Heart and Seoul

Playing for keeps in Korea, where gaming is a way of life.

Heart and Seoul

"Envision an alternate reality we might call 'Gamer America.'

"In Gamer America, every home and office has 20MB/s broadband that's cheaper than milk. The coolest kids in Gamer America high school go out for the StarCraft team. And there's a Gamer America network TV channel (not cable, network) broadcasting online game tournaments round the clock. No, wait, there are two channels.

"Sounds like an EverQuest fever dream? A console fan's Robitussin high? Okay, Gamer America doesn't exist - in America. But it lives for real - right now! today! - in the Republic of Korea."

Heart and Seoul

"For three days Lee played StarCraft in a public computer cafe in Taegu, South Korea. He left his computer only to use the washroom, sleeping nearby on a makeshift bed.

"Lee had recently quit his job in order to spend more time playing games, presumably so that he could eventually "go pro" and compete in South Korea's popular gaming competitions. It was a life choice that would ultimately prove fatal."

Heart and Seoul

"Imagine an auditorium filled with eager fans, many of them young women holding up signs and screaming themselves hoarse. Huge screens display images capturing different angles of the action as commentators attempt to analyze the performances and excite the crowd. Imagine two television stations broadcasting 24 hours a day, devoting themselves to this sport.

"In Korea, this sport is StarCraft."

Heart and Seoul

"In this world of World of Warcraft, to be labeled a Korean MMORPG is to be branded with a scarlet letter of inferiority. It conjures images of countless internet advertisements for free, online roleplaying titles, each with their own anime-inspired take on war. The current crop of Korean-developed MMORPG titles like Dream of Mirror Online, FlyFF and Rappelz are living relics of a time long forgotten. This is the climate facing Aion:The Tower of Eternity, the latest from the original Korean MMOG creators at NCsoft. Not only are they looking to wash away the sins of Korean MMOG hell with this new game, but their own distorted image as well."

Heart and Seoul

"The plan was a simple one: Take a hardcore player of Western MMOGs (myself), turn him loose in an Eastern game for a week ... and see what happens. I found myself wondering what exactly I was getting myself into as I first loaded up Nexon's Mabinogi. Developed out of Seoul by devCAT (one of the Korea-based publisher's internal studios) and released in Korea in mid-2004, Mabinogi hit North America just this past March. Despite being inspired by pre-Christian Celtic mythology, one look at the colorful, manga-esque characters splashed around the official website betrays its Eastern roots. There was no mistake; Mabinogi - proudly termed 'Fantasy Life' - was as Korean an MMOG as they come."