Video Gaming is a humongous influence in South Korean pop culture, becoming more prominent in the recent decades. The country was slightly ahead of the game when establishing the KeSPA (Korea e-Sports Association) in 2000 but with the rising popularity of MMOs including Starcraft, DOTA2 and League of Legends, it has become more prominent with last year’s Olympic introduction during the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Since then, South Korea has focused hard on e-Sports and gaming as a manner of tourism. Video gaming is now a local past-time with many locations being converted to LAN centres or internet cafes, known as PC Bangs – so young adults can get their game on with friends near and far.
When looking through news articles and cultural videos – such as US presenter, Conan’s visit to Korea (above) – it is clear that the Korean audience tend to lean towards PC gaming in comparison to Console. Certain popular games still include Xbox or Playstation ports, such as Overwatch or Monster Hunter, but the main games of choice are often played on a classic computer set up which gives the optimal layout for many multiplayer experiences. This preference brings the perfect marketing ploy to create these PC Bangs as not only can gamers continue playing without delay, but can also order food or refreshment from their seat to deliver or collect during the occasional wait in the online lobby.
However, what brings e-Sports its main impact is the influence and popularity that many high level players get. They are not seen as geeks but almost as idols. Ranging from streamers to pro-players, there is a public figure for everyone. Even K-Pop idols themselves have gotten into the spirit; from VIXX & Monsta X brawling in Overwatch to EXO’s Baekhyun & Sehun winning their chicken dinners in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Girl groups also get their chance to shine with gamers but mainly as performers; i.e the e-Sports girl group, Aqua or (G)I-DLE’s collaboration with League of Legends. Despite the huge media following, it is the gaming talent that forms the interest as many sportsmen at the top of their virtual game line up to get their shot and some often represent close to home and there is one perfect example when it comes to UnitedKpop’s audience.
In the last year, e-Sports has been turned on its head and blasted into the British attention with Overwatch. During the game’s creation, Blizzard Entertainment already made the South Korean influence clear and loved with the introduction of character, D.VA – a young girl known as Song Hana, who is a gaming celebrity and heroic mecha pilot. It was almost inevitable that the world would find more beloved gamers to support and they certainly found it in the Overwatch League, with British sponsored team: London Spitfire. The group is compiled of South Korean talent who battled for continuous weeks during 2018 and fans were able to follow their story with their entourage – including British Youtuber, Stylosa of Unit Lost.
After months of valiant fights, the team took flight in New York to become the champions of Overwatch League‘s inaugural season and now have a huge following of fans supporting them as they plan to defend their crown in the upcoming season – due to begin on February 14th 2019.
This is only one game among many that is making waves not only in South Korea but around the world, and with e-Sports slowly making its way to becoming a major sport and with debate of its future involvement in the Olympics taking place; it is only a matter of time before this cultural craze hits our shores and cements its place in virtual history for years to come.
Are you an avid e-Sports fan, or are you training to be the next best gamer? Let us known in the comments and keep an eye out for more e-Sports updates throughout the year on our social media and website.