Friday, February 19, 2010

Why is StarCraft Popular in Korea?

Dear Korean,

What caused Starcraft's popularity in Korea?

Cristiano E.

Dear Korean,

What's with Korean people and their obsession with Starcraft? Every Korean I know or met loves Starcraft. They are obsessed with it. Why is that?


Dear Korean,

Why are Korean people so infatuated with Starcraft? It seems to more a part of Korean culture now than just a simple computer game. Please tell me what makes Starcraft so special for Korea.

Brian/Starcraft fan

Dear Korean,

How popular are pro-Starcraft players over there, really? Do regular non-Starcraft junkies recognize them on the streets? I know some of them make quite a bit of money, but I'm curious if they're actually recognizable icons to people who aren't part of the Starcraft fandom. Sort of like how you don't have to be a fan of golf to know who Tiger Woods is.


Dear Questioners,

It is unquestionable that StarCraft is extremely popular in Korea more so than any other country. Even though the game was released in 1998, the popularity of the game is still going strong for a game that is 12 years old – a virtually unprecedented event in a field like video games where a life cycle of even the most popular games (like the Madden NFL series) does not usually exceed more than a year. As of early 2008, 9.5 million copies of StarCraft were sold worldwide, and Korea accounted for 4.5 million copies of those sales.

Terran is victorious.

But the popularity of StarCraft in Korea far exceeds just the number of copies sold. StarCraft enabled the world’s first pro gaming league to happen in Korea – Korea Pro Gaming League (KPGL), established in 1998. (However, this league no longer exists.) There is not one but two cable television channels dedicated to broadcasting matches between pro gamers, often playing StarCraft. There are live matches in a specially built studio/stadium, which sometimes draw as many as 100,000 people. To answer Lance’s question, pro gaming in Korea is about as popular as pro poker leagues in America. The biggest names among pro gamers in Korea – say, Im Yo-Hwan or Yi Yoon-Yeol – have about the same name/face recognition in Korea as Phil Hellmuth or Howard Lederer has in America.

Im Yo-Hwan, one of the top pro gamers in Korea

A video game that engendered an entire industry is simply unheard of prior to StarCraft. And like all rare events, the current popularity of StarCraft in Korea took a lucky confluence of a number of factors – some unique to Korea, some not. Just for fun, the Korean will explore this phenomenon chronologically backwards. In other words, we still start from the current explosion and work our way back in time, until we can identify what earlier factors contributed to the phenomenon that we see today.

Pro Leagues and TV Stations

The most recent development would be the establishment of pro gaming leagues and cable televisions. Once these institutions came to being, the popularity of StarCraft became a self-sustaining force. People talk about it because it is on television, and television keeps on showing it because people talk about it. People practice the game because the gaming league pays well, and the gaming league pays well because people watch the games, again because the games are on TV.

For an equivalent American phenomenon, think Avatar. Avatar was a movie that had absolutely nothing special. The computer graphics of the movie, while impressive, is not significantly advanced from 2001, when Final Fantasy and Shrek came out. (The difficulty of rendering the mud bath scene in Shrek still makes the Korean’s jaw drop.) At most, Avatar was not a noticeable improvement over Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which was made entirely with CGI except for the actors. In fact, one could make a convincing argument that among the movies in the 2009-10 season, the computer graphics in District 9 was more impressive than Avatar, because District 9 more thoroughly blended computer-generated images with regular people and scenery where human eyes are more likely to detect things that look “off”. On the other hand, in Avatar, it was a given that everything happened in an alien planet where everything looks different. In the few scenes of Avatar where the CGI and regular actors interacted – like when the chief was fighting soldiers on the backside of the bomber – the CGI quality deteriorated significantly.

This type of scenes, where CGI and regular actors interact, 
was the vast majority in District 9, but less than 10 percent of Avatar

Also, Avatar showed precious little originality in using its admittedly impressive CGI skills – the images of a big, life-giving tree comes from Lord of the Rings and Princess Mononoke, the floating mountains are from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, riding a dragon-like thing from every single RPG game in the history of mankind, and so on. And finally, the storyline was so stupid and banal that it surely did not warrant the multiple New York Times article psychoanalyzing it.

Look familiar? Miyazaki Hayao's Laputa: Castle in the Sky was released in 1986.

But people will nonetheless talk about Avatar, only because people talk about it. This is how hype is made in today’s pop culture. Once something – anything! – enters the hype machine, its popularity will be self-sustaining until it falls out of the hype. (For another example, think Snuggies – one of the dumbest inventions that ever went mainstream. But it sounds kinda good, because everyone is talking about it!)

Back to the topic of StarCraft: the presence of dedicated gaming leagues and cable televisions were crucial for the hype machine to operate. And it is not difficult to imagine why these things came about – they came about because people thought there was money to be made by setting up leagues and dedicated TV stations. In America, Travel Channel and ESPN2 (particularly late night) have turned into dedicated poker channels. Better yet in Korea, there was already a model for a pro league and cable TV stations dedicated to a game. Guess what the game is?

The best board game in the world

The game is go, known as baduk among Koreans. While go is recently giving ground to other online games, more than 20 percent of Korean adults know how to play go, a relatively complex game. And truly, the popularity of go in Korea has no American equivalent, as far as board games are concerned. There are professional chess leagues in America, but there is no cable TV station showing their match. In Korea, professional go players are superstars (much, MUCH bigger than pro gamers) playing international league games against top players from China and Japan, earning a ton of money and enjoying a lot of media exposure. Even people who don’t know how to play go in Korea have generally heard of the names Yi Chang-Ho and Yi Se-Dol, like the way a non-sports fan in America still has heard of Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant. By the Korean’s estimation, go might be the second most popular “sport” in Korea behind baseball, ahead of soccer. (Except during World Cup.)

So the gaming league and TV stations came because StarCraft was popular, and there was a ready model to emulate. Then what caused StarCraft’s popularity to a level such that the popularity caused people with money to invest in such ventures?

Further explanation, after the jump.

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at

The PC Bang Phenomenon

The StarCraft syndrome cannot be explained without bringing up the PC Bang explosion. “PC Bang” is a Korean term for cyber café (“bang” meaning room,) but this is not the dingy kind with four computers you see at tourist traps in Europe. These are glorious arcades with anywhere between 50 to 200 high-speed computers, comfortable chairs, futuristic interior design and a snack bar in the corner.

Typical PC Bang in Korea

The proliferation of PC Bang has much to do with Korea’s small business environment. One very important factor is that Korea is a country where not too many people get to “retire” as Americans or Europeans get to do. Korea does not have guaranteed social pension like Europe, nor has it encouraged everyone to save for retirement like America (until very recently). The group that is most impacted by this is Koreans in their late 40s and 50s, who began their career in a system that guaranteed continued employment but the proverbial rug was pulled underneath them as Korean economy underwent a major overhaul in the late 1990s.

So put yourselves in their shoes. You are 50 years old. You have saved up a sizable nest egg but not quite sizable enough to live off of it for the rest of your life. Stock market is too volatile, and does not generate enough short-term cash to live off of at any rate. More stable and cash-generating derivative financial products are unheard of in Korea until early 2000s. And you are too young to sit around anyway. So you have to run a small business to spend time and make ends meet, but you don’t want to work too hard. What business would you choose?

PC Bang is the perfect choice in this scenario. Once all the computers are set up and popular games are installed, there is very little expertise required. Unlike, say, selling clothes, there is almost no effort required to figure out what the customers want – everyone wants the same 4 or 5 games (including StarCraft,) and most of the popular games are entirely hosted online at any rate. Also, practically no manual labor is required other than keeping the store clean. There is also very few regulations governing PC Bang, unlike for example restaurants which must follow certain hygienic requirements. It is better business than even a traditional arcade, since traditional arcade machine is more expensive and each machine is unique. It also helped that Korea made a massive investment in Internet infrastructure in the late 1990s such that it still enjoys the fastest Internet in the world. (Indeed, many Korean websites run very slowly in America because Korean websites are made with the expectation that Internet is four times faster than the broadband speed in America.)

So once people got a wind of the trend that online games, including StarCraft, is getting popular, they started looking into opening of PC Bangs. Soon, PC Bangs began to mushroom everywhere in Korea. Once the boom began, the larger PC Bangs began to turn into a franchise and began to share the cost of computer maintenance and repair as well as create a unified interior design, which made opening a PC Bang even easier. The cost of opening a PC Bang became even lower as computer-leasing business began to take hold.

Hilarious billboard for a PC Bang

Once PC Bangs came to be everywhere, it began to infiltrate Korean people’s habits. People go because they are there, and because they are an easy way to kill some time. It became another version of the self-expanding cycle: people go to PC Bang because PC Bangs are there. More entrepreneurs open PC Bangs because people go there. More people go to PC Bangs because more of them exist, and other people are going too. It was only a matter of time when TV executives caught on and turn this into an even bigger phenomenon.

The result is that StarCraft became a standard rather than a choice. There have been other worthy real-time simulation (RTS) games that were just as entertaining as StarCraft. (EA Game’s Command & Conquer series comes to mind.) But once StarCraft was chosen to be the standard for PC Bangs, there was no turning back. The fun of an online game multiply with more players even though the original merits of that game may have fallen below those of a later game. So StarCraft lives on in Korea, even though it has been 12 years since the game came out.

Does this mean that any game could have taken the place of StarCraft? Could Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, for example, have been as popular in Korea had it been released just at the right time when the PC Bang boom was beginning? The Korean doubts that. It would be a mistake to discount StarCraft’s own merits allowed all the subsequent events – the proliferation of PC Bangs, professional game leagues, dedicated cable TV stations – to happen in the way they did.

StarCraft – the Game Itself

[WARNING: Mega Nerd Alert! Don’t say the Korean didn’t warn you.]

To recap, StarCraft became popular in Korea because it had some initial popularity, which was amplified by becoming a part of a popular small business trend, which then was further amplified by entering into the hype machine created by TV stations and media. Then the last remaining question is – what was the cause for StarCraft’s initial popularity? The Korean believes StarCraft’s initial popularity – the force that enabled all the chain of events that followed – has to do entirely with the strength of the game itself.

Ooh, nice Siege drop

To properly understand StarCraft’s place in computer game history, it is important to understand the state of the affairs in Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games at the time it was released. Around 1998, there were three major franchises for RTS games – WarCraft by Blizzard Entertainment, Command & Conquer by Westwood Studios and Total Annihilation by Cavedog Entertainment.

Purely in terms of game play, Total Annihilation may have been the best game. Its user interface is beautifully streamlined, and the elements from Total Annihilation’s user interface can still be seen in more recent RTS games. It also had the most advanced graphics, with the only true 3-D units among the three. But the advanced graphics may have been a hindrance, as it required a Pentium 133 Mhz and 24 MB RAM in order to run smoothly – a laughable requirement now, but very, VERY high end in 1997. In the end, Total Annihilation became the RTS game equivalent of Magnolia – critically acclaimed, loved by a small number of fans whose voices were disproportionately loud, but in the end not too many people ended up watching it.

Westwood Studios, with Command & Conquer, beat Blizzard to the online multiplayer game play. But while Command & Conquer series was wildly entertaining, the lead horse of the series – C&C: Red Alert – was simply not up to snuff compared to StarCraft. Even with an entertaining storyline and some creative naval and air units, there simply was not enough room for innovative game play. Particularly egregious was the enormous imbalance caused by Mammoth Tanks on the Soviet side. The imbalance was exposed again and again during online play, rendering the game’s online play nearly worthless for everyone but the most experienced players.

Oh Red Alert 2, why oh why couldn't you balance your units...

In contrast, the wonderfully balanced three races of StarCraft was a revelation at that time. So were its imaginative, multi-stage units and unusual camera angle, which were presaged in Blizzard’s WarCraft series. StarCraft’s storyline was about as good as its competitors, but the voice acting was far superior and convincing.

But the advantage that truly vaulted StarCraft over its competitors was, Blizzard’s ambition online multiplayer platform that came pre-packaged with its games. This is an important distinction, because other online games at the time required an external interface. for StarCraft also had other attractive features such as ladder ranking, level-matching, and lack of any fees to join.

These advantages played perfectly into Korea’s gaming trend at the time. 1998 was the time when Korea began to enjoy the fruits of massive investment in the Internet infrastructure – the structure that still gives Korea the fastest Internet in the world. Right on time for online game play, StarCraft proved to be the best game to play online. And truly, that’s what it came down to. StarCraft gained its initial popularity by being the game that responded the best to the new reality of online gaming. The rest is history.

To close, the Korean gives you a hilarious Craigslist post about StarCraft. Many thanks to Amelia P. for sending it. Enjoy.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at

Starcraft lessons from authentic Korean

Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-06-29, 5:00PM PDT

Hi, my name is ByunTae from South Korea. I have been playing Starcraft since 1998 and I was born and raised in Korea. I'm 100% full blooded Korean, meaning I have been gifted with unparallel talent to master any video game, particularly, Starcraft: Brood War. I'm also experienced in Counter-Strike, I am able to perform bunny hops, my best score on a public 32 player game was 171-2 with 170 kill streak. I'm offering my expertise in Starcraft to be taught to non-Koreans that wishes to have the skill of a Korean player. I have advised and coached many professional gamers such as Im Jae Dong, Park Myung Soo, Ma Jae Yoon, and more. Boxer and I were great friends until he started using my dropships to gain his fame. I started training other players to be on par with Boxer and eventually surpassing Boxer. He is no longer the best player thanks to my contribution to rest of the players. I did not compete in pro gaming because they KTF did not agree with my seven figure contract demand.

Things I will be teaching in Starcraft:
Micro management
Macro management
Map specific strategies
Basic and Advanced strategies and build orders for all three races.
In-game bugs to be used to your advantage such as unit stack, stop lurkers, etc.
Counter strategies and perfect attack timings.
Learn Korean lango, like "chobo" "gosu" "ww" etc
Basic Korean to communicate with Koreans on
Unit details, their size and their pros/cons against other units
My signature cannon rush along with my signature cheese rush

My lessons will result in:
Faster APM - average professional gamers range from 250-550. Average player is about 100.
Better Win/Loss Ratio
Chance to become a professional gamer in Korea - Celebrity status, especially for foreigners, like Guillaume Patry and Bertrand Grospellier
Bragging rights, that you're as good as a Korean in Starcraft
You will be called a hacker because you're so good.
Korean girls will be intrigued that you're such a good Starcraft player.

My lessons are offered to only non-Koreans or American born Koreans because they lack the blessing from the Gaming God, Norazi. Sun Tzu once said, "Defiler becomes useless at the presences of a vessel." You will be come the vessel against the defilers that treats you like a non-korean, laughing at your pitiful Starcraft skills...however, you will demolish them with the new profound skills.

Basic training: $25/hr
Estimated course length: 6-8 hours
Basics of micro/macro management.
Learning the units and buildings
Basic strategies and build orders
Learn attack/production timing
Worker stacking
Learn Korean words to understand Koreans talk in game

Advanced training: $35/hr
Estimated course length: 8-10 hours
Muta stacking
Lurker stop and stacking
Cloacked zergling
Advanced strategies and build orders
Map specific strategies
Various secret tricks and tips
Bootleg copy of Boxer's DVD imported from Korea
Learning basic Korean to communicate with Korean on
Advanced micro/macro management <- EXTREME SKILL

Race Specific Training:
I will teach you EVERYTHING i know about those races, making you an unstoppable force within the World of Starcraft.
Estimated course length: 4-6 hours
Protoss: $20/hr
Zerg: $25/hr
Terran: $30/hr

For all students, i will also offer 2 hours of my time for the week of the lesson taken, to play together in 1vs1 Lost Temple/Python or other custom maps.

Please contact me if you have any questions, I promise that I will make you into the best non-Korean Starcraft Player EVER, amongst those trained by me.
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


  1. Thank you for making known the ridiculousness of the Avatar phenomenon.

    I think the best part of the Starcraft craze is the class on Starcraft taught at the Korean's alma mater:

    I'd like to question the Korean's explanation for the explosion of PC bangs and Starcraft, which seems undeveloped in some areas (and I only bring this up because it has puzzled me for a long time). Wrt PC bangs, it seems to me that the size of the average living space in Seoul has much to contribute. When I was in Seoul, I noticed that people (especially teens and 20s) seemed to be out (as opposed to being at home) much more than their counterparts in the US, and my later readings confirmed this- because apartments are relatively small, people go out for social functions and rarely congregate in a residence. This has direct implications for the popularity of PC bangs, because if groups of friends/couples are going to out and want to use a computer for entertainment, they will need a way to do so. I can remember in the early 2000s when Internet cafes sprouted up all around my hometown in the US, obviously intending to draw gamers in- these cafes lasted two years maximum, and I believe the reason I brought up above is a major reason why these failed where their Korean counterparts succeeded.

    I also feel that there's more to Starcraft becoming a national phenomenon than simply the ubiquity of PC bangs creating an opportunity for a professional industry. The preexisting framework with regards to Go is definitely a good point. This is just my wild (potentially controversial) hypothesis- but I feel like there's something about Korean culture that promotes things associated with Starcraft-to speak very generally, technology seems to be regarded more highly and gaming seems more acceptable than in the US, where being a gamer will put you in the bottom rung of the popularity ladder. One of my Korean friends once made the comment that Koreans suck at sports- if this comment has any truth to it, I wonder if that encourages the promotion of non-physical "e-sports," since Koreans have obviously demonstrated they can excel in this arena.

    ...I can't believe I'm commenting on an analysis of Starcraft with an analysis of my own... on a Friday night

  2. The PC bang makes sense - for the first time (?) anybody could walk in, pay a small fee, and play a game they knew how to play without having to install the thing, buy a computer, etc. etc. Also, I suspect that the phenomonon of spending all one's free time at one hagwon or another hadn't yet coalesced, leaving kids to have free time. 12 years later, those kids have grown up

    Incidentally, I have a couple of Starcraft books in English I found here in Seoul - if anybody's interested in learning how to play, click on my username to contact me.

  3. "Look familiar? Miyazaki Hayao's Laputa: Castle in the Sky was released in 1986"

    Yeah, it's straight out of the 1960's from the "Star Trek" episode, "The Cloud Minders," and the floating city of Stratos.

    You can take a look at it on Youtube: Star Trek "The Cloud Minders" Remastered FX Reel

  4. Always enjoy reading your take on things :)

    Just a little clarification on your comment: "So put yourselves in their shoes. You are 50 years old. You have saved up a sizeable nest egg but not quite sizeable enough to live off of it for the rest of your life."

    The average Korean (40s to 50s during late '90s) probably did accumulate some savings by that age. Investing was not big yet at that time as Koreans then were used to saving through high interst rate bank accounts or insurance company accounts. Many of the PC Bangs or other small business were opened by early retirees in their 40s and 50s, not with their savings but usually with their pension money. Korean pension system was a lump sum system as opposed to the annuity form you usually see in the west. (Things are slowly changing but still many retirees today prefer the lump sum pension, or the early draw pension which sadly often leaves you with no pension when you retire ;-)

    As for Im Yo Han, the starcraft hero, he was in the Republic of Korea Air Force(ROKAF) for his military service, specialized in competing at starcraft competitions as a member of the ROKAF starcraft team! He was based at HQs and I saw him everytime I was the officer on duty at the airmen barracks. I had no idea who he was at first, until another airman "explained" him and the whole "pro gamer" thing to me. Imagine my surprise :)

  5. You know what's also mega-nerdy? What I'm about to do...

    It's actually "Apocalypse Tank" and not "Mammoth Tank" in Red Alert 2.




    *runs away*

  6. counthaku,

    That's a plausible explanation, but the Korean's own experience says otherwise. My family and friends had house parties as much as anyone in America.

    As to the idea of Koreans not being good at sports -- have you been watching the Winter Olympics?

    CiSK, more than a decade ago, the Korean went to a high school that finished at 10:30 p.m. Kids went to hagwon afterward the school ended. It's not a new phenomenon.

    JfD, technically, the concept comes from Gulliver's Travel (1726).

    Juan, good point.

    BfK, hey, come back! The Korean meant to say Red Alert! Red Alert 2 didn't come out until 2001!

  7. YES! Time to unleash the nerd!!

    Total Annihilation was indeed a good game and quite revolutionary for the time but suffered from having way too many units (I think 150+ for both sides.) It only had the two sides and there wasn't a huge variation in their playing style, as both sides could build the same basic things. Red Alert was a fun game but was clearly not balanced for multiplayer at all - this was the game from which the term 'Tank Rush' was coined. You didn't stand a chance as the Allies unless there was water on the map and you were able to spam cruisers.

    Consider Starcraft, which was not only the most polished RTS at the time, but also had the most balanced game mechanics. Not only did the three sides feature vastly differnet playing styles, they were also very well balanced - especially after Brood war (though I'm still inclined to think that Protoss has a slight edge.) I've often said that 2D games age much more gracefully than 3D games and so it is with Starcraft, which I still prefer to look at over Total Annihilation and many of the 3D RTS's that followed it. Unfortunately many Koreans missed out on the English-only campaign mode, which featured what is still probably the most interesting single-player campaign in any RTS to date. When I got Starcraft I played that sucker almost constantly until I beat the thing (a few weeks, embarrasingly) just to see what happened in the end. I've yet to finish Brood War but I hope to do so before Starcraft 2 comes along.

    One last thing: it's my personal opinion that RTS games make by far the best TV viewing for pro-gaming. Sudden Attack (and all Counterstrike variants) is simply horrible to watch on TV unless you are hardcore into the game. With an RTS, it's much easier to follow the flow of action. I'm sure Blizzard have taken every necessary step to ensure Starcraft 2 becomes a seamless replacement for the pro-gaming crowd.

    I'm impressed by this post. I thought for once, your seemingly infallible pool of knowledge might show a crack or two, but once again you've nailed it. Good work.

    As for Avatar, the point is that it should be seen in 3D. Not that this elevates the movie from being a mildly interesting sci-fi alien war flick, but it's still pretty impressive. We all went and saw Jurassic Park, right?

  8. Well, I usually enjoy your blogs, but I stopped caring after the second paragraph railing against AVATAR.

    Were you drunk when you wrote this?It's like when my Daddy used to get drunk and then he'd ramble on about topics before beating. Oh, and did I tell you about the statistics that Mothers Against Drunk Driving have up? Man, that organization is crazy! Lemme tell you all about it. What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah ... STARCRAFT.

  9. You didn't mention starcraft 2! What do you think will happen when it's released, are Korean going to play it or ignore it?

  10. Good post... but two comments...

    100,000 people in one place to watch a starcraft game? World cup stadium only holds 68,000 or so... maybe you're off by a 0 or two? If not, please let me know what kind of a venue holds this number of people...

    Secondly, I don't think that the majority of PC 방s are quite as nice and futuristic as you make them out to be.. most of the ones I've been in are kind of holes in the wall filled with smoke rows of computers... Then again, I don't live in the nicest part of Seoul..

    Anyway, I've never heard someone try to explain WHY koreans are so obsessed with Starcraft, so I'm glad you gave it a go..

    1. Maybe hhe added up the amount of people who watched that game from TV?

    2. I think it was Gwanganri, Pusan (beach area)

  11. I'd be interested to know what people think of the coming Starcraft 2 as well-

    (potentially) interesting anecdote- I checked out the eStars Seoul tournament last July and had a chance to play a demo of Starcraft 2 and watch the finals of the pro Starcraft tournament. Starcraft 2 was only available for four hours so I expected it to be jampacked- there were roughly 50 demo stations and not all were full. The room for the tournament finals had a capacity of 200 or so- but was not even half full. Could Starcraft mania be dead??

  12. baekgom, the Korean saw Avatar on Imax 3D. While it was a good enough time-killer, it was still stupid.

    Shawn, nope.

    tellos & counthaku, that will be an interesting question that will pretty much determine the future of the pro gaming league in Korea.

    Joanna, thanks for pointing that out. The Korean linked the source -- the match happened in a special stage on Gwang'an-li Beach in Busan, which is an annual event.

  13. @baekgom84

    NO way Total annilation ruled!, in that although there were tons of units people focused on several units. Then arm always went for peewee or flash tanks, Core always always started off weaker, with its basic Kbot units with a pilthy laser and its tanks no better either.

    But once you got to level 2 units it changed the other way the core got stronger.

    Then much stronger with its goliath tanks which nothing could stop.

    If you played it right it ended up being an attrition game where both sides bulilt big berthas and had to use doomsday machine or annilators to defend their bases.

    At which if the game lasted long enough people would have 10-20 big guns pummelling each others bases. At which somebody would build a nuke and the anti nuke was developed in response.

    There were some incredibly tense games in the past where we exchanged 1000s of nuclear missiles while triple tasking Kbot units to sneak an attack in while he was busy targetting nukes.


  14. Do any of you enjoy Baduk(Go)?

    The only reference I've read of Baduk in western literature was surprise, surprise, in "The Wheel of Time" series by now deceased Robert Jordan. He called it "stones" in his book, and the way he describes it I'm pretty sure it's Baduk. Any other references to Baduk(Go) in western lit. that you all know of?

  15. Popular in Philippine, too. We played with the Korean Saram.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. I am truly amazed at the level of detail and knowledge that "Ask a Korean" puts into his blogs.

    Do you consider the fact that most Korean families live in apartments have anything to do with the popularity of PC bangs?

    I have noticed that the Korean teenagers don't spend a lot of time at home.

  18. When are matches held at the Yongsan E-Sports Stadium? I'd love to go see one.

  19. Just a couple things I'd like to touch on:

    1. PC Bangs
    Should mention that it's a place where people can, and like to, hang out. Not too many people go there by themselves; they go with their friends! And if you have had any multiplayer gaming experience you would know that playing with your friends online and playing side-by-side are very different experiences.

    Before PC-Bangs, computer games were only played by people who really liked gaming. It was a hobby, so you either know and enjoy it or you don't have a clue; you own a computer, you own game titles, and you play it in your room.

    PC-Bang phenomenon changed all that. It really allowed - and in some cases, forced - people to acknowledge computer gaming as an acceptable, enjoyable pastime in social gatherings. If you're from North America, Europe, or some other place and can't grasp this weird PC-Bang concept, think of it as something like a bowling alley, and not as an internet cafe.

    2. Popularity of StarCraft in Korea
    Just because a lot of Korean people go to PC-Bangs and play StarCraft(SC), it doesn't mean that all of them are hardcore gamers, or even "gamers" in a conventional sense. A lot of them never even played a computer game before SC.

    The logic of "People go to PC-Bang because they're there" mentioned in the article would apply here; A lot of people picked it up so that they can hang out with their friends and join the hype. This is especially true for the older age group of Korean SC players (i'd say about 28 and above, people who were in college when SC hype took off), and they'll probably won't even bother trying out SC2.

    In fact, SC2 gaining as much popularity as SC1 is quite doubtful, as it'll inevitably lose a considerable portion of its fan base during the transition. Again, without the PC-Bangs, SC would've never gained this much popularity. It's equally true that without SC PC-Bangs would've never took off. It was a perfect combination.
    Somebody mentioned Total Annihilation(TA) in the comments and I personally agree that TA is much better RTS game than SC. But I cannot imagine people playing TA, Red Alert, or any other RTS games in PC-Bangs as they do with SC. There're many factors that contributed to SC's success, but I think the single most important factor was that SC is easy to learn. A case in point: i can teach my girlfriend to play SC any day; teaching her to play Supreme Commander, not in a million years, baby.

  20. I keep wondering too why SC is popular in Korea and why Blizzard promote a lot in Korea? Well the everything are very well said, thanks for answering. Its been a month since the since SC2 was release I think I should go peek my WOW and go buy some warcraft gold to dress him up.

  21. " gaming in Korea is about as popular as pro poker leagues in America." I will not agree with it better Comparison would be baseball , pro sc players rise to celebrity status and people watching sc/population of a country ratio is match higher than poker in us .

  22. Mr. the Korean, thank you for your very insightful post on this subject. I am truly fascinated that this came to be, and as a fan of SC for the past 12 years, I appreciate the level of play these pros have achieved. Not even the most well-funded experiment would ever have come close to producing the incredible matches played over the past few years in Korea.

    However, while I agree in principle with all you say, I still feel something is missing in the explanation. Media frenzy for star power, entrepreneurs, availability of technology and internet bandwidth, kids with spare time, etc all existed in other places around the world at the time SC came out. Yet, Korea is the first and only culture which has elevated a video game to such an extreme. Doesn't there have to be something else unique in the cultural makeup to enable this popularity amongst the general public?

    1. Other countries did NOT have the technology and Internet speed in 1998. And I think I addressed the cultural point about how people play go and watch it on TV also.

  23. I wish I was born in Korea

  24. Hi there, I'm a bit late to the party, but this was a very informative and entertaining read. Thanks for the in-depth solving of this "mystery" :) Greetings from Germany!

  25. Now it's all about League Of Legends. And a little bit of SCII too, but it's mostly LOL that dominates the PC-bang scene.

  26. Mammoth Tanks are on the GDI side... of a different game...

    I hate Starcraft1's gameplay, and its heavy technical shortcomings (even back in the day), if it didn't have its story/atmosphere, i would have never even touched it.

    RA2 on the other hand is a perfect game, i can't grasp that non-sensical madness in the form of text you've put out regarding how uninventive and unbalanced it is. Brute force VS Sneaky side, heavy metal against weak but advanced tech, only stupid rush-mad idiots say it is unbalanced.

  27. Red Alert (1, as I assume the article got that wrong) actually did eventually get inbuilt hassle-free online play featured, in its v3.03 patch. Sadly, for unknown reasons, this patch was never officially released, and only got through to the community because it was eventually leaked by its beta testers.

    To this day, this 3.03 version remains the standard on which all unofficial patches for the game are built.


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