It’s been a long time since the first Spacewar competition happened at Stanford, marking the first step of what was destined to become a worldwide phenomenon. From 1972 until now, eSports has changed.
The players have changed as well. It’s not only a few select students who play games now. The whole world is trying to compete. Out of all the nations, Korean players have achieved the most success and recognition – let’s see why.
Back in the early 1990s, PCs were really expensive and not available to ordinary citizens. After the 1997 crisis, however, the government chose a different course for the economy and invested in technology.
Computers became affordable, and it led to the emergence of a new industry – PC cafes.
People could play strategy games like Starcraft or Warcraft, online multiplayer games like Ultima Online and Lineage, as well as plenty of others thanks to the high-speed internet available throughout South Korea.
While most of the video- and book-related establishments started to die out, PC cafes exploded into a national phenomenon. Very soon, it became a normal part of a child’s day-to-day life.
Because the population density of South Korea is not exactly conducive to the abundance of sporting facilities like soccer or basketball fields, the ‘normal’ entertainment is not as easily available as it is in the US.
Add to that their demanding education with extra-long hours of study and you get an immediate urge for having fun. The easiest, least expensive activity usually turned out to be gaming. So students game.
After a while, gaming tournaments grew more and more popular. The industry faced a lot of skepticism from society even during the 2010s, but it has been rapidly becoming an acknowledged career path.
eSports are even broadcasted on cable television. There is a dedicated channel called OGN that is fully dedicated to the sport.
People know that it’s “a thing” now, and they understand the monetary value of being good at playing games can bring. Thus, many children are now encouraged to practice and pursue “the dream”.
Another aspect of it has to do with society as a whole. Because children spend so much time in one place, they start to form groups. They exist within those groups and identify with them.
If you don’t – you’re an outsider, and those often suffer from things like bullying or just plain loneliness.
Since PC cafes became a social environment, many groups have become centered around gaming interests and new trends in the eSports industry.
Academic success matters a lot in South Korea. Not only because of the social and parental pressure but due to real factors like high unemployment and the boom of IT companies. If you don’t do well in school, you won’t get a job in the future – simple as that.
This nurtures high competitiveness which transitions to other areas of life. When Koreans start to game, their instinct is to win, get better, and achieve success.
Unlike most of the Americans who play games for enjoyment (many people in Korea still do), the desire to perform to the best of one’s abilities dominates the minds of young Korean gamers.
Attitude to Gaming
Koreans who want to make it in the eSports scene are really serious about it. They don’t see it as a better job opportunity with more free time (which isn’t true for Koreans). For them, it’s a career. A serious endeavor towards achieving success and winning.
They train for much longer than most international teams – and they train hard. Not only do they compete with other teams, but they compete with their teammates. They know that there are plenty of other candidates who can replace them if they don’t perform well.
Stressful as it is, it also brings substantial dividends. Koreans have refined the art of gaming practice, and their willingness to abandon most things in life just to become a top-tier professional gamer is unprecedented.
It seems like Koreans have the gaming prowess in their DNA, but the reasons for their mastery come down to a few simple things.
The number of people who game. Competitive attitude. Hard, dedicated practice.
Also, you can read China Cancels All Sports Events.