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 The Korean powerhouse is a force to be reckoned with.

– Intel Extreme Masters on a Korean Pro Gaming Team from League of Legends

Today, the pro gaming scene is gaining a lot of traction and is swiftly on its way to being featured alongside your NFL or NBA T.V. programming. And sure enough, pro gamers are taking home more and more prize money each year.  It would surprise you as to how high these competitive gaming payouts are.

Similar to your typical athletes, pro gamers from all over the world represent their home countries in eSports gaming tournaments and championships.  Similar to sports, some counties just dominate others. Well, South Korea… they dominate in competitive gaming.

Playing video games is considered a social activity in Korean culture, especially games that are either co-op or competitive. Both foreign and locally developed video games are highly popular in South Korea, and major esports gaming competitions are regularly broadcast on television or streamed over the internet. Today we will be taking a closer look at the South Korean eSports culture.

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History of eSports in South Korea

Since the 1980’s, video games have been embedding themselves into the South Korean culture.  StarCraft, one of South Korea’s most popular games and one of those that ignited eSports in the country. Starcraft sold around 4.5 million copies in the country alone (out of 9.5 million total sales).

By the year 2000, South Korea had founded an organisation named Korean e-Sports Association whose goal is to make eSports an official sport and manage South Korean eSports. This organisation was officially approved by the country’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. The Korean e-Sports Association partnered with a US based e-Sports organisation named Major League Gaming, allowing KeSPA to manage MLG events for South Korea.

Gaming in South Korea Today

pcbang-south-korea

By 2014, eSports became South Korea’s favourite past time. With the popularity and rise of PC bangs, more and more South Koreans play video games on a daily basis. Besides Starcraft, popular game titles  include DotA 2 and League of Legends.

Video games have become so popular in South Korea that many of the Korean eSport teams are now sponsored. Some of the notable South Korean eSports teams are CJ Entus, Samsung Galaxy, SK Telecom T1, and KT Rolster.  It’s quite clear who sponsors who. A rumour that originated in 2014 stated that a South Korean University was accepting applications for an eSports Gaming Course.  A rumour that originated in 2014 stated that a South Korean University was accepting applications for an eSports Gaming Course.  This was never confirmed but does show how serious competitive gaming is in South Korean culture.

Why are Korean eSports Teams so good?

korea-team-win

Professional gamers have been scratching their heads on this one.  Why are the Korean eSports Teams taking home all these trophies in international gaming tournaments? The real answer remains a mystery, but there are a few speculations.  (yes, they are ranked number 1 in the world for internet speed, and no their low ping is not the reason why they win so much.)

Training

South Korean eSports teams are reported to have intense training that involves organising, discussing, and training with both their teammates and other teams. These gaming practice sessions often range from 8 to 15 hours a day and include daily exercise and in some cases meditation.

Coaching

Since eSports is considered as an official sport in South Korea. Korean teams will find themselves needing esports coaching.

Culture

Competitive gaming has been a part of the South Korean culture for a while now. South Korea has also been reported to have one of the longest histories with pro gaming and those that are now in the scene have grown up with games.  They have been training since the day that they were born!

 I don’t know how teams train in the western world. So I cannot say why they are less competitive than us in tournaments. But in our team, we train around 15 hours a day.

— Faker of SK Telecom T1

Gaming Addiction in South Korea

There have been several reports of South Korean game addicts who have experienced health issues, with some deaths, as a result of excessive gaming. Video game addiction rehabilitation centers have been opened across the country, and a law named the “Cinderella Law” was imposed in late 2011. This law restricts anyone under the age of 16 to play online video games from 10 pm to 6 am.

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