You may or may not already know (or have guessed) that I'm a big fan of eSports, particularly StarCraft. I watched a bit back in the early days of Brood War, but dropped out of paying attention until StarCraft II launched. During the last phases of the beta, I got back into following some of the names I'd known from before such as Day and Husky who had become casters. I also quickly became a big fan of HuK, Stephano, and WhiteRa. As I watched more and more tournaments, I got back in to cheering for Grubby, Machine and iNcontrol. And if you haven't noticed by now, if I was specifically supporting a StarCraft team it'd be Evil Geniuses (and I own 5 eSports-specific shirts, three of which are EG related).
All of that is a roundabout lead up to describe why I'm very excited for the return of the Blizzard sponsored World Championship Series. Last year, the event ran concurrently but basically separately from the various leagues already running professional StarCraft tournaments (examples being MLG, GSL, and NASL) and didn't really interact with those other leagues. That set up was fine and the WCS had some great players and amazing matches, but it was a little strange that the other leagues didn't really have strong interaction with it, since they've had plenty of their own crossover and have previously shared players This year's event is a clear step up from that. While there will be WCS specific qualifying tournaments leading up to the actual 2013 World Championship Series, players will also be able to earn standing and qualification points in other events. Very cool to see Blizzard respecting the other people who bring their game to the eSports community.
I think a big part of why I like StarCraft as an eSport is the same as why I like watching basketball, baseball, or hockey. I've played the games and understand a bit of the strategy, but also understand that I'm not a world class player and don't have the time or dedication to put in to become one. Still, I get enough of the action to know when someone's pulled off a big attack or survived an aggressive assault. I remember freaking out at Blizzcon two years ago when I got to see MMA vs Mvp and NesTea vs Mvp in a single weekend. The final game by Mvp against NesTea to win the Blizzard Invitational was amazing, with a use of ghosts and nukes that I'm not sure I've ever seen matched. I remember clearly staring up at the screen while in line for a last run at StarCraft II's preview with my mouth open as the roars erupted in response to Mvp's play. It was definitely up there with the baseball playoff games I've been to.
Similarly, my love of watching StarCraft has been greatly enhanced by attending a few BarCraft events here and there. While I don't drink (long story, but let it be said that I don't begrudge anyone who does), it doesn't really matter at a BarCraft. What's far more important is that typically the place is filled with people cheering the way I normally associate with playoff atmosphere for other sports. I've watched the ends of a few different MLG seasons in this way and it's been tons of fun to sit and talk about what's going on in the matches, joke about which casters are best (I have an strong affiliation for the Day-Husky pairing, but think they often can overshadow games with their awesome), and cheer on the various players. I'm excited to get out to a couple BarCrafts this year to see WCS qualifications happen and hopefully I'll be at Blizzcon to see the finals!