E-Sports in South Korea

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Without a doubt, technology has become a global phenomenon, and each day the quantity of things we do with it increases more and more. However, this is not only summarized in something academic or for work, but there is also another face that we often ignore, an industry that grows and grows, the e-sports. When we talk about video games, we can’t help but think about the typical stereotypes that they are useless or a waste of time, but what if we saw what happens in the world and how Korea is leading the way?

South Korea has always stood out for being the best at what they do, and e-sports are no exception. You could say that it all started with the launch of Starcraft in 1998. However, there is another essential factor in the development of video game culture, its excellent internet network. In fact, in many parts of the world, internet cafes were the places where big stars of this industry were born. Unfortunately, as time went by, most people acquired internet connection in their homes and consequently, these places lost their popularity. Nevertheless, in South Korea things are totally different; these places are still just as popular because they are perceived as the space to socialize, play, eat and even study.

Its impact has been such that there are institutions to train as an apprentice, with the aim of being able to debut at some point as a professional player. In this industry, you don’t only have to be good, you must be a strategist, constantly improving your skills and even maintaining a good state of health, since this last factor can affect your performance. Several sources estimate that in 2020, South Korea was in third place among the countries with the highest number of players worldwide.

Photo by ELLA DON on Unsplash

What’s more, in 2020 the Korean e-sports Association (KeSPA) was created, whose mission has always been to turn e-sports into authentic official sporting events and promote their commercialization. Of course, this is still a plan in development, since it is not yet fully accepted by parents, as they consider their children could stop focusing and even abandon their studies for an unstable job. In fact, many players must retire at the age of 20, this means that once they finish, they must resume, in most cases, their studies and go to university.

It should be noted that not all video games can be considered as e-sports. These must meet certain characteristics, among them: the game must allow direct confrontation between two or more participants, players must compete on equal terms (where skill is decisive for victory), it must promote the desire for improvement, and it must have thousands of people playing and media re-transmitting the skills. What’s more, the platform best known for transmitting this type of skills is Twitch (twitch.tv).

A few years ago, in 2013, one of the players who today became the pride of the nation arrived; his name is Faker (Lee Sang-hyeok), mid lander who belongs to the team of SK Telecom (League of Legends). He appeared as a representative of all the South Korean values that anyone could imagine; therefore, he won the support of millions of people who follow the industry. Faker began his career in the third season of LOL, standing out as one of the best mid landers of the world, he was in several victorious competitions worldwide and seemed invincible until 2017, when he and his team were defeated by Samsung Galaxy (current Gen G – Korean team).

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

Did you know that before the well-known preliminary project called “BTS Law“, it was called “Faker Law”? Well, it is, and although Faker could not enter on this list, the fact of being considered, demonstrates the national and international importance that e-sports and their players have in South Korea.

It is too early to predict the future of Faker and even the industry itself, but one thing is certain, we will continue seeing a lot of this, because teams are appearing all over the world. Even in American countries, like Colombia, a group of women are being trained as professional players, but none of this would have been possible without Korean influence.

Photo by Josh Berendes on Unsplash

It is often difficult to understand what inspires millions of people to become devoted followers and why someone wants to be a player. However, that does not mean that we should ignore their perspective, because in the end, it is as valid as the dream that we ourselves pursue. Great documentaries that bring this culture closer to the public have been made. One of the most famous is “Free to Play”  from Valve, where they tell everything from the perspective of the players themselves, their challenges and training. Many times, we just need to change our angle to understand everything, well, with e-sports the same thing happens. For some it may be just a game, for others it is the time when they can let all their skills flow and give viewers the best experience of their lives.

E-sports continues to grow, there are more and more teams, the level of the players constantly improves and the finals of world championships become unpredictable. Because in this industry, last year’s champion may not return to their title if someone new, with new strategies and movements, that no one saw coming, appears to claim his place.

Written by: Sara Varón

Edited by: Laura Fino


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