So the LoL finals ended. Azubu Frost came in 2nd to the Taipei Assassins. If that wasn't a shocking conclusion to the tournament, then you probably don't follow too much LoL. Regardless, I've come back to continue my little essay on the way games work in Korea. I'm attempting to highlight this fantastic culture in the best way I can because I feel like, as a gamer, it's such an eye-opening experience to see how other countries handle video games. So, without further ado, let's get into the conversation about the people who game in Korea.
The shortest answer I can give: Everyone.
The long answer: People of all ages game. This includes kids, mothers, fathers, college students, grandparents, the elderly, and anyone else that can find their way to a PC room or cell phone. Each group does have a certain niche of game they prefer, though. As I sit in a PC room, it's always entertaining to look around and see what the others are playing. Sure, some games are familiar to me. Then there are those games that look just straight up ridiculous, and then there are the ones where I can only think, "gee, you came to a PC room to play THAT?" In any case let's take a quick analysis of these different groups and see where they stand.
First off, the youngest group is that of the children. These are the people who still aren't in High School, but venture out into Korea with their group of friends to game, eat food, and generally cause a ruckus. Now, as stated, they come in packs. You rarely see just one kid playing a game. There will always be a set of 3 or 4 and they will be playing some team game that looks rather simplistic (and it probably is). Their favorite time of day is right after school lets out, so about 3pm, and they stay in the rooms up until dinner, when I assume their parents tell them to come home.
Quick Note: South Korea is extremely safe, so it's not uncommon to see kids of any age above 7 walking around on their own.
Now, the games they do play generally feature your normal little avatars that can be decked out in clothes, hairstyles, and weapons. The games, as I said, are simple. There's one that is a lot like Super Smash Bros.. They're in a 2D environment, and they have buttons for regular attack and special attack. There's another which I believe goes by the name of Elsword. It's in the style of a manga, where the action takes place in a comic panel. They do play their fair share of both Sudden Attack and that Gundam Seed game I talked about earlier. It's pretty entertaining to watch the pack of players yelling at each other as they fight, even if I have no clue what they're saying.
The elderly also really enjoy themselves some games. Their choices are rather unique, though, and can be broken down to 2 categories: Traditional Korean games, and Gambling. That's right, gambling. I'm not actually sure if it uses real money or not, but it is complete with a full virtual horse race and a poker game with some hilariously large cards. Their preferred time to game generally run very late. They are the night crowd. They come late, and it's not unusual to see them stay until the wee hours of morning. They almost always smoke (half of any pc room is smoking). They also love to play card games and that strategy game Go!, which I will never understand.
The college students and high schoolers are your typical gamers in Korea. They come at all hours, they play a large variety of games, and they love to have friends there, but don't care if they're alone. If I had to figure out the biggest games for them, it'd be League, Starcraft, and Diablo 3. Yes, they did take very well to Diablo 3. What I find odd is that I have yet to see someone play a class that isn't the Wizard. Also, I'd like to note that that game looks tremendously boring once you get to top level stuff. These guys just roll their fingers across 1,2, and 3, and click the mouse. Boring. Like I said before, we are talking Starcraft 1. I still remember being in a PC room during my 3rd week here and seeing 4 guys dressed in full suits at 1am. They walked into a PC room, sat down together, opened up some starcraft, and just duked it out. I am not sure how long they played because I actually left before them. These guys are just straight intense about games they love. This group does play almost any game at these rooms, and they are the main players for FIFA.
My favorite group has got to be the parents. I've seen, on many occasions, parents joining their kids in playing different games. A slice of Korean culture: it's common practice for kids to stay with their parents until they are married. That can mean that you may be 32 and still living with your Mom and Dad, and no one would mind it. You aren't a bum, you just couldn't find love.
This group actually loves to play MMOs. This can range from Aion, to Blade and Soul, and then to many Korean MMOs, of which I'm not too familiar. They could be Lineage, but I haven't seen enough of Lineage to be able to point it out. They also love them some card games, and they normally compete amongst each other in the pc room.
This is just for PC rooms, mind you. There is, of course, a large market for mobile gaming, but only on cell phones. Most people from about 16 to 30 love to play mobile games on the subways and buses. It's actually common to see couples playing cellphone games together. In fact, couples in Korea do almost everything together. But that's a completely different post.
Anyways, I know this is quite the wall of text, but if it interests you, I thank you for reading!
Until next time