October 28, 2012

StarCraft: The PC Bang Experience (Part 4)

The reason the PC Bang grew as a business was because of a country wide corporate restructuring that took place in the late 1990’s here in South Korea.  A lot of middle management type people over 40 found themselves without jobs.  They were unemployed and worse, they had no way of getting a similar job in their fields.  A lot of people turned to their families for help.  With the support of their families many opened restaurants and shops; others, however, opened PC Bangs.  When you look at the idea of a PC Bang on paper the business model is relatively simple and genius.  A business owner has to buy a bunch of computers, keep them running, and pay the internet bill.  The owner should keep their business clean and tidy.  Some owners take the lazy way out, and do not clean very much.  However, I have been in several nice PC Bangs.

In an effort to attract more customers, the owners of the PC Bangs hosted StarCraft tournaments, much like what happens in American game shops, except that in Korea, these tournaments spawned bigger tournaments and more people continued to show up for them.  These tournaments ended up creating a new popular sport that caught on quickly in South Korea.

The first time I used a PC Bang I suffered from sensory overload.  The PC Bang computer is still the nicest and the best computer I have ever used.  It will probably stay that way for a long time, or at least until I can save up enough money to buy a new computer.  Even after saving up that money, I think the computer I buy will still be inferior to a PC Bang computer.

Maybe as a way to save I should start charging myself a dollar an hour to use my own computer.  Then maybe I will be able to afford a really nice computer in a few months.  Even so I am really tight fisted about money, and I will not probably spend that much money on a type-writer and Facebook machine.  Maybe I will look into a gaming computer, but it is unlikely because I do have access to a PC Bang.  Even in my remote area, the PC Bang is above the hair stylist who cuts my hair and another PC Bang is available at the bottom of the mountain where I live.

My friend and I ventured into a PC Bang for research; my friend was extremely excited about the computers.  The screens themselves were 26 inch wide monitors, or as she put it, “electronic glory”.  Walking into the PC Bang, the room was a very dimly light with black lights on the ceiling.  The clerk handed us each an ID number, which we used to log into a computer and kept track of our logged time on the computer.  After the computer starts we had hundreds of games to choose from.  Some of the more popular games were: World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, Guild Wars 2, Rift, Diablo III, and of course StarCraft.

There happened to be a couple that was sitting behind us playing Guild Wars and, as I was told to me by my nerdy friend, they were doing a dungeon run.  The computers were very nice and ran very quickly and smoothly.  The chairs were worn, but they were still very comfortable computer chairs.  They are very easy to relax in, no doubt encouraging patrons to stay longer and make the business more money.

After about 30 minutes of playing on the computer, I got thirsty.  Fortunately, they keep refrigerated drinks nearby so you can choose to buy a drink.  They have Coke, energy drinks, and cider.  Cider is essentially the Korean version of 7UP or Sprite.  They also have a variety of snacks to choose from, anything from chips to ramen.  That means they have a hot water tap so you can make instant coffee, hot tea, and instant ramen.  This is Korea after all; these are the snacks of choice for many Koreans especially gamers.

The Good: this game helped save a lot of Koreans from financial ruin.  During a time where people needed to find a new means to support themselves, StarCraft provided a solution that ended up creating something wildly successful and popular.

Image Credit: Yeko Photo Studio / Shutterstock

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