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Happy birthday, StarCraft! Strategy megahit turns 15

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It was 15 years ago that StarCraft hit store shelves. And while anyone who knew even a little bit about the game's developer, Blizzard Entertainment, knew they had something special on their hands, no one could predict the global phenomenon that this fast-paced science-fiction strategy epic would blossom into.

It's one of the premiere titles in eSports – and its player base in Korea is dedicated nearly to the point of fanaticism. (In 2005, for example, 120,000 people went to a stadium to watch a StarCraft championship. That was 40,000 people more than were present at that year's Super Bowl.)

The series's first game has sold more than 11 million copies and set new standards for real-time strategy. Its sequel – released over 12 years later - became the fastest selling real-time strategy game of all time, moving 3 million copies in the first month.

But numbers are boring. Let's celebrate this birthday instead by looking at some of the game's other feats.

It's been to space. How dedicated are Starcraft fans? One couldn't bear the thought of going without playing, so he brought it into space with him. Astronaut Daniel Barry, a mission specialist, brought the game with him on a 1999 shuttle flight. The game traveled 3.5 million nautical miles, orbiting the earth 153 times.

The military uses it for training. Starcraft is a game that requires concentration and quick thinking. Recognizing that, the U.S. Air Force has included the title in its training regimen at its Aerospace Basic Course. Instructors note the game teaches new officers about joint service teamwork, crisis-action planning under stress, and decentralized execution.

It's made some people really, really rich. In 2007, Lee Yun-Yeol, one of Korea's top-ranked players, signed a record-setting deal to play Starcraft. The then-23 year old's skills were valued at $690,000 (in U.S. dollars). Two years prior, he had earned a comparatively piddling $200,000 to play the game.

It may have been the launching pad for gaming's best-known insult. If you've ever had your butt kicked online, odds are you've had someone tell you you've been "pwned." Turns out, you may have Starcraft to thank for this. According to one etymological theory, a typo by a custom map designer caused the word to come up when a player died. "[Player name] has been pwned," it read, rather than the intended "[Player name] has been owned." It was fixed, but it had already earned a spot in players' hearts – and vocabularies.

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