"South Korea is one of the forerunners in eSports.
It was one of the first in the world to come up with the concepts of "game leagues" and "pro-gamers."
It all started around the late 1990s at PC rooms like the one I'm at right now.
People would gather with their friends to play online games, and watch each other.
PC room management noticed this trend, and started holding tournaments against each otherto choose the best gamer in each district.
Back then, the most popular game was Starcraft.
Decades later eSports has grown exponentially here in Korea.
And let's find out how."
The history of eSports can be traced back to Starcraft.
Released in 1998this online game instantly made it big.
Because Korea had just the right infrastructure.
Unlike computers at home, these internet cafes had high speed internet and top-notch hardware.
"Starcraft became a national game. Students would rush to PC rooms after school. Adults would come right after work. Everyone was playing it. Because Starcraft and online games became so popular, South Korean broadcasters decided to televise some matches. Nobody had thought about it before. The combination of gaming and broadcasting hit the jackpot. It turned out users enjoyed watching others play because they could relate to them and learn some hacks themselves."
Over the years, new games have been added.
The biggest in Korea right now is League of Legends which holds two major global eSports tournaments: Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship.
This year's MSI was held in Busan, here in Korea.
"I couldn't get tickets to all the matches, so I came to watch just one. But it was disappointing that I couldn't go to all of them. It would've been fun."
"I actually went to MSI to see team T1 play in person. But I also came here to take pictures as if I'm standing up close to my favorite pro gamers."
The domestic eSports industry has seen double-digit growth almost every year.
The average annual growth rate from 2015 to 2019 was 17.9 percent.
Recognizing the growing fan base in Korea, Riot Games, the developers of League of Legends held an orchestral performance with some of the country's most renowned musicians playing iconic music from the game.
"It's no doubt that Korea is the mecca for eSports. There's just so much demand for it. We've seen tickets for this orchestra performance sell like hotcakes since last year. You can sense the excitement as fans dress up as their favorite characters and run out during the intermission to buy merchandise."
To have even more fun at this event, many fans have dressed up as some of their favorite game characters.
"Which character did you dress up as?"
"I dressed up as the character Ashe."
"I'm Miss Fortune."
With eSports attracting more views than many conventional sports it has been selected as an official medal sport at the 19th Asian Games, for the first time ever.
Team South Korea is trying its best to live up to the reputation of the country being the home of eSports.
Shin Ye-eun, Arirang News.
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