Sex, Fame and PC Baangs: How the Orient plays host to PC gaming’s strangest culture

From a very interesting article by Jim Rossignol at his weblog (also in PC GAMER UK):

“So this guy has a lot of fans?” I say, knowing the answer but nevertheless incredulous.

“Hundreds of thousands in his fan club,” says Yang. “Impossible to track the number of people who watch him play.”

ChampsImpossible, because the man on the stage is on Korean television almost every day. He is about to sit down and play what is close to becoming Korea’s national sport: Starcraft. His name is Lee Yunyeol, or in game [RED]NaDa Terran. He is The Champion. Last year his reported earnings were around $200,000. He plays a seven year-old RTS for fame and fortune and to many Koreans he is an idol. Every night over half a million Koreans log on to Battlenet and make war in space, many of them with dreams of becoming like Yunyeol. But his skill is almost supernatural. Few people who play all day long will be able to claim a fraction of his split-second timing and pitiless concentration. Practicing eight hours a day, Yunyeol’s methods and tactics are peerless. Well, almost peerless. In fact there are two or three other players who command similar salaries. They might not hold the crown now, and one of them will probably take it from him soon, but for now at least, Yunyeol is king.

The existence of people like Lee Yunyeol ensures that South Korea is unlike any other gaming culture on Earth.

More here.