The Art of Zerg?

Wotcha everyone,

Is anyone actually sure of the origin of the term: “Zerg”?

The first time I saw it was in the Real Time Strategy game “Starcraft”, where the Zerg were a race of weird squacky aliens who relied on swarming, and overwhelming odds.  Weak troops, but lots of them.  Is that the origin of the word, or did the term exist before?  The first time I encountered the term in Online Gaming was in Planetside, which is when I also first encountered the term in a derogatory sense.

Since then, it has become the de rigeur term of choice for any fight where one side outnumbers the other.  It’s a noun, it’s a verb, it’s an excuse;  “We would have won, but they zerged us”.  It is rapidly becoming all things to all players.

And, as a game that openly demands mass PvP combat (just as Planetside did) there are currently plenty of opportunities for the term “zerg” to be bandied about.  With the implication that the zerg requires no thought, no planning, no tactics.  That it’s unfair, that it’s a cheat, that it is the first and last resort of the “bad” player.

However…  I may be misremembering, but I’m pretty sure Sun Tzu mentions at some point in “The Art of War” that if you have to attack, attack with the odds in your favour.  He recommends ten to one as a baseline.  Hmm.  Sun Tzerg, anyone?  The First World War was rife with swarm attacks; On the 1st of July, 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, there were 57,470 casualties, with 19,240 of those being deaths.  Over a 12 mile front.  That’s just the casualties, never mind the total number of brave, poor souls who were a part of the battle.  Did King Leonidas see the Persian army arrayed for battle before him, and exclaim “WTF ZERG?”

I gave up all desire for a “fair” fight a long time ago.  Ideally, I’d prefer a fight where the odds are in my favour.  Because the odds will always be stacked in one direction, and cannot be balanced; If both sides are balanced in numbers, then one side will have more higher level characters.  If both sides are balanced for level, then one side will have better equipment.  If both have equal equipment, then one side will have more skilled players…  It’s clunky as examples go, but I’m pretty sure it works.

Let me get back to the Zerg, before I lose focus and start ranting on about balance.  Again.

Does it really show a lack of skill?  Well, the other night I was part of a Tier 3 Keep Run.  A certain Spinks who shall remain nameless organised a group of players from our guild, and our alliance, into a full warband and a bit.  We then trolled around, following her instructions, and did a lot of damage for the cause.  We gathered a number of other players as we went along (open warbands having a gravitational pull), and we still followed instructions.

Now, was that a zerg?  According to the “overwhelming odds in our favour” clause, yes it was.  But we were gathered together and organised.  We weren’t a mob looking for Destruction sized packets of Renown.  We were assigned roles within the warband, and as part of our keep attacks.  Roles which we adhered to.  Some weren’t as sexy as others, but they were done diligently.

Anyone looking from the outside probably looked at us, thought; “Zerg” in a negative fashion, and went off to do scenarios.

Well, I think it’s time to start the campaign to take the term “Zerg” back.  Once, they were a proud race, for which the terms “Squamous” and “Rugose” could have been created.  They extolled the virtues of unity and brotherhood, of equality, and thrift.

They were a force to be reckoned with.

I am sick of it being used as a negative term.  There are enough negative terms, as well as negativity, in Online Gaming.  PvP (and RvR) seems to have a never-ending supply of it.  So let one go.  Let “Zerg” go.  Just see it as a massed attack, acknowledge the amount of cat-herding the leader probably had to do to get all those players in one place, and respect it by either getting out of its way, or assembling your own.

Just because a Zerg has a lot of members, don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re not using strategy and tactics.  The massed attack against smaller forces is just as valid a strategy as any other.

Someone sign me up for a “Zerg Member” t-shirt.