This PlayStation offers 2X as much funThe entire PS2X Video Game Room in Sinchon is crowded with youngsters on a recent weekday afternoon, punching buttons on Sony PlayStation 2 consoles.
“Move to the side!” shouts one boy in the corner playing a soccer video game with a friend. “Well I’m trying! Pass the ball to me now!” the friend replies. The eyes of most people in the room are locked on monitors that displayed the action of their favorite video game.
“We just come here once in a while,” says Kwon Seok-jeon, a 25 year-old Yonsei University student. “Although I have a PlayStation 2 at home I come here with my friend because we can’t always play at my place.”
A few years ago, PC rooms began to mushroom in every alley of every town in Korea, riding on the popularity of the online game StarCraft. Although not as popular as PC rooms, video game rooms featuring console games, such as PlayStation 2 or Microsoft’s X Box, have begun popping up around youth hangouts, such as Sinchon, near Yonsei and Sogang universities, and the entertainment playground encircling the Gangnam subway station in southeast Seoul.
The owner of the PS2X Video Game Room, Choi Sung-soo, opened the business in December 2001, right after PlayStation 2 hit store shelves in Seoul.
“PC rooms’ popularity was on a downhill run and I was looking for a new business idea,” Mr. Choi says. “I wanted a new kind of entertainment and PlayStation was the answer.”
When Mr. Choi opened his game saloon most of his regulars were male students. “Guys love the graphics and the action used in PlayStation,” Mr. Choi says. More recently, he says, girls have become interested in console games that have cute characters.
Park Hyeon-joon, a friend of Mr. Kwon, cannot decide which provide the best playing experience, console games or personal computer games. Sports games, like baseball, basketball and martial arts, are great on a console setup, he says, and that is one of the reasons he visits PS2X.
Arcade games are for-fee entertainment; players must pay each time they start up a game. But at video game rooms players can play as many games as they like for an hourly fee, around 2,000 won ($1.67) at most game rooms in Korea.
Vega, a video game room near the Gangnam subway station, was converted from a PC room earlier this year. Now it is filled with a row of television monitors attached to PlayStation boxes.
At the entrance is a large television screen where at least four players can compete in the same game. After dinner, the place is crowded with customers waiting for a turn on the console. Most video game rooms stay open past midnight. Some, like PS2X, never close.