Pro gaming leading the way in Korea

Lim Yo-hwan is a god: The 27-year-old is the most famous professional gamer in South Korean electronic sports, and his dominance has earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in salary, prize winnings and endorsements.

Lim’s skill at playing the futuristic battle game StarCraft has turned him into the first superstar of the e-sports era, South Korea’s Babe Ruth of gaming. Usually referred to by his nicknames Boxer (short for his game ID SlayerS_’BoxeR’) or the Emperor, he has won more games of professional StarCraft than anyone else in South Korea, becoming a celebrity in a country so serious about gaming that it boasts professional leagues and two cable channels televising games 24/7.

His good looks and easy smile have made him a sex symbol in a “sport” supposedly the domain of geeks. He wrote his biography — “(Try and Be) As Crazy As Me” — at 25.

Games have been televised here for seven years, with Ongamenet, the largest channel, reaching 3 million to 4 million viewers during the 6-to-10 p.m. prime time, and its competitor, MBC Game, drawing 1.5 million at the same time for its own leagues.

Lee says the level of organization in South Korean pro e-sports is far ahead of that in the United States, where the start of professional gaming has been slower despite recent deals for more investment and TV exposure. Lee is pushing Korean organizers to use their head start to take their sport global but says the effort is being held back by this country’s addiction to a single game.

Source: LA Times

Related Links: Starcraft