Featured Articles
Capture the Flag

Rachel Bailey | 31 Aug 2011 21:00
Featured Articles - RSS 2.0

Lee Dae Hoon is a 33-year-old accountant in Busan. He was a university student when StarCraft was released, and he remembers enjoying this newfound party culture with a twinge of nostalgia in his voice. "When I was young, I was attending university - freshman," he says. "We usually spent the whole night playing StarCraft, in the PC baang until sunrise." Though he mostly plays from home these days, he says he still visits the PC baangs with his friends. In big cities, where there are few parks or places for public recreation, the internet cafes offer both children and adults one of few venues to hang out with friends.

In big cities, where there are few parks or places for public recreation, the internet cafes offer both children and adults one of few venues to hang out with friends.

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on an unofficial national pastime, OnGameNet developed in 2000 with MBC Game coming the following year and GomTV launching online in 2006. An infusion of capital, merchandising and celebrity quickly built a multimillion-dollar business around competitive StarCraft playing, and in 2006, the industry was regulated. It now contains twelve pro teams and a semi-pro league from which the best players are drafted. First through matches organized by KESPA and now through tournaments held by GomTV, amateur players can rise through the ranks of semi-professional StarCraft and StarCraft II players, perhaps eventually being asked to join a pro team. KESPA hosts conferences, called Courage Matches, 6-10 times a year for amateurs. "Whenever they have these matches, there are 500, up to 1,000 players, amateurs, gathered in order to get in," says Coach. "If you get ranked up to sixth place, then that's how you get qualified for a semi-professions status." This structuring of StarCraft ranks, the development of the gaming channels and the stream of corporate money did something important for gaming in Korea -legitimized StarCraft and eSports in a way that hasn't been replicated outside this country.

Lee's attitude toward watching eSports on television seems to reflect this. "It helps me play better," he says as he plucks a dumpling from a bubbling hot pot at a shabu shabu buffet in Busan. "I watch it, and I can learn some strategies." From the seat beside him, his wife, An Ji Hyeon tosses a skeptical glance at her husband.

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on