Paul Lopez 02/19/19 J201 Media Analysis Paper Video games are one of the more recent forms of media to arise in the past 100 years. First coming to major prominence through the release of Pong and arcade machines, gaming has become a cultural phenomenon. Titles such as Fortnite, Pokémon GO, and Grand Theft Auto have gone on to influence culture, society, and even government legislation. One area in the world that has been particularly under the influence of this is South Korea. Dubbed “the birthplace” and “capital” of eSports, South Korea has positioned itself as one of the leaders in embracing the medium. Although the United States is also influenced by video games, it pales in comparison to South Korea. Here, gaming has begun to mold its society while also taking form as an addiction and has been considered as a widespread epidemic. For this paper, I am going to examine just how influenced South Korean society is by video games and also highlighting how it is now an “epidemic” to some. South Korea isn’t a newcomer to the realm of gaming. Back in 1998 gamers from the country were introduced to Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft, a real-time strategy game immersed in science-fiction elements. It was an immediate success and began to craft a massive following around it. 2000 saw the rise of PC Bangs which accommodated those looking to get their daily video game fix (New York Times). PC Bangs are locations filled with gaming computers and high-speed internet for the best quality experience. These began to take shape as communal hangouts, similar to “neighborhood basketball courts where gamers could test their skills.” (Mozur) Areas such as this began to see a rapid growth in sizes, so much so that these PC Bangs had to expand and more had to be created. Since players were starting to show up in bigger numbers, competitions became the inevitable. As PC Bangs started to emerge in 2000, so did eSports. eSports became a national phenomenon and soon began to replace baseball and soccer as some’s favorite sports. To manage this, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism formed the Korea eSports Association which helps to organize and maintain these growing competitions (Wikipedia). America has its own organization, Major League Gaming (MLG), but does not host tournaments and events on such a big scale as Korea. 2004’s pro-league final for StarCraft attracted over 100,000 people came to Gwangalli Beach to watch the events unfold. Later, in 2014, 40,000 fans filled a soccer stadium in Seoul used for the 2002 World Cup in order to view the championship for Riot Games’ League of Legend (Mozur). The large attendance numbers are some of the highest ever for eSports competitions around the world, including the United States, England, and Japan. Due to a big following, corporations and businesses wished to get involved as turn grant some endorsement deals and ad revenue. In 2018, South Korea’s gaming economy was beginning to surpass 12 trillion won, which is equivalent to $11 billion USD (Clark). Currently, South Korea has 25.6 million gamers with a population of 51.26 million, marking nearly half of the country (Sheldon), so it’s no wonder why these companies are seeking out a piece of the market. Many businesses are known to have their own sponsored eSports team that carries their name, providing opportunities to up and coming competitors. Faker, a League of Legends player known as the “Michael Jordan of eSports,” is estimated to have earned roughly 3 billion won ($2.6 billion USD) annually thanks to his sponsor SK Telecom, the country’s top wireless operator (France-Presse). For the more average player, an annual salary is estimated between $25,000 to $30,000 (Sheldon). With prize pools in the millions of dollars, team houses are sponsored by companies such as Coca-Cola, Samsung, and Red Bull. Here, a group of players train for 12 hours a day in hopes of enhancing their skills. Major television networks have also jumped into the market by showcasing large competitions similar to what’s done with soccer matches. These eSports players are seen as celebrity status and some even household names. The youth may have some of their posters on their bedroom walls and it isn’t a strange occurrence for a player to have groupies follow them around to each tournament. One may ask, how widespread is video games among teenagers and young adults? According to a survey by Nielsen Korea, South Koreans by the age of 15-29 ranked eSports and their favorite sport only behind baseball and soccer (France-Presse). Some experts have attributed the rise in celebrity status of gamers and easy access to technology as leading causes of internet addiction. In the United States, internet addiction is a phrase tossed around without serious connotation, for instance using Facebook or Twitter on a consistent basis. However, in South Korea it’s much more distinct. Roughly “one in ten Korean teenagers are considered addicted, with many being sent to government-run addiction centers for treatment. Some of the treatments can even include something similar to shock [therapy]” (Sheldon). Teenagers are known to spend upwards of 12 to 14 hours in a PC Bang for one session. Doing so is simple because these bangs offer food services that can be ordered to an individual seat. There is no real need to get up anymore but that is where the problem truly lies. Occasionally, news outlets will report on deaths caused by long gaming sessions. In 2005, BBC News reported on “A South Korean man [who] died after reportedly playing [Starcraft] for 50 hours with few breaks.” The man was said to have eaten very little during this time and had not slept properly. He would only pause the game for a short period of sleep and to go to the bathroom. 2010 saw the biggest death that brought international attention. A threemonth old baby was reported dead to authorities due to malnutrition. The cause of this was from the baby’s parents, who were relatively poor and unemployed. These two would leave the baby alone for six to twelve hours at a time to visit their local bang to play Prius, a massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game. In the game, players are given a “pet” that is integral to gameplay that revolves around understanding its personality and moods to get to certain goals and completing quests, sort of like a virtual child (Kotaku). In attempts to deter addiction in younger ages and to prevent incidents like this from occurring, the South Korean government imposed a “Cinderella Law,” also known as the Shutdown Law. This “prevents anyone under the age of 16 from playing online games on their PCs, handheld device, or at a PC bang from midnight until 6 a.m.” (ThoughtCo) Minors were also required to register their national ID cards online in order for regulations to take place. It’s a controversial law that is said to infringe on personal liberties and is argued to be ineffective since these youth can simply use another ID card or connect to Western servers. However, it is at least an attempt by the government to deter internet addiction and help regulate this ever growing and expanding video game market that has shaped South Korean society. Video games as a whole have influence South Korea in a vast number of ways, such as social gatherings, economics, and government regulations. In addition to this, internet addiction has been a rising issue in this society causing legislation to pass in hopes of deterring it. This medium has been incredibly influential in shaping this country’s society and has nearly half of the population interested in it. eSports first emerged in South Korea and is also gone on to influence other parts of the world, such as the United States. It’s a medium with major implications for this country and continues to expand. Bibliography Clark, Bryan. “South Korea's Lost Generation of Gamers Offer a Preview of What's to Come.” The Next Web, 14 Nov. 2018, thenextweb.com/gaming/2018/11/13/south-koreas-lostgeneration-of-gamers-are-a-preview-of-whats-to-come/. 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