There’s been a lot of talk recently about UC Berkeley’s class on Starcraft. Seems many people are blown away that a school as well-known as Cal would be giving units for playing a ten-year-old computer game. I mean, seems pretty insane. What has American academia come to? Teaching people how to play Starcraft??
Hit the jump for my learning experience.
Now, let’s be clear: the Starcraft course is not quite what it seems. Yeah, this is a course on Starcraft, but no, it’s not a "real" class in the traditional sense. The course is what Berkeley calls a "DeCal," which is their hippie method of "democratic education." Hell, you can only take the class pass/no pass, and the units don't even apply to your general GPA.
Basically, Starcraft DeCal 2009 (as it is officially called) is a two unit course taught by two of my fellow undergrads, Alan Feng and Sherwin Mahbod. While this might sound disappointing to some, the reality is that Starcraft is taught by two really dedicated guys who want to bring an academic flair to teaching people how to play this game. An attitude like that is pretty refreshing, even if all I'm learning is the latest method of the Zerg Rush.
Anyway, settling down in the back of the class, I knew things would be interesting. Although I have never played Starcraft and didn’t quite know what exactly was going on, seeing forty or so other people in a classroom genuinely excited for what they were learning was fantastic. When Alan and Sherwin would ask questions about units size or resource costs, people would be quick to offer a response. Armor stats were discussed, animation frames were valid question topics, the comparison between "low game" and "high game" play-styles were made, and even comparisons to Super Smash Bros. Melee was OK for our education.
While watching YouTube clips of "high game" level Koreans doing insane stuff with their units, you could tell every single person in the room was glued to the screen. And when something cool would happen? The whole class would erupt into loud cheers.
I’ve never seen that in my Modern American Literature class.
Others who showed up were students from other schools who had heard about this course from videogame and fan Web sites. I know of one guys who drove two hours from San Jose just to sit in on a Starcraft course, even though he already knew most of the stuff. His buddy, a recent Berkeley graduate himself, was willing to come back to Berkeley to see this class.
So while I don’t see myself actually signing up for the course (I mean, my courses on Firefly and High-Elvish have conflicting schedules), I am blown away by what Alan and Sherwin have done. While games have a long ways to go before they are being taught like a film studies course, this DeCal is a great step in the right direction.
So when can I take a class on Musicianship and Rock Band, huh?