[Letters] E-sports ascendant
When the game “StarCraft” was released in 1998, it ignited a gaming boom in Korea. Every boy and man would rush to his computer to play this game. But no one expected the game to become such a huge part of the entertainment industry in Korea today.
Although StarCraft is not the only game popular in Korean E-sports (electronic sports), as games like “Warcraft III,” “Kart Rider” and “Special Force” still take up some part, without StarCraft E-sports could never have come this far. StarCraft accounts for more than 90 percent of Korean E-sports, with some professional gamers participating in the “starleague.”
There are about 10 game teams sponsored by major Korean companies, such as the cell phone companies SK Telecom and KTF and sports brands such as Lecaf.
Starleague is currently more popular than other “real” sports such as soccer or basketball. Statistics show that more than 30 percent watch the Starleague when it is on, higher than the viewing rate for soccer or basketball. Despite this growing popularity for E-sports, there are still some barriers that it must overcome to be a truly successful form of entertainment. What are these barriers?
The current image of professional gamers isn’t all that great.
Though many E-sports fans think highly of gamers as real professionals just like any other sports star, the general public doesn’t have a very good opinion of E-sports. They are largely influenced by a stereotypical view of professional gamers as simply game addicts who gave up studying when they were young.
One of Korea’s leading gamers, Lee Yoon-eul, recently participated in a program called “ss chin so” (featuring celebrity friends). The M.C., Boom, criticized Lee for being a game addict who has earned 13 million won living in Internet cafes. Afterward, Boom was heavily criticized in the media and by fans of E-sports. He was eventually forced to apologize profusely for his disrespectful on-air remarks.
From this, it is evident that the general public does not have a positive view about E-sports, mainly because many don’t know enough about what it is.
Professional gamers actually live a very demanding lifestyle, having to practice for an average of 13 hours a day in their team camps.
Of course there are many youngsters who say they envy gamers who can earn money playing games, avoiding the stressful hours of studying at hagwon.
However, there is a clear line that separates professionals from the ordinary gamer.
Playing games as a hobby can be pleasurable, but having to play games at a professional level is a different story. For these gamers, StarCraft is no longer exciting but rather an activity required to earn a living.
E-sports has come a long way since its creation in 1998 with the game StarCraft. It has already firmly established its position as an integral part of the Korean entertainment industry. Two complete television networks - Ongamenet and MBC Game - are devoted to this cause.
With the public growing more aware of the E-sports industry itself, along with more government aid E-sports could certainly assume an important place here, not only as entertainment but as a part of Korean culture for years to come.
Ko Jae-ho, a high school student
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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