August 20, 2008
In yesterday’s post we mentioned how we luckily stopped at Yongsan Electronics Market, which is eight stories of electronics goodness. We’re going there again in a couple of weeks to buy some supergreat and supercheap speakers for our laptops (because listening to music on our default speakers is hardly acceptable). What we forgot to mention was what we found at the top floor of the market. We saw posters for a “Cyber Stadium” on the top floor and thought we’d check it out, and expected to find an arcade. What we found instead was the Korea World Video Games Championship taking place, right then and there, in front of a live studio audience.
This was a much bigger deal than we could fully appreciate. When we walked into the room we were in a full TV-studio, with a packed audience, huge TV-Cameras, monstrously large big screen TVs, and a table with men in suits providing play-by-play commentary (or at least, we think that’s what they’re saying, since we don’t understand Korean. The could be talking about their favorite dinosaurs, for all we know). On either end of the table were glass enclosures, each of them holding a computer, a monitor, and a Korean guy behind them both. These two caged-off men were going head to head in a series of video game competitions. It would start with Starcraft, and go on to play Age of Empires, Counterstrike, and other games that we’re not all too familiar with. The cameras would record the whole thing and display on the big screen the competitor’s deeply concentrating faces along with what they see on their monitor. The cameras would point at the audience every once in a while, which is how Simon got on the big screen (probably because he was the only foreigner there, and everyone was surprised to see him). He hooted and howled and pumped his fists, which is the only acceptable reaction you can have when you’re on the big screen. We made a video of the whole shebang (unfortunately without Simon on the big screen, as he was too busy hooting and howling and pumping his fist to capture it on video).
During summer school, Simon asked every one of his students what they did in their spare time. A solid majority of the boys (around 80-90% for sure) said that they went to “pee-shee-bang” (which is Korean for “PC Room”) for at least an hour everyday to play video games. These PC Rooms are everywhere, almost as common if not more common than bars, and so they’re a big part of Korean Culture; heck, we’ve even got a PC Room on the third floor of our apartment. And so, in your classes, make sure you mention either Maple Story, Starcraft, Counterstrike, Dungeon and Fighter, or Sudden Attack, how you’re great at those games, and how you could easily beat your students at those games. You’ll instantly gain their respect and awe. Don’t actually challenge them, though – as Simon once did to his Korean students in Toronto; they’ll completely embarrass you.