There’s not a single good, damn reason for my hands to be ever-so-slightly shaking as I click the Play button, but there they are, just sort of fluttering around of their own accord. It’s not fear at all, but it is a kind of tremorish anxiety. My neck is tense and my shoulders feel like they are pulled up to my ears. I take in a deep breath to steady myself, thinking the entire time that the fight-or-flight response feels radically out of context for the situation.
There is a futuristic whoosh kind of sound that indicates a match has been made, and I feel my nostrils flare with a deep, determined inhale. I flex my fingers, feeling a strange cold settle into the knuckles and the tips. I wiggle the still-slightly trembling extremities to loosen up. I’m pointlessly, needlessly, hopelessly tight, tense as the few seconds tick by. And then I’m loading.
My opponent is some rando-nobody. I automatically knee-jerk to picturing some half-doped college kid in a dim dorm room somewhere, or a teenager in ragged and faded jeans sitting at a computer chair not unlike mine. That person, whoever and wherever they are, is chill, with ice-water veins and a plan for my humiliating demise. With that internal image, a cold resolve settles in my belly. I feel it click into place like the last Lego, and then I’m looking at my drones spread out from my hyper-futuristic home base while I click out basic commands, start building my first unit, set hotkeys for key units and get comfortable for the bloodshed to come.
That is what it feels like every time I start a multi-player ladder game in StarCraft 2, a stressful, invigorating and intimidating exercise in nervous recreation.