It's often said that Koreans have dominated Starcraft since the day it was released, mainly Brood War and eventually leading to Wings of Liberty (better known to most as SC2). Although it can be said that Korean players have been the most dominant in both games, the myth that foreigners aren't capable of becoming as skilled is simply false.
Quick thanks to fomos.kr, SC2Earnings and other respective owners of the pictures in this piece. This has been something argued since the first day of SC2's release, dating back years into the Brood War scene: foreigners suck, Koreans are better. Wrong. No one person is better than another; they simply have different practice regimens, something that has been severely lacking in the e-sports world of North America and Europe.
It's all about practice, as the cliche saying goes. There's something that people need to grasp, and its that not all professional gamers in Korea live like kings. Yes, we've seen BoxeR, NaDa, Flash and Jaedong obtain national fame for their skill in Brood War, but for the other 99.99% of players, that just isn't the case. The whole idea of achieving fame is very different in South Korea than in other places such as the United States and across the pond in Europe. The mindset for Koreans is if you don't succeed and become the best, you're a failure, therefore you must consistently try to push yourself to the limit and become the best possible player that you're capable of.
Starcraft pros on national game shows are the norm. They're treated as celebrities.
In North America for instance, we see players stream 5-6 hour sessions only to say they are "tired of streaming" as they shut off the webcam for the night and close the stream. Europe has the same vibe. In comparison, Koreans stream around 12-15 hours a day, only to shut off the stream when they're just about to wind it up after a solid 20 hour day. Again, the factor of practice comes into play. It's not because they're Korean, it's because they practice. All day. Every day. 365 days of the year. They don't quit, and that's why they always have an intimidating presence at these tournaments that's perceived by foreigners as something of a god or immortal being.
Can foreigners become as good as Koreans? Many people around the web have taken a side, but to say state they can't is ignorance. We've seen several foreigners take down Koreans in tournaments, but we all took it as "he's just more skilled than the rest," instead of taking into account what's really going on. HuK was one of the first breakthrough foreigners, going to Code S very early in his Starcraft 2 career, then later going on to dominate MLG Orlando in the latter half of 2011 with a stunning victory against MC -- the top dog at the time in a mirror match up -- in a 4:1 shutdown. The most notable as of late has been Stephano, the French badboy known to get smashed at LANs and recently having to be carried out my police after having a few too many drinks, but aside from the nonsense his practice regimen is unrivaled by foreigners.
At 47 minutes in (47:00), we can see TotalBiscuit's take on the matter.
To whip out the numbers card, Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri is the only foreigner in the Top 10 for amount of prize money earned in their careers; in most cases, this directly correlates with number of tournaments won if we take a look at Mvp at the #1 spot, followed by his brother of Aiur, MC. The Foreigner Hope, as Stephano is called, is what he's acted as for the last nearly 6 months or so, dominating the foreign scene unlike anyone else, placing above Koreans in most tournaments. Time management, practice and refining of strategies seems to have paid off. For those professional players that are too lazy to dedicate themselves this much, but still continue to complain about bad results, the solution is right in front of them.
From top the bottom, the Top 10 most winningest SC2 players.
Bringing up another point of the misconception that Koreans are the (literal) superior race in Starcraft: enviroment. Many players travel to Korea in hopes of improving skill and becoming a better gamer, almost like there's a Fountain of Skill one can take a sip from and increase their likelyhood to win a tournament -- unfortunately no such fountain exists to my knowledge. One perfect example that you don't need a Korean training enviroment to play in is viOLet; he was apart of Team MVP, but left because the enviroment was lacking and he wished to change that. We've seen him rack up a few tournament wins as well as a respectable fan base since his stay in the US, void of any Korean practice enviroment -- merely a laptop in a college dorm, and the dedication to become better at the game.
I've gone on about practice; an important aspect of all the practice hours you put into a game is not that you just play the game but how you use your time. Refining builds, learning opponent techniques and styles, memorizing timings, learning each and every map inside and out -- we see Koreans doing this constantly (aside from our favorite troll Dragon) whilst they stream. After every game, they go back and take a look at the replay before queueing up another game. We just don't see this from any of the foreigners, unless they're solely analyzing games for the viewers. Constantly reviewing past games and mistakes must become a habit and routine for us to progress.
Stephano at Assembly Winter.
It's fair to say that the lack of motivation we see in the foreign scene can be to blame for this; not the foreigners themselves. E-sports has always been a very dominant and potent scene in South Korea, and will continue to be for the forseeable future. The scene in North America is lacking due to being very console-based, whilst Europe tends to be more PC-based gaming, but moreso aimed towards FPS games, not so much the Starcraft games except for a select few that have broken through. The tournaments for both NA and EU are significantly smaller (aside from DreamHack) and we don't really have a GSL for foreigners; the production value isn't there and the atmosphere lacks at IPL and MLG's -- it's more of a hypefest than it is straight playing the game.
So how do we change this? How do foreigners overtake the Koreans? It's simple -- we kill the batman. No, not really -- what we need is a spark of life to regenerate motivation in the scene. NA and EU are dominant in FPS games and players have that passion and drive to become the best -- we've seen this in the Counter-Strike scene, whilst Koreans thought "how do the foreigners win every tournament?" -- Starcraft is just a vice-versa situation of that.
That finger will remain in place unless we get our act together.
Anyone can become a top tier player in Starcraft, but they're often intimidated by the Koreans' track record of being immortal in leagues and tournaments. We've seen HuK and Stephano step forward along with several other foreigners, ThorZaIN and NaNiwa to name just a couple, but until the scene as a whole makes that shift towards being more dedicated and less casual, I really can't see the Koreans falling any time soon, especially with the Brood War veterans coming along in the next few months for Heart of the Swarm. Let's hope there are more foreigner hopes in the Starcraft scene, otherwise the competition will be a bit bland heading into the end of 2012.