Archive for October 7th, 2007

In Seattle, Digital Blood and Money

IN THE SUBURB WHERE I GREW UP, VIDEO GAMES consumed people’s personalities. Absorbed by Counter Strike, Starcraft or WOW, more than a couple friends simply disappeared from reality – one of them didn’t graduate high school because of it, but I heard he won a lot of gaming tournaments.

The story is even more extreme in South Korea; back in 2005 a 28-year-old man died due to a 50-hour marathon gaming session without food or sleep. There is even a Starcraft television channel in Korea, complete with howls from excited commentators.

Korea’s obsession aside, it is painfully clear that gaming has become a worldwide sport – as highlighted by the recent World Cyber Games held this weekend at Seattle’s Quest Field (where the Seahawks play). As the Ottawa Citizen reports it, nearly 700 professional gamers from 74 different nations competed, vying for over $500,000 in cash and prizes:

There was loud music, rappers and dancers and fireworks. There was even a politician or two to let the video game executives know that it’s understood what a giant industry video games have become.

You won’t find many women here, or people older than 30. What you will find is a colourful collection of mostly teenaged boys speaking many different languages, but united by a passion for gaming that their parents likely wish was a passion for math or science.

While I’ll admit to spending more than my fair share of hours in PC bbangs (or computer cafes), I can’t help but feel that all this hooplah is a magnificent waste of effort. I’m not knocking the skill it takes to perform in these games – indeed, it takes a large amount of coordination and savvy to be even a decent gamer. And perhaps one could even point to an event like this and call it a great international unifier…if it didn’t involve gamers “killing” all the other competitors.

But gaming as a career?

As for their future plans, Jeffrey Plaza says his parents closely monitor and limit the time he and his brothers spend gaming, and that they all realize there are priorities in life. He and his brothers have interests outside of gaming and have realistic plans for traditional careers, but he adds that one never knows what the future might hold.

“We love gaming,” he said. “If there’s a path that will go into gaming, we’ll take it.”

And with a chance to win thousands of dollars from gaming before they’re finished high school — or, in Joshua’s case, years before they even walk through a pair of doors at a high school for the first time — who’s to tell them it’s a bad career choice?

I might.

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October 2007