I just had one of my most Korean experiences. I went to a PC room with 4 of my students and we played Starcraft. Here is the importance of Starcraft in Korean culture as I understand it based on second hand account, the internet and my friend who was here in the late 90s. When Starcraft first came out 10 years ago, everyone in the (gaming) world freaked out over it. It was an incredibly engrossing, balanced and challenging game built around a solid multiplayer experience. But as new games came out, people migrated towards those. Except for people in Korea. From what I understand, Starcraft came out at the perfect time for Koreans. In the late 90s, Korea was in an economic recession. From what I hear, it was a pretty rough time. I’ve heard of English teacher who left their jobs at this time because the local economy was so bad. Starcraft runs on almost any computer. Even when it came out, it was easy to run. I remember my friend had a Pentium 90 and we’d play on that. If memory serves, the minimum requirements were a Pentium 133, but it still ran on a P90. Anyway, Starcraft will run on almost anything (we may have tried it on my friend’s 486 too. I don’t remember how that worked). So, since the country was in a recession, people started playing since it was cheap and it provided quality entertainment for however long you wanted. Like chess for the new generation. As Starcraft gained popularity, games began to become more popular eventually becoming televised, celebrities were born, and soon enough, the Starcraft culture was born and it couldn’t be stopped. Well, that’s how I understand it.
Anyway, yesterday I ran into my students on my way home. They invited to me play Starcraft but I had plans, so I told them I’d play today. I just got home from playing with them, and it was an embarrassing loss, to say the least. I haven’t played Starcraft for the last 8 years (when I was their age). I don’t know any of the shortcuts, I have no strategy (I dont’ think I ever had any) and I certainly haven’t memorized all the maps. Needless to say, my students beat me quite easily. Despite all that, it was really fun. Going to a PC room is the staple of any Korean kid’s entertainment. It was funny to see my students as kids instead of mindless studying drones. It was also great hearing them trying to explain stuff to me in English.