Pull up a chair by the Hearth

Some do not see this as an e-sport, and some barely see this game as a MMO, but Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is taking over the gaming world by storm. After it opened in beta back in January and officially released in March, Hearthstone already gathered 10 million players at launch and grew exponentially ever since. I personally started playing back in April after seeing too many ads on Twitch, and have been enjoying it ever since – bottom line, beating our very own Editor-in-Chief once in a while in Hearth is very satisfying.

As a digital collectible card game, Hearthstone games mainly revolve around online one-on-one battles randomly matched based on player skill and card values. Players can choose from 9 hero classes, all named after famous Warcraft characters, and have their array of unique cards from building a deck of 30 cards based on his/her collections. During a game, combatants take turns summoning minions, casting spells, and directing attacks, and whoever destroys the other hero first (by inflicting 30 life points of damage) wins the match. These matches can be done casually or for rankings, which indicates how good a player is compared to everyone else.

Hearthstone is one of the upcoming e-sports to draw heated competitive gameplays. Despite apparently simple mechanics, it still features complex sets of strategies, meta-games, and even tactical maneuvers as people discover and rediscover different styles and deck constructs. Currently, Hearthstone is played as minor championships in most major e-sports gatherings like Dreamhack, MLG, and others. Blizzard, the creators behind Hearthstone, just announced a World Championship featuring a massive prize pool and an extensive qualification process in which every player has a chance to enter. On the college level, TeSPA, the intercollegiate gaming society, has a recurring Hearthstone tournament featuring a $5,000 scholarship to the winners.

Hearthstone claimed its special place among the Massive Multiplayer Online games through its rather casual gaming features, fairly balanced mechanics, and addicting gameplay. Winning and losing matches can be taken lightly as you move on to the next one, with no competitive statistic ever being recorded unless you choose to play for ranking. Friendly matches can be done for those who added each other’s Battle.net account and are actively playing Hearthstone, which people often do so with joy and delight. Unlike other popular session-based MMOs, namely MOBAs like League of Legends, a game of Hearthstone would rarely take more than 15 minutes and is more convenient than pickup Frisbee to arrange, leading to people enjoying it during breaks between classes, events, or even playing other video games.

Backed by major sponsorships and often impressive fan base supports, top-tier professional players put up good shows and do not disappoint the viewers. Whether streaming or playing live at tournaments, top players at Hearthstone provide copious amounts of light-hearted entertainment not as often noticed on players of other e-sports. For a fairly new game, Hearthstone impressed me after it regularly climbed to the top 3 watched streams on all major video game streaming websites, with regularly 30,000 or more viewerships on Twitch.

Since I was a Warcraft III player, Hearthstone also often hit me with a sense of nostalgia with familiar characters and war cries. Many see this game as a Magic: the Gathering Redux or a casual MMO. However, I see this game as the start of a brand new genre and perhaps a one of a kind game that many will enjoy. Regardless of being a longtime fan or a newcomer, Blizzard provided another high quality game that did not disappoint.

I am Jiaren Li, a senior computer engineering student, and this is my column all about video games and e-sports. If you have any comments, questions, discussion points, or if you want me to write about something, feel free to e-mail me at jli27@stevens.edu