Let's get this out of the way first: Yes, there are people who get paid to play video games professionally. Some of them make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. And just like football or baseball, pro "eSports" contests can be plenty of fun to watch even if you don't play the game.
Lately, the new game to sweep the eSports scene is none other than Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty--the sequel to the original Starcraft and Starcraft: Brood War games, which grew the eSports scene in Korea into a national pastime and started a class at UC Berkeley. And it just so happens that three major Starcraft II tournaments are happening this week. Whether you're a casual gamer or a budding Starcraft II pro, you'll want to read on to find out how to watch these can't-miss matches for free.
Global Starcraft II League (GSL): November 1-2
What it is: Korea is home to the world's finest Starcraft II players, and the Global Starcraft II League (GSL) is where they duke it out for the title of the toughest.
How to watch: You can stream the events live for free from the GOMtv.net Web site, but the event runs in Korea so you might end up staying up late or waking up early to catch the matches you crave.
Fortunately, GOMtv provides video-on-demand clips of every single match, but only the first match of each series is free--you'll have to pay $20 for a season ticket to watch everything. The $20 also allows you to access their HD-quality live stream as well as all the other matches from that season, and if you're a repeat buyer next season it'll only run you $15. If you're on the fence about shelling out $20, you can also buy a day pass for $2.
Who to watch: As of this writing, the GSL tournament has just entered the quarterfinals with a bang--the notoriously bad-mannered American Zerg player Greg "Idra" Fields was eliminated by Jung-Min "Zenio" Choi in a grudge match that culminated in a not-so-virtual slap to the face (read the back-story here).
Other notable players include Yo-Hwan "SlayerSBoxer" Lim, a Starcraft legend (his Wikipedia page says it all, really) who is making his competitive Starcraft II debut in this GSL tournament, and Jung-Hoon "Fake Boxer" Lee, a pro player who borrowed the "Boxer" moniker--and took out last season's champion, Won-Ki "Fruitdealer" Kim, in the second round of the tournament.
The GSL quarterfinals will take place on November 1st and 2nd at 7pm (Korean Standard Time), the semifinals will be on November 4-5, and the finals will be on November 13th. Check out the GSL schedule for more details.
MSI Master's Cup: October 30-31
What it is: In the domestic Starcraft II scene this weekend we've got the MSI/Evil Geniuses Master's Cup, a high-level national tournament with a $1000 grand prize--and a twist. In addition to the $1000 first-place prize, the winner of the tournament also has a shot at a free MSI GT660 laptop, but they have to defeat Greg "Idra" Fields to win it.
How to watch: The MSI Master's Cup will be live-streamed here for free. This event is good if you're new to Starcraft II, because Sean "Day" Plott will be announcing the games and he's very good at explaining the game in a clear, newbie-friendly manner. The games start at 12PM Pacific on October 30--check the MSI Master's Cup schedule for more details.
Who to watch: Chris "HuK" Loranger is a perennial fan favorite for his playful in-game demeanor, unorthodox tactics, and willingness to give the fans what they want--like a mothership rush.