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The Almighty Buck Games

The Extremes of Internet Gaming In South Korea 152

Rick Zeman writes "CNN has an expose showing that in South Korea, the world's most wired country, Internet gaming breeds two extremes: elite 'athletes' who earn fame and six figures, and addicts who literally play until they die and tells the stories of players on both sides of that real-life divide. From the article: 'The first thing you notice about the professional video game players are their fingers — spindly creatures that seem to flail about at their own will, banging at the computer keyboard with such frequency and ferocity that to visit their live-in training centers in South Korea is to be treated to a maddening drum roll of clicks and clacks.'"
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The Extremes of Internet Gaming In South Korea

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  • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @11:18AM (#40895055)

    Bad analogy. The piano is an instrument that has been around for centuries and one that you can measure yourself by players of past/future generations, we are talking about being the best at manipulating a computer program that won't be around in five years.

    The piano has only been around for centuries because someone started mastering it when it hadn't been around for centuries.

  • by John Napkintosh ( 140126 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @11:34AM (#40895217) Homepage

    I still don't get this. If you want to call what you do a "sport", as in a structure competition or whatever gets to be a sport these days, OK then. But I thought "athlete" still implied some sort of extreme physical activity. Becoming dehydrated or mentally exhausted with a lightning quick mousing hand doesn't exactly qualify in my book.

  • by Vaphell ( 1489021 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @11:50AM (#40895369)

    how is that different from majority of sports? Do you think these teen gymnasts you see on TV have any tangible skill on hand once they reach age of 18-20?
    Have you ever played hoops or football and wanted to be good at it? Do you earn millions as a sports star now?

    Besides starcraft is not as flimsy career path as you think it is. RTS genre shares a lot of common on the metagame level (micro/macromanagement, combat tactics) and the best players can see through that. They can switch to another game and be competent players almost right off the bat, with training they are able to reach top levels of performance.
    Once their reflexes detoriate they can move to coaching and train next generation of players and this happens a lot in korean starcraft league. They also can try their hand at casting and use their experience and insight to draw the spectators into the game.
    Granted, only the best of the best have shot at the followup career, but it's the same with any other sport discipline where a significant level of physical prowess is required. Once you are too old, you are too old. Either you are famous enough to live off the fame, or you are not and you need real job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @11:52AM (#40895397)

    There's actually a lot of study going into RTS games like starcraft right now and whether or not it trains a person to be a better multitasker, whether or not it builds general skills like being able to count a large number of objects on a screen in less than a second (Most people fail for numbers > 7) and a number of other general skills that make a player better at these kinds of games.

    Not surprisingly, the best SC2 players right now were SC Brood War and Warcraft 3 players. While yes, SC2 will have a very limited shelf life compared to something like becoming a concert pianist, it is not a fair comparison. Nobody is replacing the piano with piano 2. The piano does not rely on updated presentation or a need to benefit from new technology. There will be more RTS games that will eventually replace SC2 as it becomes more dated and the players who commited themselves to that game with have a transferable skill set.

    Besides, Usain Bolt will not be running in his thirties, NBA players do not play into their forties. After they cannot maintain their actions per second and fall behind they have a much more transferable skill set than any other athlete does.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:04PM (#40895535) Journal
    I don't see too many people paying to sit around a gamer.

    So, didn't bother to read TFA, eh?

    In South Korea, these games mean BIG money. High-end corporate sponsorships, huge live audiences, nationally televised competitions... Every bit as serious (take that as a positive or negative, as you wish) as professional athletes in the US - Who also won't keep playing into their 60s, as another poster pointed out.

    And y'know, if I could make over 100k a year playing video games - I'd drop my 9-to-5 in a frickin' heartbeat. "Meaningful" work? Hey, if you think getting accounting system A to talk to POS system B has any deeply satisfying "meaning" to it after 20 years, I have a few seats left I can sell you, to watch the paint dry on my patio.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:06PM (#40895565)

    Exactly, and how many pianists out of all those who dedicate themselves make 6 figure incomes.

    Probably a few orders of magnitude more than the number of Starcraft players making 6 figure incomes.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:18PM (#40895709) Homepage
    What we see here is a typical product of journalism, circa 2012. Either you play video games or you die trying. How many people actually died playing games in South Korea? Just look at the writer's pathetic point of view. It's like he's never heard of video games before. "He was a conqueror -- a general who controlled sci-fi armies and determined the fate of civilization." What the FUCK? We're still hearing this garbage? This is the same crap that journalists wrote about Galaga in 1982. "One is a dead ringer for Dr. Bunsen, Beaker's sidekick on "The Muppet Show." WTF? Beaker is Dr. Bunsen's sidekick. How can we trust anyone who doesn't even bother to get basic pop culture facts right? What does that say about the rest of the "facts" in this article...about pop culture? After setting up a base in the northeast corner of the map, "MarineKing sent foot soldiers to root out his opponent's headquarters -- a glowing blue pyramid spitting out blue termites -- and blew the whole thing up before the 10-minute mark." Here we have a serious, accredited journalist - who writes for CNN - and he doesn't even know the difference between Terrans and Protoss? Come ON! Would an editor send a reporter to cover an event where he doesn't even know the difference between Republicans and Democrats? Between socialists and fascists? Between OWS and jackbooted thugs? But, as soon as the weird, incomprehensible world of "those scary video games" is entered, the reporter needs to advertise his outsider status - where in other topics being an outsider is considered a badge of ignorance and provincialism.

    Over lunch his dad, who has become well-versed enough in "StarCraft" strategy to engage in lengthy conversations about troop movements, attack formations and character choices, tried to help MarineKing with his strategy against MVP.

    Putting Starcraft in scare quotes? WTF? Who does that? And mixed case? It's just plain Starcraft. Yeah, I know, Blizzard calls it StarCraft, but again the reporter is advertising his outsider status. "I'm not one of these video game freakazoids," he seems to be saying. "I'm just here to report and confirm what geeks the rest of us already know that they are. They are The Other, and worthy of "

    The entire article purports to show us the extremes...that's called yellow journalism, eh? And yet for all its bluster, it mentions but two deaths. How many people died in Chicago this last weekend?

    It's totally obvious that this "journalist" had his article written before he even got off the plane in Seoul Incheon (renowned as being one of the world's most sleep-friendly airports, and true to its reputation). He treats his subjects as if they were among the groups CNN treats as strange objects to be examined on a laboratory slide (for example: devout Catholics, gun owners, Orthodox Jews, Texans).

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:30PM (#40895859)
    Neither did anyone come along one day and say, "Hey, it would be awesome if we could have a game with three alien species that are nearly evenly matched, where the players command the species in epic battles." Starcraft was based on Warcraft; Warcraft was inspired by earlier RTS games, and those games were inspired by Chess and by RPGs, etc.

    Chess, Go, and Poker have world championships as well; why should those games receive more respect than Starcraft?
  • Re:Motivation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twmcneil ( 942300 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:45PM (#40896079)

    Seems to me that these kids need something to do

    Agreed. I get the same feeling every time I see a bunch of kids taking turns using a wooden stick to swat at a small leather sphere. Really, don't these kids have anything better to do with their time?

  • by neonKow ( 1239288 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @01:30PM (#40896633) Journal

    Exactly, and how many pianists out of all those who dedicate themselves make 6 figure incomes.

    Wanting your child to be the best, or for your child to want to make their parents proud is only a natural need for a parent/child relationship.

    To honor your parents (and ancestors) is a rather deep rooted thing in East and South Asian cultures. Parents need to define what is and isn't honoring - being a slave to online gaming is hardly something to aspire to.

    Bold claim. What's your reasoning?

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