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If there’s ever been a category of computer game that truly came close to the real thing, it would have to be fishing.
You have the same elements: sitting still, waiting for fish, and burning so few calories that you could hardly call it a sport. (In Korea, you don’t play computer games. You participate in “e-sports,” a professional industry pampered by the Information Ministry.)
“Hanqua” is one of the more popular online fishing games available these days, and like all online games, it’s very simple and addictive.
You start out with a rubber boat, which you can ride to different waters and test your luck. There are tons of different kinds of fish, from anchovies to blue whales ― which, by the way, you can catch with a surprisingly thin fishing rod.
You receive a certain amount of “qua” depending on the catch. This monetary unit can be used to buy better fishing rods, boats, admission tickets to special fishing waters and other items. Naturally, you can’t take a rubber boat very far out into the ocean.
While the game’s concept is simple, the actual fishing might be difficult for some. It involves rigging up your pole with wriggling bait, casting the line and reeling the fish in when it bites.
If you’re disappointed with your catch, you can let it go, or keep it in a tub in your boat to sell at a shop later and earn more qua.
The hard part is using just the right amount of strength and direction when you cast out your line, and maintaining a good level of tension as you pull your fish in. If you’re unsuccessful, the line will snap or the fish will get away. The game makers, however, are extremely considerate, and provide helpful arrows to guide you.
The graphics are cute, but the fish could have used some more detailed rendering to look less like blobs.
As you advance in levels, you have access to a wider selection of waters. There are also quests that you can play in single or multi-player mode. If you catch a really rare fish, you can keep it in your fish tank, which you can decorate with more goodies bought with qua.
Contests are regularly held to determine who has the most impressive fish tank.
The real fun in Hanqua, however, is not the fishing. It’s the boat racing. This function wasn’t part of the game makers’ original intent, but was “discovered” by players.
Racing can be particularly fun because you can choose from various settings around the world such as the Nile, the Amazon, the waters off Bali and some Korean settings. The most recent addition, not surprisingly, is Dokdo, whose waters are unusually crowded with patriotic fishermen these days.
Experienced players with lots of qua can buy Geobukseon, the “turtle ships” used by the naval hero Admiral Yi Sun-shin to repel the Japanese Navy in a series of sea battles in the 1590s.
Don’t get your history mixed up, though. Dokdo is east of the peninsula; Admiral Yi fought most of his battles in southwestern seas.
Most of the people that I’ve met on Hanqua were teenagers, who spent real cash, not qua, to bedeck their avatars with cute outfits. This was surprising, since most fishing games in the past were played by middle-aged men.

by Wohn Dong-hee
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