Viva La Dirt League
Scream and faint for video gaming’s sexiest boy band: the N’Sync of StarCraft
It's a sunny day in Auckland, New Zealand and five strapping young men are standing on a roof staring lustfully into a camera. With stonewashed jeans, shirts popped open, biceps rippling out of tight-fitting tank tops they dance and sing in synchrony.
But they're not singing about love lost, ex-girlfriends, or anything else you'd imagine a group of hunky young men like this might be singing about. They're singing about StarCraft.
You're Gonna GG
The group is called Viva La Dirt League, and they formed as a parody group that simultaneously lampoons both pop music and video gaming as well. Though they originally formed around the idea of being specifically about StarCraft 2, they've since expanded out into other gaming themes as well including Minecraft and the Steam Summer Sale.
“When StarCraft 2 first came out, we all were so excited,” said Rowan Bettjeman, lead singer of Viva La Dirt League. “We all kind of knew each other, and we all sort of started to gravitate toward each other through StarCraft. And James started a Facebook group called Viva La Dirt League where we could get together and just talk about our games.”
The reference to “Dirt League” in the band's title refers to the ranking system in StarCraft 2, the lowest of which is Bronze (below Silver, Gold, Platinum etc,) and is a sort of joke about being worse than the lowest possible rank.
“We first got inspired by Husky and KurtHugoSchneider's song Banelings... and we thought 'we could do that,'” Bettjeman said.
The first collaboration they worked on was also one of their most popular, “8 Pool”. Which pokes fun at the beloved / loathed zergling rush, and has over 300,000 hits on YouTube.
Their work tends to riff off the many corny or frustrating parts about StarCraft play which helps endear them with the hardcore community. Their SC2 videos make frequent references to “cheese,” a phrase used to describe strategies which are considered gimmicky or luck-based. Show you know your stuff and the hardcore fans will love you.
Songs like “2 Rax Pressure” and “OP Protoss Ball” poke fun at the common frustrations that all StarCraft players face, and they're equal opportunity: Zerg, Terran, and Protoss all get their equal share of ribbing.
“It's something that we're hoping people can relate to because they've experienced it themselves,” he said as he proceeded to launch into his good-humored impersonation of a whiny StarCraft player complaining about game balance.
It's also about mocking pop music, with songs based off Michael Jackson, N'sync, and Psy hits.
They're not designed as an insular, StarCraft-fans-only group though. Through very intelligent use of the StarCraft 2 map editor, they create miniature scenes to splice into the music video which show exactly what they're referring to in the lyrics. Don't know the StarCraft lingo? That's totally OK. The videos effectively have tutorials for advanced vocabulary.
But why a boy band? That's hardly an obvious choice for a StarCraft parody group.
“It kind of wasn't intentional at first,” Bettjeman laughed. “It's just because I wrote the first two songs, and I've got a shameful secret, a shameful like of pop music that ended up emerging. And then we kind of embraced it because it gave us a sort of quirky image.”
Though members are occasionally lost to life obligations, the core group all met at the same drama school in Auckland, which is a big reason for why these “amateur” videos have such an amazing level of quality. With a diverse group of talents on board, they all pitched in and talents rubbed off on one another with Bettjeman as lead singer and others pitching in with film and editing expertise as well.
Looking to the future
“It was always meant to start out as StarCraft orientated,” he said. “We didn't really think about the future, we just started it that way because we wanted to. We still want to make that our focus. It's a bit of challenge because there are different fan bases and niche audiences, and we've definitely got a StarCraft fanbase and we want to hold on to them.”
It's getting more and more difficult to focus specifically on StarCraft though. The community isn't what it was 18+ months ago when Viva La Dirt League got started. As all games do, the SC2 community has begun to decline in numbers and fervor during the wait between game releases.
“It's something we've got in the back of our mind,” he said. “And we'll sort of branch out into other games, but for as long as possible we'll keep coming back to StarCraft. But I think maybe we'll do some Dota songs as well.”
“We want to reassure [the StarCraft fans] that we'll always come back to StarCraft,” he said. “We might do a little bit of this and that, but we'll always come back.”
For now, Viva La Dirt League has plans to expand in a significant way. Bettjeman recently quit his job in order to focus on doing this full-time as he makes both videos with the group and as a solo artist on the side with Minecraft.
“My dream is to crank music videos out one every two weeks, but realistically I'm looking at once a month,” he said. “I've kind of quit my day job, and I'm going to try and focus on this.”
GLHF, Viva La Dirt League. You can catch all of their videos on their YouTube page.