October 27, 2012

StarCraft: The Catalyst (Part 3)

Last time, I tried to describe what StarCraft is to the average person or even to people like me, who have no understanding of the game.  I have recently downloaded a trial version to give it a go.

Here in this section, I will be writing about -how- StarCraft was able to fulfill the needs of a lot of people, and how it filled a large gap in the unemployment sector of South Korea.  During the late 1990’s two major events occurred that put South Korea in the right position to become the center of the StarCraft universe.

One of the catalysts that helped StarCraft become such a big success was fast and reliable internet.  South Korea invested a large amount of money into their internet infrastructure in 1999.  According to a 2011 news article, South Korea has the fastest internet in the world, with Japan coming in at second place.  This claim was supported by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  In this same study, the United States came in at a sad and depressing 13th place.  On a recent trip back home to the states, I had a lot of trouble streaming simple videos off of YouTube.

Does it surprise me that Seoul was called “the bandwidth capital of the world” by another website?  Yes, it does surprise me, because within 20 years South Korea has gone from a depressing dictatorship to a world power.

Another writer I had the pleasure of meeting was complaining about how amazing and cheap the internet has been in Korea, but at home, in Australia, he is paying almost four times as much, for a much lower quality internet service.  This was another pleasant surprise about the internet in Korea – not only is it fast and reliable, it is cheap.

High speed reliable internet has given Korea the power to make it possible to make StarCraft a powerhouse in online gaming.  The other thing that fueled the use of StarCraft in South Korea was public access to the use of what is called a PC Bang (Baang).  Bang (Baang) in Korean literally means ‘room’.  Literally translated to PC Room, there is usually a fee of 1,000 won an hour for use. A thousand won is roughly 85 cents to 90 cents an hour depending on the exchange rate of the day, if you are worried about specifics.

The PC rooms are not some little thing in the back of a coffee shop.  These PC Bangs are fully functional businesses of their own accord.  PC Bangs are usually well sized rooms with 50 or more computers.  Some larger rooms can even accommodate over a hundred computers.  I am not certain of the PCs specifications, but I will say they are beasts compared to my current laptop.  Let’s be honest here those PCs put my laptop to shame.

The Good: the use of high speed cheap reliable internet and access to high end gaming computers at a relatively low cost to the renter helped make South Korea the number one country for online gaming.

Image Credit: HomeArt / Shutterstock

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