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The Life of a South Korean Pro Gamer 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the zerg-or-be-zerged dept.
chajath writes with this excerpt from a South Korean newspaper about the lives of professional StarCraft players: "Prospective gamers take tests based on the skills they have picked up in PC rooms, and passing scores allow them entry into 'clans,' or guilds. Those who aspire to become pro gamers pay move-in fees and go to live at group dormitories, where they practice playing games all day long. Following a 'courage match' for semi-pro certification, the hopefuls must take a test to become apprentices in a pro-gaming group. ... 'The standard in pro gaming groups is for people to live together 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no traveling to or from work, and for those ranked Group 2 or lower, their entire daily routine consists of eating, cleaning, laundry, and games,' said Kim Jeong-geun. 'Because of this structure of bringing in young people, developing them, and then replacing them when their lifespan is spent and they have been squeezed dry, it has earned the name of "the chicken coop."'"
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The Life of a South Korean Pro Gamer

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  • More like work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boyter (964910) on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:50PM (#32411994) Homepage
    This sounds more like work then "an amusement or pastime" which games usually are. To be honest, even if I had the skill to play at that level I don't think I would want to since I like to play games in spare time. What do these guys do in their spare time if any... code?
    • Re:More like work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:57PM (#32412060)

      I think if they were smart enough to be able to code, they'd probably have been smart enough to avoid this sort of bullshit situation in which they're basically held captive to play stupid games all day like some sort of digital bondage slave.

      • Smart people can make very dumb choices in life (or more often, avoid making choices as much as possible).

        No matter how well explored the metagame in a RTS gets I doubt you can be among the best without a high IQ.

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          >Smart people can make very dumb choices in life

          No they can't actually, that's the opposite of what "smart" means.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by oji-sama (1151023)

            >Smart people can make very dumb choices in life

            No they can't actually, that's the opposite of what "smart" means.

            No-one makes smart decisions all the time. Even if in theory you would make smart decisions every time, it's always based on the current situation and current knowledge (which could be misleading).

            (What about 'Intelligent people can make very dumb choices in life'?)

      • The description sounds like being a sumo wrestler, except for the video game part.

        • Sumo wrestlers definitely eat better.
        • The description sounds like being a sumo wrestler, except for the video game part.

          The description sounds like pretty much any major league sport in America.

          If you want to get started right, you have to join private leagues to get a jump on everyone else, and you have to play each year and go to private training camps. All this is out of your own pocket.

          You have to take things seriously and play continuously through middle and high school, or you'll never even get to start on a varsity team. You have to di

          • If you want to get started right, you have to join private leagues to get a jump on everyone else, and you have to play each year and go to private training camps. All this is out of your own pocket.

            A guy I worked with years ago when I was doing sales was frequently the company CEO's golf partner because of his serious skills at the game. When I asked him why, if he was anywhere near as good as everybody was saying he was, he didn't go pro and the simple answer is that skill alone won't do it. He expl
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        I think if they were smart enough to be able to be pro-gamers, they'd probably have been smart enough to avoid this sort of bullshit situation in which they're basically held captive [salon.com] to write stupid games all day like some sort of digital bondage slave.

      • by tempest69 (572798)

        I think if they were smart enough to be able to code, they'd probably have been smart enough to avoid this sort of bullshit situation....

        Either way you take this seems a bit insulting to EA coders. Though it fully explains the quality of their product.

        Storm

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        I dunno.

        EA has a lot of (presumably) smart coders who seem to end up in similar circumstances-- then their wives have to fight their battles for them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This sounds more like work then "an amusement or pastime" which games usually are. To be honest, even if I had the skill to play at that level I don't think I would want to since I like to play games in spare time. What do these guys do in their spare time if any... code?

      Pfft, you're just jealous that you don't have their l33t game skillz. You know you'd trade it all in just to beat one of them someday.

    • Re:More like work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:07PM (#32412138) Homepage

      You cannot be a professional in anything without commitment.
      people play sports as "an amusement or pastime" but that does not mean that professional sports players do not replace working 9-5 with practicing whenever they feel like it.

      Pro gaming can get quite intense through out all the world (I would say mainly since they all have to be young, and therefore more easily taken advantage of).

      But that description does not sound all that different from descriptions I have heard of other professional sport athletes in china, not sure how this compares to South Korea.

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        Indeed. [lepak.tv]

      • by gravos (912628)
        It's true. Actually, most ANY multilayer gaming tends to require a huge amount of effort and commitment if you want to rise near the top ranks, even among the so called "casual" players who don't make any money or win any prizes or get any kind of real-life reward. Look at any of the FPSs or MMORPGs that have something approaching a ladder: you won't even get in the top 10,000 unless you spend 40 hours a week on it for a significant amount of time.

        40 hours a week is a pretty serious commitment.
      • Professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, singers, dancers, MMA fighters, boxers, etc all live in their own homes. They can have families if they like and they usually do. What these S. Korean pro-gamers are doing should be against the labor laws of any civilized nation. They shouldn't be doing this for more than 10 hours a day 6 days a week.
        • Professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, singers, dancers, MMA fighters, boxers, etc all live in their own homes. They can have families if they like and they usually do.

          Some do for sure, some definitely do not. The local Junior Hockey team in the city I used to live in most definitely did not. The team lived in 3-4 apartments, practiced every day together, and spent their down time being shuttled around to store openings and the like for some PR time. During the off-season they were allowed some time to visit family or party, but as soon as pre-season started they closed themselves right in.

          They shouldn't be doing this for more than 10 hours a day 6 days a week.

          I don't mean to be hostile, but I am curious how you decided on a 60 hour workwe

          • by George_Ou (849225)
            I said not more than 60 hours; I didn't suggest that should be normal operation. We do have 40 hour work weeks as the standard in the US. These pro gamers seem to be pulling 100 hours a week.
    • by skids (119237)

      Leave it to the gambling/entertainment industry to take a leisure activity and make it into an uber-competitive hellscape.

      Oh, to your query, I don't think they are allowed "spare time."

      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:28PM (#32412302)

        Leave it to the gambling/entertainment industry to take a leisure activity and make it into an uber-competitive hellscape.

        Oh, to your query, I don't think they are allowed "spare time."

        Gambling Industry? What are you on about, this sounds pretty much exactly what my World of Warcraft guild was like - except we didn't get paid, and I don't think half of then knew what fresh laundry was...

    • Re:More like work (Score:5, Informative)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:15PM (#32412200) Journal

      What do these guys do in their spare time if any... code?

      Surprisingly, yes!

      A lot of the SC Original Pro's write their own AI scripts to make the AI in Starcraft a lot harder, capable of advanced techniques and deeper theory. Those little nifty tricks they've learned to beat PC's can now be done to them

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some old-school foreign pros like Testie used to code their own AI, but the Korean pros haven't done this since the very early days (if ever). Why write AI when you can just get a B-teamer and tell him what strategy to do against you?

        They basically get kids at 14, 15 yrs old, and train them all day every day until they burnout at age 18/19. At that point they are an expert at the game but knowing nothing else and having a poor education. A few rise above the rest to fame and glory, but for the vast majority

        • by uncqual (836337)
          In other words, a bit like kids trying to get into professional sports in the US!
          • >They basically get kids at 14, 15 yrs old, and train them all day every day until they burnout at age 18/19. At that point they are an expert at the game but knowing nothing else and having a poor education.

            Sounds like they are giving them engineering degrees.

            >for the vast majority of progamers it's a pretty dismal existence with no future.

            Like I said...engineering.

          • Most schools in the US ensure that young athletes get a well-rounded education. In fact, if their grades aren’t passing in their academic classes they won’t be eligible for sports until they improve.

      • It would be good if those lessons (the more general ones at least) could be made public to game developers, so that other games could have better AI.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:33PM (#32412324)

      While you can enjoy a job, it'll always be work. That is just life. Many people think that being a game tester would be fun. I mean you get paid to play videogames, right? Wrong, you get paid to test broken ass video games and to do things over and over again. It is extremely tedious much of the time. You aren't getting paid to just play as you like, you'll be given specific tasks like "Sometimes this item doesn't work, so use it on everything in the game, document when it does and doesn't work and try find the common thread."

      This is why I'm not a games tester. It was a career I'd considered. I like games, and I have the requisite skills and understanding to do good testing. I am good at documenting problems, and I understand how computers work so I have a reasonable chance at figuring out what causes a problem and thus how to replicate it. However, I didn't go in to it because I'm worried it would make games not fun for me.

      I do computer/network support professionally. Ever since I started doing that, I've stopped tinkering with my computer. I used to do things like overclock and so on but now I just want it to work. I solve computer problems professionally, I've no patience to deal with that kind of thing as a hobby. Likewise back in the day I was the webmaster for our university's paper. While I used to read the paper for pleasure, I stopped when I got that job. I had to go through every single story every day for work, so reading it or any other paper held no interest to me outside of work.

      Not everyone is like me, of course, some people can do things both as a job and a hobby. However the common thing is that what you do for a hobby is on your own terms. It is fun because you set the terms, the time, the goals, etc. Work is, well, work.

      • I solve computer problems professionally, I've no patience to deal with that kind of thing as a hobby."

        Ha, you bastard, you're just like my auto mechanic. When he was in-between jobs, he'd replace a fuel pump for 20 bucks and a 12-pack. Now he works 10 hours a day servicing big-ass diesels and won't even give me a tune-up for any price.

      • HVAC/R tech, and business owner. My T-stat batteries were dead last night when I got home. I could have opened AH, connected common at the board and on T-stat and it would work until it broke. Could have pulled a T-stat from the shop that works with a hot and a resistor instead of a common. Could have grabbed a T-81 mercury bulb and wired it in. I took cover off T-stat and used a jumper to bring on OD unit and put hot and fan together under same lug. Will buy batteries today. Do that crap too much for pay t
      • While there are quite a few people who aren't games testers and talk about game testing being a horrible profession, my friend who is a games tester loves his job, and still spends inordinate amounts of free time playing games as well--I'm therefore a bit skeptical about its use as an example.

    • Re:More like work (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:42PM (#32412378) Journal
      It's a different kind of pleasure at that level. For a clear view of it, check out the end of this game [youtube.com] by the legendary Boxer. Look at the expression on the guys faces, even the loser looks like he had a good time. It was an intense amazing game. Add to that the pleasure that you get from improving at something, watching yourself get better and better, pushing your limits, and the pleasure of just being awesome at something.

      That said, I have noticed in the past few years the pleasure go out of the players. They just don't seem to enjoy it the way they did in Boxer's day. So maybe these camps are killing things.
      • by vitaflo (20507)

        "They just don't seem to enjoy it the way they did in Boxer's day. So maybe these camps are killing things."

        Boxer was making $300k/year at the time playing SC. I'm sure he enjoyed that quite a bit. Don't be fooled, the top Korean players in SC make a ton of money from sponsorships. That's why people go to these camps.

    • Re:More like work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ivucica (1001089) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:42PM (#32412384) Homepage
      Seriously, that's the definition of "professional": work that you do for living.
      • From TFA:

        The standard in pro gaming groups is for people to live together 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no traveling to or from work

        These sort of living conditions only make it "professional" in the sense that, at best, those poor factory workers from the inception of the industrial revolution were professionals or, at worse, slavery is a legitimate job.

    • by msimm (580077)
      So, just to be clear, you're saying being a professional gamer sounds like a lot of work...
  • 'Because of this structure of bringing in young people, developing them and then replacing them when their lifespan is spent and they have been squeezed dry, it has earned the name of "the chicken coop."'"

    It reminds me how porn works.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:06PM (#32412126)

      "It reminds me how porn works."

      Citation needed.

      • Re:Like porn? (Score:5, Informative)

        by sourcerror (1718066) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:22PM (#32412256)

        "for all who draw the (sword) Wikipedia will die by the (sword) Wikipedia"
        Matthew 26:52

          "Some girls are used in nine months or a year. An 18-year-old, sweet young thing, signs with an agency, makes five films in her first week. Five directors, five actors, five times five: she gets phone calls. A hundred movies in four months. She's not a fresh face any more. Her price slips and she stops getting phone calls. Then it's, 'Okay, will you do anal? Will you do gangbangs?' Then they're used up. They can't even get a phone call. The market forces of this industry use them up."[5] Some film studios encourage their actresses to have breast implants, and offer to pay for the procedure.[5]

        [5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/mar/17/society.martinamis1 [guardian.co.uk]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porn_actor#Female_performers [wikipedia.org]

      • well, maybe like the Navy works, or the Catholic Church...there's a theme.
    • by tsotha (720379)
      Well, I suppose you'll end up with a sore ass either way.
  • Without LAN how will Sc2 be able to used in pro tournaments?

    The lest thing that is needing is a internet lag / hiccup that may only hit one player or not hit all players 100% the same way. Even more so if there are nat / other port issues as well.

    • I guess it will authenticate to Blizzard servers and then start LAN play.

      • by dltaylor (7510)

        Nope. No LAN play. According to Blizzard, everything will have to go through BattleNet (which is why I won't be buying any of the SC2 versions).

        "However, when asked if LAN is ever going to be introduced in SC2, Pardo simply said that everyone else (his development team) had accepted the fact that SC2 would not have a LAN mode."

        • by pcolaman (1208838)

          I'd be willing to bet good money that Blizzard, recognizing how much Starcraft is played in South Korea, will offer to sell the software to pro gaming leagues and possibly even large gaming operations there to connect to the Blizzard network without having to forgo the option of playing on a LAN. I could be wrong but I just don't see them possibly putting off that many potential customers (including the leagues which likely buy a ton of licenses)

          • by EvanED (569694)

            Blizzard is trying to integrate themselves much more into the Korean pro scene than they currently are (which is admittedly very little). They actually want a hand in running the tournaments and such, so it wouldn't even be the case that KESPA would have to go buy Blizzard's server, 'cause Blizzard would just bring it in.

            Of course, while I'm no KESPA fan, IMO Blizzard is making unreasonable demands of KESPA, and the talks between the two have not gone well. From my perspective it really seems that both Bliz

    • Suppose you can purchase a Blizzard Authenticating server for your company, to be used in a LAN only setting.

      I'm not saying its going to happen but I wouldn't be surprised.

  • I wonder what pro-gamer kids involved in this do for fun?
  • "Life" (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:57PM (#32412062)

    ....their entire daily routine consists of eating, cleaning, laundry and games

    It's like amateur gamers I know, except without the cleaning and laundry.

    • That made my day. Zzzzzing!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)

      It's like amateur gamers I know, except without the cleaning and laundry.

      That's why they're professionals and the gamers you know are mere amateurs. It takes years to master the art of cleaning and laundry to level 50 or higher.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:58PM (#32412072)

    other pro sports have players unions and Leagues that set rules.

    May it's time for pro gameing to go the same way like the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL and others.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Good luck with that. It takes much less to be a pro gamer than an athlete, and with that low barrier to entry would come enough competition to crush any organizing effort.

      • by sahonen (680948)
        If being a professional gamer were easy, it wouldn't take locking yourself in a room and practicing all day every day to get good enough to be a professional gamer. The highest levels of video gaming are just as competitive as the highest levels of any physical sport you can name. Being good enough to compete at that level is just as rare as being able to hit a major league fastball.
    • May it's time for pro gameing to go the same way like the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL and others.

      You mean for Electronic Arts to make an endless series of games year after year? I can see it now, EA South Korean Pro Gamer 2011. I doubt they'd make it, though, since you know some people would release mods of it that turn it into EA EA 100 Hour-A-Week Programmer 2011, as the scenarios are probably really similar.

    • Not as long as the rules are dictated by the developer/distributor. If the "competitive" fans of a franchise had something to say about changes in new revs then community killing disasters like UT3 would never happen and a league might have a chance.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:03PM (#32412108)

    some of sounds like the old days of the MLB there the teams just about owned the players.

  • Sounds a bit like working at a games company. except with better hours and food.
    • Sounds a bit like working at a games company. except with better hours and food.

      Except that they actually get to play video-games.

      On a more serious note : do video-games companies have full-time testers? I would doubt it.

      • by inanet (1033718)
        Considering I worked for a number of years as a full time games tester, and am still in touch with a number of guys who are still working in the industry as full time games testers, I would say your facts are wrong and lacking. most companies have their own QA teams, and then you have the publishers who also have full time test teams. Games testing is a fully viable career if you can hack the bad pay, crazy hours, and being blamed for every missed deadline, every fault in the product and being the general
  • Exercise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:13PM (#32412176) Homepage

    "for those ranked Group 2 or lower, their entire daily routine consists of eating, cleaning, laundry, and games"

    I know from having watch previous documentaries that they are also supposed to keep up their physical fitness with exercise.
    You cannot have fast enough reflexes to compete professionally if you are not in very good shape.

  • by Gri3v3r (1736820) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:14PM (#32412196)
    *starts packing for South Korea*
  • Just wondering, since if a young person is supposed to eventually give 21 months of his life to the armed forces, then he would no longer be competition worthy, and replaced. It would make the gamers more expendable I suppose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bugbeak (711163)

      The Korean Air Force has its own pro team which competes on a regular basis. This means they can jump right into the loop after their term is up. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lim_Yo-Hwan [wikipedia.org].

      • by EvanED (569694)

        This is true... but at the same time, saying ACE "competes" is a little bit strong of a statement. The other commitments of the people on the team means that they don't get nearly the practice time of any of the other teams, and it definitely shows. I mean, look at the rankings in the latest Proleague [teamliquid.net]. Or the previous one [teamliquid.net]. (Not sure why the stats aren't complete there.) Or the one before that [teamliquid.net]. Or the one before that [photobucket.com]. The only team that reliably competes with ACE for bottom slot is eSTRO.

        ACE exists, and it g

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Monday May 31, 2010 @07:57PM (#32412504) Journal
    Korea used to be weak in the 98-99 years of Starcraft because they were predictable. You could tell they were clicking at speeds 2x as well as you, and they were using a good strategy, but the fact was they all used the same strategy. I think it was attributed to them having internet cafes where they all hung out and shared strategies. The strategy EVERYONE used was muta/ling. Since I was Terran at the time, I'd just make marines, hold my choke, tech to scivessels, and win. Irradiate > Mutalisks, so I'd win almost every time.

    Now I was planning on making my big comeback into Starcraft2. My theory was I've been #1 in ladder in SC1 and War3 that I could do it again for SC2, but this time I'd bring the heat with long play hours. My goal was to either make some money on Progaming, or get a job with Blizzard. Two problems stand in my way though: 1) I got a job with a promising company making video games so its like I accomplished my goal already. 2) Starcraft2 is buggy still in beta, and I get dropped from random games resulting in a loss.

    Not everyone gets my bug in SC2, but its due to their code not attempting to reconnect to Battle.net when dropped. Also SC2 does not support rejoining games, like Heroes of Newerth does. I'd think with a big budget that SC2 would have it all, but they don't even have chat rooms yet.

    I'm going to buy SC2 and play it casually, probably get #1 on their divisional ladder(meaningless compared to a real ladder), but things have changed, and I can't honestly bring it to the Koreans anymore because I don't have the time to get a perfected game. If they had professional leagues for SC2 in the states like professional sports in the states, I'd be pro easy. There's just not any infrastructure for pro games in the states like Korea has. I'm a little jealous :)
    • by Renraku (518261)

      SC2 will end up being the same way. Already there are only a few dominating strategies out there and if you scout the enemy base early in the game you know exactly what to counter for. I've noticed some of the higher end players pretending to tech up one way and end up teching their REAL strategy up at another base (known as a proxy), or by simply hiding their real teching buildings out of normal scouting paths.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I was a ref at the CPL and remember being fascinated by the Koreans attendants, these guys could move their shoulders and the attendant would know that meant that they wanted their headphone adjusted slightly up and to the right (for example) so that they never had to release their keyboard, and man watching them playing starcraft, the would hammer the keyboard like they were typing a document. fascinating stuff. however. disqualify one, and his attendant chased you around for hours trying to get him rei
    • There's just not any infrastructure for pro games in the states like Korea has.

      I think the problem your running into is culture. There's nothing physical preventing American's from forming pro-gaming leagues, but in fact we are saturated with all sorts of entertainment competing for every available time-slice available in our daily lives. I'm not so sure entertainment is so diverse in Korea (compared to America), which why such dedicated leagues are able to form.

      Personally, I royally suck at RTS games. But

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr.Ziggy (536666)

        There's just not any infrastructure for pro games in the states like Korea has.

        I think the problem your running into is culture. There's nothing physical preventing American's from forming pro-gaming leagues, but in fact we are saturated with all sorts of entertainment competing for every available time-slice available in our daily lives. I'm not so sure entertainment is so diverse in Korea (compared to America), which why such dedicated leagues are able to form.

        Mod DigiShaman -1

        Korea has *many* entertainment options, just like the USA or Japan. It exports movies, tv shows and music.

        Korea's pro gaming leagues don't exist because of poor options! Korea has:

        1. Initial strong results in international gaming--and gained a lot of headlines. Whenever a small country can beat Japan and the USA at something, people notice.

        2. The PC Bang (computer game room) culture. Most games are played in competitive social gaming situations. It was the norm in Korea for a long ti

  • For the Win (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lawen (251989) on Monday May 31, 2010 @11:09PM (#32414000)

    Cory Doctorow's new Young Adult book, For the Win [craphound.com] talks about some of this. The main premise of the book is that the horrible sweatshop working conditions of MMO gold farmers in China, India, Malaysia, etc. inspire a plucky gang of visionaries to lead union organization for "virtual world workers". He Creative Commons licenses all of his work so grab an ebook from his site and check it out.

  • In a way, you just have to pause to admire the masochistic streak that runs through Korean culture. It's particularly striking in their films, e.g. Old Boy.
    • Hah, it seems you need to watch more Japanese horror movies... from my perspective as a Korean/Argentinian Japanese are the master sadomasochists. Koreans are just catching up ;)
  • This whole thing reminds me of Ender's Game.
    Maybe it's just a devious plot to train thousands of South Koreans in "computer games", only to unleash 10 million drones on China in a few years, all controlled by "pro gamers"...
    I mean, it can't possibly really be that all of those talented youngsters are really wasting their lives like that.

  • For the glorious leader, we shall crush the decadent Southern dogs!!

    Stalinist Starcraft anyone? I don't think they'd find anything too ideologically objectionable in the game.

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

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