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Media Analysis Paper

Paul Lopez
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
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.
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