepped their games up, too, though, and pretty much all of the community's pros and personalities are on board. There was a pretty gross comment made by a drunk Homestory Cup attendee a few Homestory Cups ago, but he hasn't been back since, to my knowledge. Mainly, though, she's just incredibly goddamned good at Starcraft 2!
posted by Corinth at 6:21 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

neuromodulator: "any great SC2 games/series I've missed this year?"

There's a reasonably good list of good games on Team Liquid. They've also been doing more verbose (and spoilery!) reviews every couple of months, eg: June, April & May, March.
posted by vasi at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Being a Zerg player of the female persuasion is rough, even when you're not as ridiculously good at it as she is, and some of the flak I used to catch from people in the community when I told them I play Zerg [...]

I have a passing familiarity with Starcraft from playing the old games, but I'm curious about the subcultural context here- are women "supposed" to play Terran or Protoss or something?
posted by Wandering Idiot at 7:46 AM on July 23, 2014

It's not so much a gender thing as a race thing. The Terran and Protoss players are jealous of the skill needed to play Zerg, and so they give us flak.
posted by Balna Watya at 9:06 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In Starcraft II, some players consider the Protoss and Terran races overpowered in relation to the other race. So even a player who consistently plays well, but only plays Protoss or Terran, is viewed less charitably. It isn't a cheat or anything, and even players who believe that a race is overpowered can not agree about WHICH of the two races is the MOST OP anyway! But you will get more flak for specializing in either one of them.

On the other hand, if you play as the Zerg, like Scarlett, and consistently win, no one can really use that OP argument to dismiss your skill so easily. Usually, you are going to be accorded grudging respect at least, for not taking the 'easy' way out.
posted by misha at 9:29 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of course, that doesn't stop misogynist or transmisogynist players from just plain not liking Scarlett because of who she is. You will get people insinuating that this young girl only identifies as trans so that she will have some kind of special status. I'm sure I don't have to explain here on Metafilter how hateful (and asinine) that argument is.

Scarlett, as a transwoman, was able to join the competitive ranks for Starcraft originally through the NESL Iron Lady, a female-only tournament. Misogynists, of course, argue that this tournament is a watered-down competition, since, you know, it's just women, so Scarlett had an unfair advantage there.

You are probably rolling your eyes at that already, but let's say you honestly believe Scarlett got an unfair advantage because she is a transwoman. Now, to be scrupulous about documenting all this, there was actually a woman in the Iron Lady competition who was later shown to have cheated. A player named Veralynn paid a male player, Death Angel, to play as her, using her account and username. Veralynn was able to achieve Grand Maester level and get all kinds of sponsorships because of this scam. The two players were eventually found out, and banned from their team. But of course it shook up the competitive gaming community and there was a big scandal. So players do have a legitimate reason to be concerned about cheating in the tournaments, and even specifically about a woman cheating in the female-only tournament, to boost their rankings and monetary gain.

That's all still completely irrelevant in Scarlett's case, though. Just winning the Iron Lady only opened the door for her; she still had to prove herself against other players, male and female, to continue up the competitive ladder. It took another year after winning her first Iron Lady before Scarlett earned herself a sponsor. She did that by winning an amateur competition along with other, male and female, unsponsored players. That got her on her first team, and only by continuing to play well, consistently, did she get where she is now.

If Scarlett is a brilliant player (and she is), whatever sex she personally identifies as isn't going to change that. And since, at this point, it is generally only people who are incensed about their favorite player not winning who resort to that argument anyway, it is pretty easy to call them out on it.
posted by misha at 10:31 AM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

misha: "if you play as the Zerg, like Scarlett, and consistently win, no one can really use that OP argument to dismiss your skill so easily"

Right about two years ago (or maybe a year and a half ago?) there was a period when certain Zerg strategies were considered overpowered (keep in mind that in reality these are absolutely minute differences) with then-current game tweaks, and she was often dismissively referred to as a "patch Zerg" by jerks. (Race balance is addressed in patches.) But she was winning before and continues to win now, so.
posted by Corinth at 6:26 PM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Man. This really made my day. I kinda drifted out of playing and watching SC2 a while ago, and have never found Zerg games particularly entertaining. I had no idea Scarlett existed.

I'm not going to lie. It's not just that Scarlett is a really fun player, who holds on for dear life bringing actual tension to the question of how's this gonna resolve? It's also that she's so completely won over the audience, that she can be spoken of as the obvious "fan favorite" as if it isn't a big deal, which it of course isn't. Seeing all these kids cheering their hearts out for a trans girl -- well ya know, things got better. Wouldn't have happened twenty years ago, totally happened now.

posted by effugas at 7:16 PM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I forgot to mention that she was playing yesterday, and I suck at understanding random tournament structure so I am not positive if she's going to be playing today as well. But the Red Bull Battlegrounds qualifier continues today in two hours and twenty minutes. After this, her next tournament is Destiny I (so named because it is run by SC2 caster/personality Destiny), August 5th-8th.
posted by Corinth at 8:42 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

hey @Corinth - I just realised that i forgot to thank you for your work.
so - thanks.
posted by silence at 4:44 AM on July 29, 2014

I forgot to update the thread again (mainly because I forgot this event was happening), but Acer won the Acer TeamStory Cup 3 at Take's place in Germany (where HSC is held). Scarlett was a key part - Acer was behind to Liquid when she was called in, and left them in position to win when she was eliminated.
posted by Corinth at 11:51 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Scarlett withdrew from Destiny I due to wrist issues. If she's feeling up to it, her next tournament appearance will be WCS America's round of 32 on August 11th.
posted by Corinth at 10:16 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Scarlett and her team just won a $10k showmatch against yoe Flash Wolves in Taiwan.
posted by Corinth at 10:43 AM on August 16, 2014

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