The Devil Plays Protoss: SC2 Coaching

BY Andrew Miesner / June 20, 2011

The Devil Plays Protoss: SC2 Coaching

by Jacqueline Geller

Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.

Coaches are an integral part of sports culture.

Coaches are an integral part of sports culture. It is possible to enjoy, appreciate and participate in sports without coaching, but anyone looking to improve their game turns to a coach. A young boy can kick a ball around a yard, improving his soccer skills on his own, but he will not perfect or refine his skills without the guidance of a soccer coach. In order to perfect their skills in Starcraft2, gamers are turning to coaches, and the eSport is developing like a sport with both coaches and those wanting to be coached. SC2 coaching is becoming widespread among the community and is becoming a profitable business.

It seems silly to have video game coaches at first look. If I introduced the idea of video game coaches to my father, he’d think it was absolutely absurd. To an extent, though, all gamers have had gaming coaching at some point whether it’s their older brothers showing them how to play console games as a child or their friends giving them tips on how to beat the last campaign of the latest PC game. In our quest to become a better SC2 player, we are constantly turning to our support networks to coach us whether it’s by asking our friends for help or posting questions on Team Liquid. But as gamers become more serious about Starcraft as an eSport and move away from casually playing, gamers are proving that they are more than willing to pay for coaches to help improve their game.

Businesses and players alike are recognizing the profit value in coaching. Professional players can use their name and reputation to make money through coaching, and business are getting involved to connect coaches with students. Gosu Coaching is a site dedicated to connecting students with gaming coaches. The roster of coaches boasted by Gosu Coaching is impressive with legends like Greg “EGIdrA” Fields and Shawn “FXOSheth” Simon, and rates are just as impressive ranging up to $300/hour. Six Pool Gaming is an upcoming site with similar aims to connect professional players’ tips and training tools to eager gaming students, most likely for cost, although the site details are vague. Less expensive coaching can be found in abundance on team sites and Team Liquid for any players looking for more affordable coaching rates. A quick search for “coach” on TL provides a number of results for those looking for coaching and those offering both paid and free coaching.

Not everyone can be a great coach, though, and it is crucial that any gamers wanting a SC2 coach understand that. A professional player who wins MLG is an incredible player but may lack the skills to effectively coach students. Not everyone has the ability to effectively communicate and teach in a way to help a student learn, develop and grow as a gamer. Sports communities have associations, training and guidelines for coaches, and the SC2 community may consider adopting a similar system. At the moment, any player can call themselves a coach and charge students money for their services. It is up to the student to be a smart consumer when considering purchasing coaching services, but it would help to develop eSports professionally to have more strict guidelines and governing bodies. Coaching businesses like Gosu Coaching is one way to ensure you will be getting quality lessons as smart businesses would not endorse a poor coach.

Not everyone can be a great coach, though, and it is crucial that any gamers wanting a SC2 coach understand that

Coach preparation and personalized coaching is crucial for a successful coaching session. Shaun “Apollo” Clark from Team Dignitas has a coaching method that I consider impeccable. I’ve never taken coaching for him, but I love what I’ve heard about how he approaches lessons.

Although Shaun is known more for his casting than his playing in SC2, from what I’ ve seen, he is serious about being a coach and does not approach it as an easy way to make money from gaming. He prepares for each student individually by watching replays, going over basic statistics and listening to what the student wants to achieve. This is the kind of coach that students should learn from: someone who is truly invested in his students’ learning and growth. When looking for a coach, ensure you find someone who is invested in helping you learn, develop and grow as a student and not just someone who is looking for an easy way to make money off of their own SC2 abilities. You may gain more from lessons with a lesser known player who is an effective coach than you would with a big name player whose coaching skills are lackluster.

Whether or not paying for coaching is worth it or not is up for debate, and I’ve heard both sides of the argument. Some say it’s absolutely absurd to pay to learn how to play a video game while others have sworn that paying for coaching has improved their game drastically. I strongly encourage my friends who’ d like to learn how to snowboard to pay for professional lessons, but it is strictly because of safety. If someone learns bad habits or improper techniques on the ski hill, the results could be disastrous. If someone learns bad habits or improper techniques on, the results are just a few lost ladder points. I would never tell a friend interested in playing SC2 that they had to get lessons because there is no real harm in just hopping on the ladder to play casually.

I have never paid for SC2 coaching, and it is not something that I can budget for, but if I won the jackpot lottery, SC2 coaching from professionals would be on my list of things to purchase after a Nissan GT-R. A close friend of mine, Tomasz “SolidWolf” Lang, has paid for SC2 lessons. He took three coaching sessions from Chad “coLMinigun” Jones earlier this year and says that his coaching sessions with Chad gave him the skills he needed to get from Diamond to Masters. Stuck in a rut in his game, he wanted to have a pro player help him overcome hurdles and identify issues in his game play. Coaching helped Tomasz pinpoint what exactly he needed to improve on which was something that he had difficulty doing on his own. Tomasz hired Chad as his coach simply because he liked him as a player and enjoyed watching his stream. If Tomasz’ scheduled allowed for it, he would take more lessons from Chad, and he recommends coaching to any players wanting to improve their game. On the issue of paying to get a video game coach, Tomasz scoffed and compared paying for SC2 lessons to paying for lessons for any other sport.

Thomas “ tQArchaic” MacPherson

It is easy to get help from higher level players if you have friends who are higher level players, but if you’re a low level player without the connections to better players, it may be hard to overcome hurdles on your own. There are dozens of ways to improve on your own from reading advice on Team Liquid to watching the Day9 Daily, but sometimes a gamer needs a bit more help. I’ve personally overcome huge hurdles with coaching from my friends, and I don’t know what I would I have done without their wisdom and patience. Coaching does not have to be a formal 1 on 1session or scheduled with a pro player, though. Thomas “tQArchaic” MacPherson, a Canadian Masters League Terran player, has started a great coaching program in his area, which connects low level players with high level players, that could be run in any local SC2 community. Every two weeks, Thomas hosts a coaching session at his local LAN centre to help players improve by identifying, isolating and working on problems in pairs. While playing on the ladder does help players improve gameplay, with 6 different match-ups and eight different maps, it’s hard to focus on specific problems like stalker micro in PvP or TvZ build orders on Xel’Naga Caverns. The bi-weekly sessions connect local players and gives low level players the opportunity to focus on specific problems. Players are matched up into pairs and spend the evening trying to improve on one aspect of game play. The incentive for higher level players to attend is the opportunity to connect with local players, meet new people and have fun in a social gaming environment.

As SC2 moves forward as an eSport, coaching is becoming more mainstream practice and a viable business. Gamers eager to move up the ladder are turning to professionals to help them improve and are more than willing to pay. If you are a SC2 player looking to improve your game, coaching is a phenomenal way to do it. And if you can afford to pay for a professional player to coach you, why not? At the very least, it would be a good story to tell your friends and a great way to support the community.

About the Author – Jacqueline Geller

After years of playing World of Warcraft, a friend introduced Jacqueline to Starcraft early last year. Jacqueline’s relationship with Starcraft started out slowly: a handful of casual dates, a little bit of flirting but nothing serious. She took her relationship with the game to the next level after BlizzCon 2010 where she experienced eSports magic first-hand and realized that Starcraft was the one. Despite being a mediocre player, she has been clambering the ladder at a glacial pace and has spent more time watching Starcraft online than she’d like to admit. In March, Jacqueline made the leap from eSports fan to eSports professional when she was hired by the Handsome Nerd as their Art Director, combining her design skills with her love of Starcraft. Since its start in April, Jacqueline has been a contributing writer for the North American Star League, writing coverage for Division 1. Offline, Jacqueline is a bookworm, a runner, a freeride snowboarder and has a Human Ecology degree with a Clothing and Textiles major.

View Jacqueline’s profile here.