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Capture the Flag

Rachel Bailey | 31 Aug 2011 17:00
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"Oh, it makes you better?" she asks. For Lee, getting better at StarCraft is a worthy thing to devote his free time to. But for An, even the well-attended tournaments, the profusion of PC baangs, the corporate sponsorships and the 24-hour channels haven't made her forget - at the end of the day, you're still just watching other people play videogames.

Flash walks to the edge of the stage, waving a flag bearing the logo of Alleh, the wireless internet provider that sponsors his team.

With the launch of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty last July, now seems like the perfect time to grow eSports outside Korea. To that end, Blizzard has partnered with GomTV to start the Global StarCraft II League with the first year of tournaments and finals to take place in Seoul. The United States' own Major Gaming League, which streams matches online, added StarCraft II to its rotation, which also includes Halo 3, World of WarCraft and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. In China, eSports clubs, which were a precursor to eSports programming in Korea, have been around for years, though the corporate sponsorships that made pro teams and eSports channels possible have yet to materialize there. Still, without the special circumstances under which the StarCraft culture began in Korea, it remains to be seen whether eSports can match the success it's had in this country internationally.

GomTV's Jung Won Chae seems to think now is the perfect time to expand StarCraft-based eSports on a global scale. "The old generation did not get to enjoy playing games growing up," he says. "However, when our generation, which has been enjoying games while growing up, becomes a part of the upper class and the next old generation, more investments will be made to the game industry. This will become a cycle that guarantees the explosive growth of the eSports industry." Chae believes that new viewing platforms, like the streaming video his company provides, will catalyze the growth of eSports into an international phenomenon.

Back on Gwangali Beach, the Rolsters' Lee "Flash" Yeong Ho has crushed SK's Park "Hyuk" Jae Hyuk in the last round of the StarCraft Proleague Finals. SK's fans look utterly anguished, their half-deflated ThunderSticks dangling at their sides. Fireworks deafen spectators, silver streamers rain on the stage and the Rolsters form a circle, tossing each of their beaming, suited coaches in the air in turn. Flash walks to the edge of the stage, waving a flag bearing the logo of Alleh, the wireless internet provider that sponsors his team. After pausing a few beats for photos, he descends onto the beach. As he jabs the flag into a mound of sand, one thing seems clear - though eSports has a long way to go before it captures the hearts and remotes of audiences abroad, it has certainly staked its claim here.

Rachel Bailey is a contributor to The Escapist.

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