An important aspect about South Korean gaming culture are so-called PC Bangs. PC Bangs, literally translated as “computer rooms”, have developed out of internet cafes and seem similar, but they are mostly used for gaming. Contrary to the common prejudice of gamers sitting all alone in their rooms, many PC-gamers in the country meet up in those facilities for multiplayer games. Since the hourly fares are relatively low, they established as a popular social meeting place, especially among young gamers. Around 30 percent of gamers stated that they visited PC bangs. The sales revenue of PC bangs stood at around 1.8 trillion South Korean won in 2018 and is expected to grow further.
Another reason for the rise of eSports was the governmental support: While major technological companies started to finance the coaching of professional gamers, the KeSPA, the Korea e-Sports Association, was funded in 2000, supporting eSports in the country and even building the world’s first eSport stadium in 2005. Focusing on multiplayer computer games, two games that are particularly popular among pro gamers are StarCraft and League of Legends. As of February 2020, the leading eSports player in South Korea was Lee Sang Hyeok, going by the ID “Faker”, who won a total prize money of over 1.2 million U.S. dollars in League of Legends tournaments. The figure excludes other sources of income, such as sponsorships and salary.
But not only pro gamers are worth looking into: South Korea has a relatively high share of amateur gamers. While PC gaming was used by around 64 percent of gamers, around 90 percent of gamers played games on their smartphones. Mobile games are on the rise for both casual, as well as more serious players in South Korea. One of the biggest emerging mobile gaming eSports in South Korea is Arena of Valor. The trend does not seem to fade anytime soon, given the deeply rooted gaming culture as well as the high smartphone ownership rate.
Nevertheless, due to the high rate of gaming addiction, especially among young people, the government is introducing regulations that aim to protect the youth. One of those regulations is the Shutdown Law that was introduced in 2011: it forbids children under the age of sixteen to play online video games between midnight and 6am. Most gamers seem to approve these restrictions. A survey in 2019 found that around 35.9 percent of gamers thought that the restrictions should be more relaxed, while around 27.5 percent even urged for stricter restrictions.