Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Watching Starcraft live in Korea - MBC HERO Game Center, Seoul

Being a Starcraft: Brood War fan (and eventually a Starcraft 2 fan), no trip to South Korea would be complete without watching a Starcraft pro-game live. It was the chance to experience physically what I had watched only via Youtube uploads.

August 8, Sunday. I planned to watch this game:

Now getting around Korea without knowing a bit of Korean can be a challenge. Good thing Teamliquid had a write-up (complete with photos!) of how to get there. The game above was broadcasted from the MBC HERO Game Center, which was fortunately just 3 train stations away from the guest house at Hapjeong.

So after walking a few minutes of walking under a hot Korean sun and asking a few Koreans who knew English along my way, I finally got to the MBC Hero Game Center. Free entrance! :)

The view inside. When I got there the event wasn't starting yet.
Players enter the booth. That is to avoid distractions from the spectators, who tend to shout loudly.
The entire thing was televised! So I made my television debut in Korea...
Turns out that the game that day was Woongjin Stars versus Hwaseung Oz - the latter being the team of my favorite SC player, Jaedong. It's a race to 4 wins.
The Woongjin stars bow before the crowd. Hwaseung does too, later.
It's Jaedong vs Free for the first game. Jaedong opens with a 12 pool into gas into hatchery. Free opens with a forge FE.
I'm not going to talk about the plays that happened. But instead, I'm going to talk about what struck me watching the games live.
1. Set is amazing - For a pretty small set (probably 2-3 classrooms big), it had a whopping 12 screens! The big screen, 4 screens each to show the first person view of each player, and 3 screens near the back of the set. It's easy to see what's happening, but it's a bit hard to follow the overall game, since you can look at 3 views.
2. Atmosphere is intense - In a Youtube game, the excitement isn't there. You can see how long a game lasts, and more often that not, you find out who wins beforehand. That's not true when you watch live. The audience screams "player name hwaiting" before every game. The TV camera focuses on people who are doing something weird - like this Korean guy who took a photo of a player and uploaded it into a photosite - the camera zoomed in on the guy's computer!
3. Fangirls - What I found weird was the fact that there are way more girls than guys who watched this game. And they seem to be the highschool-early college type. I was able to talk to one student who told me she's a biomechanical engineering student, and despite busy schedule, she would find time to watch these games. And indeed, after the game, she patiently waited for her favorite player to come out.

Please take a look at the video I took of the place:
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