The release of Starcraft 2 last year has caused something of a boom in competitive video gaming, referred to in the community as “ESPORTS.” More and more, professional gamers around the world are becoming stars, and along the way the fact (or impression) that they’re “nerds” is celebrated; to be a nerd is to be smart and talented and even handsome. Made prominent is the idea that nerds can be attractive to the opposite sex, that these (mostly male) keyboard athletes have an appeal attached to their passion and drive for victory. This is not a new concept, as is evident in the gigantic Korean Brood War scene and the fact that based on the screams of the audience you might assume that it’s John Lennon playing from that soundproof booth. However, a major difference is that while Brood War shows its players as owners of large female fanbases, competitive Starcraft 2 is showcasing couples far more prominently, both inside and outside of Korea.
Whereas Brood War pros will avoid answering the question of significant others (or will mention girls they once dated), Starcraft 2 pros seem much more willing to admit that they are seeing someone. Moreover, Starcraft 2‘s has what can be described as “power couples,” well-publicized relationships where both individuals are a part of the scene. Evil Geniuses captain Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson and Miss Oregon 2011 Anna Prosser, Startale captain Kim “RainBOw” Sung Je and his fellow teammate Kim “aphrodite” Ga Young, player/caster Trevor “TorcH” Housten and WCG Ultimate Gamer Rachel “SeltzerPlease” Quirico, Terran Emperor Lim “SlayerSBoxeR” Yo Hwan and actress Kim “Jessica” Ga Yeon, all are major examples of the public relationships that populate the Starcraft 2 community.
Part of this may simply have to do with the higher average age of Starcraft 2 pros vs. their Brood War counterparts. Where 20 might be considered an aged veteran in Brood War, some of the most talented and well-known Starcraft 2 players are approaching or even past their 30s, and with that comes possibly a sense of maturity and stability. It is also well-known that dating is frowned upon for Brood War pros for fear that it might distract them too much from the game, and no such taboo exists for Starcraft 2. While there are prominent married figures in Brood War such as Choi “iloveoov” Yun Sung, BoxeR’s former teammate and one of the most dominant players of all time, and Kim “January” Ga Eul, manager of the team Samsung KHAN, neither of them were active players when their significant others were made public. The “sex appeal” of the young Brood War player seems to be more along the lines of a K-Pop star whose relationship status is intentionally ambiguous to draw in more fans.
The reason that I am pointing all of this out is not to foster gossip about who’s dating who or to draw attention away from the games themselves, but to posit the idea that perhaps that seeing these relationships can potentially promote a different kind of lifestyle image for the nerds of the world. Rather than being a hit with the ladies, the professional nerd can be a hit with the woman of his life. You, yes you, can find a woman who will not only condone your geek lifestyle but will understand and actively support it. More than just an aspiration, the power couples of Starcraft 2 provide concrete examples that this is an attainable goal. What is also clear, especially from the examples given above, is that these couples are not together solely because of an individual’s skill when it comes to their game of choice, but because of their character. In this way, progamers may act as role models in more ways than one.