We all remember where we were during historic moments and we remember who wrote them.
People have always recognized greatness. Outstanding feats of skill, daring and a near fatalistic feeling of witnessing once-in-a-lifetime events. While those moments are plentiful in the world of sports, it’s a whole other thing entirely when it’s done repeatedly by the same people. When a player does something outstanding once, it’s an achievement. If they do it repeatedly, it becomes a discussion of the player themselves and their legacy, their history and their impact on the game as a whole.
In esports, we call them gods and drop wholesale praise upon them. We may not have seen them perform these feats live, but we hear the tales and retell them. In essence, the players create their own mythology with incredible moments performed over and over again.
For Starcraft: Brood War (just Brood War) one person stands above others. He revolutionized the game, cementing the foundation for others to come afterword. Those that came after him owe him and respect him above all else.
His name is Lim Yo-hwan, a.k.a. BoxeR, and his status as an esports icon, the original king of Starcraft, remains forever within the scene and possibly the whole of esports culture.
There were others before BoxeR, but no one compared to his reign in his prime. He not only crushed his competition, he remained dominant for years. He would create new strategies, beating opponents in new ways, all to remain on top. They called him ‘Bonjwa’ in Korean, which means Self-Raising Person. They didn’t even start using the term until after his dominance had waned and others took his place.
During his stay in the Korean army, they created a special unit just for BoxeR to protect him from harm. Call it whatever you will, but a player of that magnitude existed in esports and made that kind of impact. Boxer made his living by playing games to the bitter end against odds stacked squarely against him. He would outlast his opponents in matches, despite carrying his own disadvantages. His skills earned him regard and other nicknames such as the ‘Terran Emperor’ and his innovations are used even today among newcomers.
Players like Flash and iloveoov had higher highs than BoxeR, but there wouldn’t be such players without him.
In fighting games, one can draw a similar line to Daigo Umehara. Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, after the famous youtube clip, Daigo’s reign in fighting games hinged on not just his skill but his opponents.
Daigo rose up during the beginnings of Street Fighter 3, challenging the pantheon of amazing players like Kuroda, Nuki, MOV, RX and making a name for himself. His presence on the American scene became well documented after challenging and beating Alex Valle, the original champion of American Street Fighter. Daigo’s impact on the scene of fighting games changed the perceptions of greatness within the scene as a whole.
The difference between Daigo’s lore versus Boxer’s was that his legend grew because of others. Players like Valle and later on Justin Wong, who himself changed the entire game of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, were his rivals within the scene. Without those players to compete against, Daigo may have been prominent but never legendary. Boxer’s legend grew because among the greats he was the greatest, and more to the point, he remained great. Daigo’s impact within the community peaked near the end of Street Fighter 3 into 4, not to take away from Daigo’s legacy, as his rise was essential for the fighting game scene. People love their heroes.
Most assuredly there are more legends to be talked about, with the likes of Faker being considered a god at League of Legends, but that is not this writer’s strong suit. These conversations and the history within communities as a whole have been around since the beginning of time. You will still see people talk about Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the rest of the sports pantheon. Esports just has a lot of these legends playing at the same time against one another. Which changes it from being the greatest of an era to who is the great of the era.
“From our Haus to yours”