While some may believe Starcraft II to be “just a video game”, it is one of the most famous titles played competitively by professional gamers. “eSports”, as the discipline is called, is a fast growing, dynamic and profitable industry with full-time players who regularly compete for six-figure prize money.
Seoul has become a global hub for eSports due to the presence of top-ranked players, a solid industry ecosystem, and large audiences eager to watch competitions live. eSports in Korea have become a cultural phenomenon in their own right: successful gamers have their own fan base and train like professional athletes, big companies are eager to sponsor teams and competitions, there are television channels devoted to live gaming and the government is actively promoting eSports abroad.
Our guest for this episode, Nick Plott, is at the very center of eSports in Korea. A former professional StarCraft gamer in the United States, Nick moved to Seoul to work for the Korean broadcasting company GOMTV and became the first Western StarCraft commentator in the country. He and his co-caster Dan Stemkoski, known in the industry under the nicknames Tasteless and Artosis, are now considered the most famous eSports commenting duo in the world and have become major celebrities in their own right.
Nick kindly agreed to talk to us about his work as a professional “caster”, the unique features of Korean video game culture and, of course, the rise of Seoul as a major hub for eSports worldwide.
People often say why Korea? But I think the real question is: Why Seoul? […] Back in the 1980s, there was a ban on a lot of Japanese cultural products, like games or movies, so the people who were playing games – who were interested in playing games at the time – were going into PC games; […] at the same time, because the Koreans take schooling so seriously, there is no way a Korean parent at the time would buy a console for their kid over a computer. […] That combined with the explosion of PC cafes everywhere really led to the perfect environment for people to start compete and learning games.
The interview was conducted on June 15th in Seoul.