By Sam Holmes, OCTOBER 21, 2011, 5:53 PM SGT
Viki, the Singapore-based web startup, makes foreign language television content accessible to historically untapped audiences.

Singapore has long struggled to incubate a home-grown Silicon Valley-style startup scene. But at least one new Internet outfit in the city-state has succeeded in attracting a lot of eyeballs – and some venture capital, too.

Called Viki, the Singapore-based web startup pools the linguistic talents of thousands of its users to help push world television content into markets historically impenetrable to all but a handful of foreign-language productions. It screens premium licensed content in much the same way Hulu does in U.S. markets, but from a much wider range of providers than its larger U.S. counterpart, many of them from Asia.

The service relies on an active community of translators proficient in 158 languages to caption the footage, and in doing so helps remove language barriers that have typically stopped all but a tiny sliver of non-English speaking and non-U.S. television content from crossing into foreign markets.

“For the first time people in Egypt are watching Korean drama in Arabic and that’s a growth market for us surprisingly,” Viki chief executive and co-founder Razmig Hovaghimian says.

The translation community creates and edits the subtitles in much the same way Wikipedia’s user base collaboratively creates and polices its content. Mr. Hovaghimian says the volume of user activity is now such that the turnaround time for subtitling some clips can be a matter of hours.

For instance, the Taiwanese TV drama “Drunken To Love You,” also known simply as “Love You,” is one of the most popular television shows on Viki and has been translated into 26 languages.

With about 5,000 hours of video content and a membership base of close to 600,000 people — of whom about 10%-to-20% are active translators- the site is becoming a go-to point for the growing fan bases of Asian language television now emerging outside the traditional domestic markets of these media.

While Japanese animation has long commanded the passionate affection of fans outside of Japan, the vast improvement in production values in Korea’s entertainment industry in recent years means it is now also establishing much wider loyalties, even beyond Korean diaspora communities.

And Viki’s own internal data show some interesting trends that would challenge many marketing paradigms: Venezuelan novellas have a strong following in the Philippines while 70% of viewers watching Korean drama in the U.S. are not Asian — in fact, 20% are African American and 30% are watching in Spanish subtitles, Mr. Hovaghimian notes. Meanwhile, Arabic ranks as one of the top-five languages that content is translated into despite there being only a relatively small amount of Middle Eastern content on the website. Indonesian horror movies have also found surprising success in the U.S., according to Viki’s viewing stats, which also show the number of unique monthly viewers at around 10 million, up from three million late last year. The site picks up some fees and revenue shared from distributors such as Hulu and Netflix, which run some of Viki content. It also has some ad revenue share agreements with content providers.

Mr. Hovaghiminian, who previously worked at NBC Universal in both the U.S. and Singapore, describes the process of taking the prime-time content from each television market to foreign markets beyond the traditional distribution channels as “content arbitrage.”

“There’s a billion people watching premium content online and 85% of what they’re watching is not from Hollywood – we’re going after that 85%,” he says. The company currently has content agreements with TV networks and content providers such as Hong Kong’s TVB, South Korea’s SBS, Japan’s Fuji TV and Russia’s Amedia.

Viki exited its beta phase late last year and has just completed its second round of venture capital financing, securing US$20 million from its existing investor base and new investors BBC Worldwide — the British broadcaster’s commercial arm — and SK Telecom’s mobile spinoff SK Planet.

The group has also struck a suite of agreements with English-speaking content providers such as BBC Worldwide, NBC Universal and A+E Networks, who are keen to see their programs reach wider markets through Viki’s translation community.



beauty class.jpg

So there’ll be less of this, then? Sigh.

By Horace Lu 

A new “Entertainment Restriction” (限娱令) has been issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) to impose further restrictions on entertainment shows of provincial TV stations. Dating and other 6 kinds of programs will be restricted, and only 2 entertainment shows will be allowed to air during prime time (7:30pm to 10pm) on one provincial satellite channel weekly.

SARFT also says no more than 10 TV talent shows can be approved annually on provincial satellite TVs, and they shall not repeat in categories.

Due to Taiwan’s boycott against Mainland artists and its impact on Mainland market, there will now also be restrictions on the appearance of Taiwanese artists, according to Netease. (Update: The Taiwan Affairs Office has since denied that this is true.)

34 provincial satellite TV stations will be affected, while China Central Television, the national state TV will not, and all regulations will take effect after Jan. 1, 2012

Over infotainment?

While SARFT regularly imposes restrictions on shows that are “about criminality” and document “social evils and conflicts”, it encourages “harmonious, healthy and main melody” shows, such as art appreciation, history, geography, astrology and charity, Southern Metropolitan Daily reports.

SARFT also requires all provincial satellite TV to have at least one “moral program”.

The restrictions come on the heels of a recent People’s Daily condemnation on “excessive entertainment” on China’s TV , saying “boycotting excessive infotainment is TV media’s duty”.

The official mouthpiece names and shames several popular TV shows and urges restrictions on the air of dating shows, talent shows, emotion shows, games, varieties, talk shows and reality shows during prime time.

No surprise

The restrictions on entertainment shows on provincial satellite TV comes as no surprise, and follows a spate of restrictions that have been occurring this year.

In September, Hunan TV’s “Super Girl”, a Chinese version of American Idol featuring girls, was pulled permanently off the air, despite its popularity among Chinese youngsters.

This past July, there was a rumor going around that SARFT would announce that China’s national satellite TV stations’ entertainment programs would only be allowed to air three times a week, and only at non-primetime hours (5pm to 10pm). SARFT later denied the rumor.

And in 2010, the dating show “If You Are the One”(非诚勿扰) was forced to rectify itself amid criticism from state media, while several similar programs were pulled off the air.

But in all honesty, this won’t affect most young people’s access to entertainment, who’re the main demographic being targeted by the controversial shows in the first place. Hardly any college student or teenaged migrant worker owns a television, which is seen increasingly as mere furniture amongst Chinese people under 30, rather than the place to watch their favorite shows. We’ll give you one guess as to where all those eyeballs went.




Chad Batka for The New York Times

SM Town Live Super Junior joined a cavalcade of South Korean groups at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Published: October 24, 2011

Think of the work required to make just one Justin Bieber. The production, the management, the vocal training, the choreography, the swagger coaching — all that effort to create one teen-pop star in a country that’s still starving for them. South Korea has no such drought, thanks to several companies that specialize in manufacturing a steady stream of teenage idols, in groups of various configurations. One of the longest-running of these companies is SM Entertainment, which on Sunday night hosted SM Town Live, a sold-out showcase at Madison Square Garden for several of its acts, any one of which any American reality-TV talent show or major-label A&R department worth its salt would be thrilled to have discovered.

Chad Batka for The New York Times

Members of the South Korean boy group SHINee, with the aid of multicolored leather and copious amounts of hair products, added their sex appeal to the mix.

American teen-pop at its peak has never been this productive. K-pop — short for Korean pop — is an environment of relentless newness, both in participants and in style; even its veteran acts are still relatively young, and they make young music. Still, there were subtle differences among the veterans, like BoA and TVXQ, and the newer-minted acts like Super Junior, Girls’ Generation and SHINee.

Members of the younger set are less concerned with boundaries, drawing from the spectrum of pop of the last decade in their music: post-Timbaland hip-hop rumbles, trance-influenced thump, dance music driven by arena-rock guitars, straightforward balladry.

Of these groups, the relative newcomer SHINee was the most ambitious. From the looks of it, the group’s men are powered by brightly colored leather, Dr. Martens boots and hair mousse. Their music, especially “Replay,” “Ring Ding Dong” and “Juliette,” felt the riskiest, even if it only slightly tweaked that polyglot K-pop formula; these vocalists were among the night’s strongest.

But SHINee came in a recognizable format, the same size as American groups like ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. But what K-pop has excelled at in recent years are large groups that seem to defy logic and order. Super Junior, which at its maximum has 13 members, was one of this show’s highlights, appearing several times throughout the night in different color outfits, shining on “Mr. Simple” and the intense industrial dance-pop of “Bonamana.” (K.R.Y., a sub-group of Super Junior, delivered what may have been the night’s best performance on “Sorry Sorry Answer,” a muscular R&B ballad.)

Super Junior was complemented by the nine-woman Girls’ Generation, which offered a more polite take on K-pop, including on “The Boys,” which is its debut American single. Girls’ Generation gave perhaps the best representation of K-pop’s coy, shiny values in keeping with a chaste night that satisfied demand, but not desire. (It was an inversion on the traditional American formula; in this country young female singers are often more sexualized than their male counterparts.)

Male and female performers shared the stage here only a couple of times, rarely getting even in the ballpark of innuendo. In one set piece two lovers serenaded each other from across the stage, with microphones they found in a mailbox (he) and a purse (she). In between acts the screens showed virginal commercials about friendship and commitment to performance; during the sets they displayed fantastically colored graphics, sometimes childlike, sometimes Warholian, but never less than cheerful.

In the past few years K-pop has shown a creeping global influence. Many acts release albums in Korean and Japanese, a nod to the increasing fungibility of Asian pop. And inroads, however slight, are being made into the American marketplace. The acts here sang and lip synced in both Korean and English. Girls’ Generation recently signed with Interscope to release music in the United States. And in August Billboard inaugurated a K-Pop Hot 100 chart. But none of the acts on the SM Town Live bill are in the Top 20 of the current edition of the fast-moving chart. This is a scene that breeds quickly.

Which means that some ideas that cycle in may soon cycle out. That would be advisable for some of the songs augmented with deeply goofy rapping: showing the English translation of the lyrics on screen didn’t help. The best rapping of the night came fromAmber, the tomboy of the least polished group on the bill, f(x), who received frenzied screams each time she stepped out in front of her girly bandmates.

If there was a direct American influence to be gleaned here, it was, oddly enough, Kesha who best approximates the exuberant and sometimes careless genrelessness of K-pop in her own music; her songs “Tik Tok” and “My First Kiss” (with 3OH!3) were covered during this show.

But while she is simpatico with the newer K-pop modes, she had little to do with the more mature styles. Those were represented by the Josh Groban-esque crooning of Kangta, lead singer of the foundational, long-disbanded Korean boy band H.O.T., who made a brief appearance early in the night, and the duo TVXQ, a slimmed-down version of the long-running group by that name, who at one point delved into an R&B slow jam reminiscent of Jodeci or early Usher. BoA, the night’s only featured solo artist, has been making albums for a decade, and her “Copy & Paste” sounded like a vintage 1993 Janet Jackson song.

She’ll also star in “Cobu,” a 3-D dance film to be released next year, previews of which induced shrieks before the concert began. The crowd also screamed at an ad for Super Junior Shake, an iPhone game app, and for the SM Entertainment global auditions, which will take place early next year in several countries, and will keep the machine oiled for years to come.


Coffin Joe Lives On: Larry Rohter discusses the horror films of José Mojica Marins, otherwise known as Coffin Joe.
Published: October 19, 2011

SÃO PAULO, Brazil —  SEATED on a sofa in the living room of his modest apartment here, dressed in shorts and flip-flops, José Mojica Marins seems inoffensive. He is mild mannered and soft-spoken, and nothing suggests he has made a career of writing, acting in and directing provocative horror movies with titles like “Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind.”

Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

The Brazilian filmmaker José Mojica Marins.

A still from “This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse.”

A scene from “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.”

But Mr. Mojica’s cinema alter ego, Coffin Joe, a crazed and sadistic undertaker who always appears in a uniform of black, complete with top hat, cape and gruesome fingernails, is a different story altogether. His extreme behavior and demented look, starting with a pair of low-budget black-and-white 1960s films, “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” and “This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse” — enhanced versions of which are to be released next year on DVD with new subtitles and improved prints and supplemental material — have made him a cult figure for fans and creators of the horror genre all over the world.

Some admirers see Mr. Mojica, who has directed, written or acted in more than 50 movies, as a kind of South American Roger Corman, a B-movie auteur whose films contain references to Nietzsche and Dante. Others view his work as pure camp — more in the tradition of Ed Wood and “Plan 9 From Outer Space” than Luis Buñuel or John Waters — or simply trash.

“I’m an original, unlike anybody else, but it’s been a hard road,” said Mr. Mojica (pronounced moe-ZHEE-kah). “I know that because of Coffin Joe I’m considered to be crazy, a blasphemer, and that some critics spit on me, but I’ve maintained my independence. I’m not connected or beholden to anyone.”

Mr. Mojica was born here, in South America’s largest city, on a Friday the 13th in 1936, into a pair of Spanish immigrant families. His parents were circus performers who, tiring of life on the road, became managers of a movie theater, where Mr. Mojica intently observed every film that was shown, sneaking into the projection room to watch those his parents did not want him to see.

“You know the kid in that Italian movie ‘Cinema Paradiso’? ” he asked, speaking in Portuguese. “Well, when I saw that movie, I said ‘Jeez, that kid is just like me.’ That was my life. There wasn’t a movie I wouldn’t watch.”

An only child, he was given his first camera when he was 8 and never thought of anything but a life in cinema. His big break came when he acquired an abandoned synagogue here and turned it into a studio and academy, where he trained actors and technicians.

Both “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” and “This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse” were partly shot there, with scenes that featured eyes being gouged out and snakes and other creepy critters crawling over actresses’ faces; later films would even show cannibalism. But Brazil was under a right-wing military dictatorship, so Mr. Mojica’s eccentric look and activities aroused suspicions: in the name of authenticity rats, spiders and scorpions were allowed to roam the studio, and episodes in which actors or crew members died during production (though the deaths were unrelated to filming) added to his reputation for the macabre.

“The police thought it was all a facade behind which terrorists could be hidden, and it was hard to get that idea out of their heads,” Mr. Mojica recalled. But his biggest problems were with government censors, who were shocked and disgusted by his mixture of gore, sex and blasphemy, perhaps most notably a scene in “I’ll Take Your Soul” that has Coffin Joe eating a plate of lamb as he mocks a passing Good Friday procession.

“This film is of terrible bad taste, using and abusing beatings, torture, sex and extreme violence” one censor complained in a report that the writer and director André Barcinski obtained for his biography of Mr. Mojica, “Damned: The Life and Films of José Mojica Marins, Coffin Joe.” As a result several of the films had to be “mutilated,” as Mr. Mojica put it, in order to be released; one was prohibited, and an injunction prevented him from even beginning to shoot another.

Broke and with producers unwilling to finance projects that ran the risk of also being banned, Mr. Mojica was forced to put aside his own scripts and become a director for hire. He initially did low-budget westerns, science fiction and adventures, but as the 1970s wore on, he drifted into soft-core pornography, shooting movies like “The Virgin and the Macho Man” under the pseudonym J. Avelar. When even those opportunities dried up, he worked as a master of ceremonies at parties and dances.

“People confuse him with his character a lot, and it’s his fault,” said Mr. Barcinski, who is also the co-director of the documentary “Damned: The Strange World of José Mojica Marins.” “He used it as a means of making a living for 20 or 30 years, and it makes him a magnet for all kinds of strange people any time he is in a public setting.”

Over the years Mr. Mojica also dabbled in comic books and television, as the host of shows with names like “Beyond, Far Beyond the Beyond.” At the moment he is the host of a weekly horror-oriented talk show called “The Strange World of Coffin Joe” on a Brazilian cable channel, but he admits to being hopelessly incompetent with his own business affairs, so he has never made much money from any of his endeavors.

Mr. Mojica seemed destined to remain in obscurity, but technology and globalization eventually came to his rescue. As the Coffin Joe films became available, first on VHS and then on DVD and YouTube, inquisitive horror fans outside Brazil discovered them and, beginning around 1990, started inviting him to film festivals in North America and Europe, where he would appear in character and invariably make a strong impression.

“There was no real analog to him in American horror films,” explained Michael Gingold, the managing editor of Fangoria, the leading magazine covering the genre. “He grabbed a lot of attention, because these films were more extreme than many of those being made in America at the same time, and Coffin Joe was a singular figure, a precursor to characters like Freddy Krueger and Jason, in that he was a human being who chooses to do evil, and not a monster like Frankenstein or Dracula, for whom you could feel sorry. So there was a sense of great surprise that a rich collection of films had not yet been discovered.”

Mr. Mojica said the distinctive look of the Coffin Joe character first came to him in “an awful, violent, heavy nightmare” in the early 1960s. At that point he had filmed a couple of dramas and cowboy movies, with titles like “My Destiny in Your Hands” and “The Adventurer’s Fate,” but the dream made him realize that Brazil had no tradition of horror films, and that he could easily transplant the genre from the castles and forests of Europe to the plazas and streets familiar to the audience he wanted to attract.

“I was being taken to the cemetery to be buried, but I was still alive,” Mr. Mojica recalled of the nightmare. “I remember that I was wearing all black, so I started filming that way.”

The character’s other trademark is his impossibly long fingernails. Mr. Mojica said that from 1964 to 1999 he never once cut his nails, so that “at their peak they were nearly a yard long, with curves that made them look like strands of spaghetti.” Since then he has stored the fingernails at home, gluing them back on when he slips into character.

Coffin Joe has always held a strong appeal for musicians, especially among punk and heavy-metal bands. The Ramones were such dedicated fans that on a tour of Brazil the guitarist Johnny Ramone gave Mr. Mojica a prized leather jacket, autographed by all four members, as a token of the group’s esteem. Members of the Cramps have also sought out Mr. Mojica when their tour schedule brought them here, and the drummer of the British band the Horrors has even adopted Coffin Joe as his stage name.

In the heavy-metal world Mr. Mojica’s best-known disciple is probably the singer and film director Rob Zombie, who used dialogue from “Awakening of the Beast” on the White Zombie song “I, Zombie” and has inserted oblique tributes to the Coffin Joe films into his own movies. Groups like Sepultura, Necrophagia and Faith No More have also written songs that refer, directly or indirectly, to the Coffin Joe movies.

“All horror characters go against prevailing mores, but part of Coffin Joe’s appeal is that he actively sets out to attack and dismember mainstream societal and religious values,” Mr. Gingold said. “So it’s hardly a surprise that punk and metal, which often do the same thing, should embrace him.”

In 2008 Mr. Mojica was finally able to make “Embodiment of Evil,” which he had conceived more than 40 years earlier as the last part of a Coffin Joe trilogy. With a budget of $2 million — the earlier parts of the trilogy had cost less than $20,000 each to make — the film, which recently became available in a DVD and Blu-ray combination edition, proved to be as gory and deliberately offensive as anything he had ever done.

“He was very much into the idea of coming in with a very brutal and harrowing piece,” said Dennison Ramalho, who wrote the script with Mr. Mojica. “He was very angry and resentful, bustling with fury, at having to wait all these years for it to come to life, so he wanted to out-evil the previous ones. He is still breaking boundaries.”



Sticky Fingers, Male and Female

Published: October 22, 2011

Rachel Shteir is the author of “The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting.”

Lisa Hanawalt



WHEN I began my research on the cultural history of shoplifting, I set out looking for women. After all, ever since the first wave of shoplifters was recorded in late 17th-century London, the guilty were presumed to be female. The idea seemed to be that petty crimes like stealing from stores and pickpocketing were the provenance of the “lesser” gender, while men indulged in more violent crimes like highway robbery and manslaughter. Even today, many of the shoplifting cases we read about involve female celebrities — Winona Ryder, Lindsay Lohan.

But instead, I kept finding men.

They ranged from a Wall Streeter who regularly swiped Vanity Fair and Sports Illustrated from the newsstand to a 20-something in Portland, Ore., whose shoplifting reminded me of Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book,” in which theft is a political statement — he nabbed books from Barnes & Noble (“a conglomerate,” he sniffed), but not organic groceries from the food co-op. The sales executive who stole silk neckties from Saks was both particular and generous. “I never took ties that were worth less than $90,” he said, adding that he used to give some of his gorgeous heist away.

In other words, I learned that shoplifters aren’t all bored, lonely women or people who steal because they’re broke. In fact, a large study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 found that men shoplifted more than women.

But the old stereotypes are powerful, thanks in part to the 19th century, when kleptomania was first classified as a mental illness. It was believed to be connected to repressed female sexuality and psychic injuries women suffered as children. Freudians read erotic signals in stolen gloves, purses and handkerchiefs.

Now that psychopharmacology has replaced psychoanalysis as the therapy du jour, researchers have tried to locate the origin of the urge to steal in order to chemically quiet it. Kleptomania is grouped with other compulsive disorders like gambling, drinking and sex addiction. So far, only Naltrexone, best known for helping alcoholics stop drinking, has been found to be significantly helpful in reducing the urge to shoplift.

But despite high-tech treatments and many studies on shoplifting — including one released this month by the Retail Industry Leaders Association, showing a recent big jump in shoplifting — most researchers have failed to explore the question of who is doing the lifting, and why.

It’s a difficult question to answer, but in my research, a clear, if symbolic, pattern emerged: the items people stole provided enormous, almost embarrassing insights into their deepest wounds and desires.

A high-flying I.T. consultant with a tumultuous family story told me she had spent decades shoplifting household items — lavender, hand towels, sage. A divorced former flight attendant working hard to start over stole a heavy doorstop shaped like a monkey, as if she hoped the hot item would anchor her in place. A young director who lived in Hollywood shoplifted a DVD player. Even the more mundane stories were revealing. One housewife, who had shoplifted for over three decades, told me she took “almost anything,” including Advil and steak — which happen to be two of the most commonly stolen items.

For some, stealing was a way to inhabit a more generous persona. Many shoplifters gave their heist to a beloved. A writer bragged that when he was a grad student, he’d filched 400-thread-count Egyptian sheets to please a lover. A nurse gave her son, a policeman, a shower curtain she’d lifted from Macy’s.

And I learned that although men’s fingers were stickier than women’s, there was a difference in what they took and where they took it from.

2005 study, conducted by Joshua Bamfield at the Center for Retail Research in Nottingham, England, may be the only one to show that men and women steal different things. While women took clothes, groceries and perfume, men grabbed TVs, household appliances and power tools. According to Mr. Bamfield, men tended to hide their power tools in backpacks, while women were more likely to smuggle the perfume out in strollers. Men also saw shoplifting as a transitional crime, a pit stop to more profitable criminal pursuits, whereas women sometimes shoplifted for years — though many stopped after marriage.

Not surprisingly, the men and women I spoke to also talked differently about shoplifting. The men sounded as if they saw themselves as heroes in video games; one described the excitement of racing through the aisles of Target, outwitting the sales staff, security people and cameras. On the other hand, the women I spoke to sounded more like Emma Bovary, if she had fallen, not for Rodolphe, but for purloined salt and pepper shakers.

Still, we’re a long way from identifying what prompts men or women to shoplift. The source of this apparently primal urge remains elusive. I believe that it may be more poetic than scientific, that behind a seemingly simple, petty crime, lurks a mysterious world of hidden desires and obscure longings.

MLG Orlando champion Chris “HuK” Loranger (photo: Nokarot)

I’ve never been one to really watch or follow sports. Outside of my own college’s football program, and every so often when a Detroit team would be in the finals of some major tournament, I could never really be bothered to care.

It just seemed like such a time commitment, watching all the games (most of which are three hours plus) and learning all the intricacies of the league and the players in order to keep up in conversation. My current job was born out of my interests, movies, TV shows and video games. Those were the pastimes I’ve devoted my free time to growing up.

I never really thought that these two things would combine in any sort of meaningful way. “eSports” is sort of a laughable term when you first hear it, as could it ever possibly be entertaining to watch someone else play a video game?

Over the last year, I’ve learned the answer to that: Yes.

I’m not sure how I first discovered Starcraft as an eSport. I think it was a random YouTube link of a professional Starcraft BroodWar match between Korean pros. It wasn’t even in English, but the excitement of the announcers and the frenzied roar of the crowd seemed to rival any “real” sporting event I’d seen broadcasted, and I was intrigued. The next few hours were spent sorting through pages and pages of similar videos, and I got to see pros play at the top level of a game that I was an avid fan of myself with throngs of screaming girls cheering them on.

The arrival of Starcraft II blew this scene wide open in North America. I discovered English language commentators like HDStarcraft and Husky who would enthusiastically cast games between players I hadn’t heard of, but were clearly playing at a high level  of skill. Over time, I began to recognize the names, and even their playstyles. Idra, the foul-mouthed, macro Zerg, TLO the fun-loving, creative Terran, White-Ra, the special tactics Protoss. These names stuck with me and my knowledge of the sport expanded exponentially as I watched pro games in conjunction with playing myself.

But I wasn’t alone in this. Even though Starcraft is traditionally a Korean eSport, many Americans and Europeans began to watch these sorts of commentaries and become invested in the scene themselves. This enthusiasm was harnessed by people who recognized the growing popularity of Starcraftas an eSport outside of Korea, and so tournaments and leagues started sprouting up worldwide.

Dreamhack, IEM, IPL, NASL, MLG, all recruited top tier players from all over the world to compete against each other. They started small, but continued to grow until some became massive. MLG is perhaps the most prominent example of how the eSports scene has exploded in America over the past year, as it’s grown from a limited number of attendees and players to a huge event with main stages, teams of commentators, legions of top tier gamers  and hundreds of thousands of viewers watching streams online.

As a fan who holds this job, I’ve gotten the chance to talk to a lot of people involved with the Starcraft II scene. I’ve spoken with Sundance DiGiovanni, the co- founder of MLG who told me what it takes to put on an event like that, and how much he’s seen eSports grow recently. I talked with pro player Destiny, who told me what it’s like to live as a full-time gamer, and make a living by entertaining fans and winning games. Most recently I got to speak with commentator Day[9] ,the de facto face and voice of professional Starcraft II and a community icon who had this to say about what it means to be a “nerd” in today’s day and age, something that really stuck with me:

“Nerd” was a label given to people with intelligence and technological prowess, and it was only a matter of time until those people grew up. They’re now adults with disposable income and a great deal of influence in society and culture.”

And it’s true, the Starcraft community now has as much pride as any die hard sports fanbase out there, and I count myself among them. As someone who never cared for professional sports, I now  know what it’s like to cheer for my favorite player, and feel true tension and excitement during a particularly close game, and satisfaction when my pick comes out victorious.

This weekend, MLG came to Orlando, and for fans the event was jaw dropping. Korean players started being invited to American MLG events a few months ago, and ever since they started coming, they’ve taken the top six spots every single time. In Orlando however, two players changed that narrative. Idra, a Zerg player known as the “bad boy”  of eSports due to his propensity to trash talk, surged through the bracket, knocking off Koreans left and right and nail-biting games that had everyone on the edge of their seats. His teammate, HuK, a Canadian Protoss player living in Korea, dominated to an even greater extent, blazing through the winner’s bracket and ultimately defeating a longtime friend and rival, MC, to win the tournament.

The fact that he and Idra made it that far, and furthermore that Huk won the event over an array of world class Koreans while using a race that most would consider to be underpowered made the event possibly the greatest of all time for the fans. If mere words don’t express how much it meant to some, here’s the view from Montreal where a group of fans got together to watch the tournament at a bar. Events like this were happening all over the world for MLG.

Do you see a difference between that reaction and that of baseball fans when their team has just won the World Series? I don’t, and that’s why I feel like I’ve finally found a sport just for me.

“Nerd chills” is a term coined by Starcraft casters Artosis and Tasteless, who use it to describe a particularly amazing moment that happens during a game, or an unbelievable turn of events that literally sends chills up your spine. All day yesterday, I felt myself getting chilled from head to toe, and that’s something I can’t say I’ve experienced with another sport. But my friends have, and now I feel like I understand their passion.

The heroes of these games aren’t 250 pound athletes at the peak of physical perfection. Often they’re scrawny or chubby or or acne covered, and more than a few fit into the stereotypes you might envision of a pro gamer. But to the fans? It doesn’t matter. It’s a sport of skill and personality, not of looks and brawn, and even if the winner of an event is a five foot nothing goofy kid, that just makes it easier for them to hoist him onto their shoulders.

As I sit in front of my computer, cheering loudly in an empty room with a stream of a video game open, I may be a huge nerd for doing so, but at 24 I don’t give a damn about labels like that anymore. Starcraft is my sport of choice, and you might want to give it a chance to see what you’re missing.


The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent in an unprecedented way, with unlimited opportunities. But does democratized culture mean better art or is true talent instead drowned out? This is the question addressed by PressPausePlay, a documentary film containing interviews with some of the world’s most influential creators of the digital era.