So Korea LOVES the game Starcraft, did you know? Korea = Kimchi, K-pop, and Starcraft.
In Korea we have COUNTLESS pay by the hour PC rooms that are filled with gamers, many playing a version of Starcraft. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about (I am not a player myself, so forgive me for simplifying this so much!) basically Starcraft is an online strategy computer game where you are an “army” set in the 26th century and you are battle another army someplace off in distance space. These “armies” come in three types, the exiled humans called Terrans, a futuristic humanoid race called Protoss, and an evil bug race in pursuit of genetic perfection called the Zerg… kekekeke.
Starcraft is serious business in Korea
Starcraft is such a big deal here that they have a TV channel you can watch matches… AND its on basic cable. In fact, in the USA we had the Korean satellite package for a few months and one of the 5 channels you got aside from boring Arirang, two religious channels, and a news station was the Korean game channel which airs mostly Starcraft matches.
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People do not just play this game though….Korea has professional Starcraft players that compete in leagues here. If you are very talanted and willing to train night and day you can become a Pro-Gamer! Yes, the players even get boss jackets and have fangirls with banners~ told you it was serious business! Although Starcraft is not a Korean game, this is the place it is clearly the most popular so we have LOTS of tournaments. One of the major events is the Global StarCraft II League~ which I got to see the final match of last week for Season 2- 2012!
So how did this happen if I do not even play Starcraft? Well I have been taking language class at Ewha University here in Seoul for the last few months, and my awesome friend in class is Tom! Tom is really fun and always smiling even though he has to sit next to me with my desk covered in Sanrio school gear, what a good sport. I was very intrigued when when I found out he was not a teacher here… because everyone foreigner in Korea is pretty much a teacher, you kinda get used to Koreans saying “oh where do you teach” over and over all day and people looking confused when you say you are not a teacher! When he said this I thought maybe he was a personal trainer or athlete of some kind..hummmm~
Turns out Tom is an English (and sometimes German) Starcraft II commentator based right here in Korea who goes by “Khaldor” online!
Well that was an unexpected + pretty awesome surprise~ how cool is that???
So even though I do not play Starcraft I am very aware of it and very interested in the whole sort of subculture that has developed around it here in Korea, I remember back in college Nara’s fellow Korean friend would play it night and day. I’m aware of tournaments and special matches back home, but not many games have legit competitive leagues with people who live and train in dorms or do this for a living full-time, this is a JOB here for some people. I had been to one televised Starcraft match maybe 8 years ago and it was really fun, so when Tom said we could go with him to a big match over the weekend I was pretty excited to see what a pro match, let alone a FINAL match would be like! FANCY STARCRAFTING!
any excuse to dress up.
The futuristic player type “Terran” seems to be the favorite with Koreans here and was being played in the match by the first time finalist Squirtle from team Startail~ so I decided to dress festively for the occasion! The color scheme of that race is this cool glowing blue with crystals and metallic things so I grabbed a matching shirt and some shiny stuff! I also found some awesome crystal earrings that kinda reminded me of the game… I was way too excited about those and sent Tom a Kakao for approval haha.
At first I thought this would be all guys and I would be the only non-Korean female whole event…maybe just a few Foreigners in general would come to this because hey, its Korea so it is kinda far for most people! NOPE! When we arrived, wow~ the lines were packed with people from everyplace!! I was completely shocked by how diverse the crowd for this Starcraft II competition was, it felt like an almost even split between Foreigners and Koreans. Tom was trying to explain to me that this event was kind of a big deal since it was the FINAL, so some people flew out to Korea special just to watch this match. Wow!
Peeking out the top level to see some of the people waiting in line to get let in! Apparently Starcraft II is still not quite as popular as the original Starcraft game in Korea (which has its own leagues and finals) so the venue was a bit smaller, but still packed with people trying to get in! They actually ran out of seating so lots of people had to sit outside the room and watch on big screen TVs!
Thankfully we did not have to wait in line, we got to roll in like bosses with some Staff badges! Energy drinks, those wacky inflatable noise sticks Koreans love, and lotion samples from a cosmetic brand (of course…?) were the free gift goodies of the day~ nothing very starcrafty-tastic though, SO DISAPPOINT.
Since Hot6 Energy drinks sponsored the event we got plenty of cans to chug on that day. lol I love the fake cans they had smashed into all the glass windows as advertising outside, it looked really cool.
Everyone that came in got a fancy card XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Hour or so before game time…
We made our way to the top level and situated off to the side of the actual seating so we could creep around and snap pictures easily.
Tom creeping in the shadows (can you see him? haha)to say hi to the Korean commentators
XXX and XXX were kind enough to let me jump on the platform and say hi in between filming segments! XXXX!
On the same level as us were the Korean commentators for the event and the English language ones that had pre-show recordings to get through before the crowds arrived. Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski and Nicolas “Tasteless” Plott ~ very handsome and nice guys!!! I kinda want to steal those ties haha.
TONIGHT WE BATTLE
They had these huge and very glamorous sparkle banners in the room with spotlights on them. If the player lost they shone a red one over the losers banner… it was like some sort of gladiator battle. Check out how bad-ass Squirtle looks.
each of the players arrived and went to their respective battle-booths to warm up and get a bit of makeup before the cameras turned on.
The seats begin to fill up!
We like our view up here just fine!
When you endered the building they had a table set up with paper and crayons so that you could make signs to cheer with and flash at the TV cameras. As people sat down they quickly set to work on some projects~ however the SUPER savvy fans busted out ipads with things on them and had them in slideshow mode. SMART!
Nothing says this will be an epic battle quite like OUTER SPACE ON FIRE.
cue the smoke machines!
One thing I loved was how over the top they presented the match. Smoke, fire, confettie cannons, it was AWESOME! The rolled each player on on this platform all intense with sparks shotting everyplace and had them walk down the runway to the center platform~ It was kinda like WWF, but with guys that play games! Loved it.
It was really great to watch the game with a professional commentator right beside me haha! Khaldor pretty much gave me full on commentary while we watched and let me know when a clever tactic was being used or something sneaky was happening!
Pretty crazy shit going on~
When MVP gets in the zone he plays with his mouth wide open haha. Tom was saying he is sucking in the energy around him XD
Speaking of open mouths…these two opted to suck face at random moments so they are kinda in poses like this for half of our photos. I love that he is holding on to the English language broadcast earpiece while he makes out though. ROMANTIC.
During the game break we stepped outside to get some air~ Tom stopped to sign some autographs and talk to some fans.
back up on the ledge to watch the next round!
The game we watched was very exciting even though we could not appreciate the gameplay in full~ it was a lot of fun to be there for it! The winner had to win the best of 7 matches, and quickly the player MVP won 3 matches in a row! We thought for sure the game would be over with the 4th win in the next round, but Tom told us to wait since the other player Squirtle had nothing to lose so he may try something crazy! Sure enough, Spurtle came back from nothing and won 2 more matches making it 3-2… that 2nd win he had was really insane because it really kept you on the edge of your seat for a LONG time and the crowd was going nuts! It was just so much fun to be there and witness it playing out first-hand!
Sadly after that win we had to leave before seeing who won because the location this was being held was over an hour outside the city and we had a buddist festival to attend… I had been looking forward to it so I was torn about staying or going argh! Tom stayed and we made plans to meet him after the game finished and kept us informed on Kakao that Squirtle one AGAIN, but the last final round was taken by MVP the player that had won the original 3 rounds. I wish we could have seen that last round to break the tie, I bet the room went insane haha.
Check out the English-language broadcast of the match (complete with the opening walk-off) in the video above from GOMTV.net! Even if you don’t like watching Starcraft it is fun to see how they present this sort of match in Korea, the opening is seriously something~ they go all out!