Seong Joon Cho - At a match in Seoul, Faker gets his makeup done before appearing in front of adoring fans. Down several flights of steps, I enter a dark, windowless room furnished with rows of computers. An older woman sits near the door, next to a display of energy drinks. The cafe is silent except for League's telltale sound effects coins tinkling, weapons firing. Near the back of the room, three Korean men sit shoulder to shoulder, tapping at their keyboards. One of them, a year-old named Kim Hyun-jun, says he comes here a couple of times a week, usually for five hours at a time.
When I ask him whether he's heard of Faker, he looks at me as if I've sprouted a third eye.
They started cropping up in the late s, when the Asian financial crisis spurred the government to invest in broadband. But there are sociological reasons for their persistence.
In Seoul, where many families live in small apartments, kids are less likely to play shooter games in their living rooms.
Instead, they escape to PC bangs. The first eSport to sweep the country was StarCraft, a real-time strategy game that's as complicated as chess.
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StarCraft was released in ; by the middle of the s, Korea boasted a thriving professional league, a regulatory agency the Korean eSports Association, or KeSPA and two cable networks dedicated to gaming. But at the end of the decade, StarCraft was losing steam -- just in time for Riot Games, a small company based in Santa Monica, California, to bring League of Legends to market.
Riot doesn't break out user numbers by country, but more than 27 million people play the game every day. When professional teams started to form in Korea inan advanced infrastructure of coaches, sponsors and training houses was already in place. Faker lives with his teammates in an apartment on the fringes of Seoul, in an area populated by half-empty office buildings.
The players share bedrooms. When they wake up around noon, a cook comes in and prepares lunch.
Afterward, they walk a few minutes to their training center. For the next eight hours, they practice by scrimmaging against other teams, occasionally taking breaks to study game film. Faker usually practices by himself for at least four more hours. I ask kkOma, who is playing League at his computer, what he thinks of the Korean Exodus. If another region wins, maybe there is.
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He looks as good as he does because there's a baseline set by the rest of the team. I ask him whether he's still in touch with the players who left Korea, and he says no. He and his younger brother were raised by his father he says he hasn't seen his mother in a while and his grandparents. From an early age, he was an autodidact, the kind of kid who solved Rubik's Cubes and read foreign books to teach himself new languages.
His father, a carpenter, was slightly bewildered by his precocious son. Sang-hyeok always loved games -- learning them, practicing them, conquering them. He discovered League when it launched in Korea inand he started playing it around the clock; before long, he was so good the Korean server struggled to match him with players of equivalent skill.
When SKT approached him, he had just started high school. After joining the team, he dropped out. Faker shows me the computer room where he practices, then leads me to a lounge furnished with a massive leather sectional, a shelf of trophies and a rack of sneakers from New Balance, one of SKT's sponsors.
A cooler is stocked with sports drinks provided by another sponsor, Pocari Sweat. The sofa is big enough for sprawling, but Faker perches on the edge, his hands clasped together. When I ask him to describe his life at the training center, he paints an ascetic picture. He has no real hobbies outside of gaming, and he's never had a girlfriend.
The walls of his room are blank. I tell him I've read that he owns a couple of plants and ask him what they look like. He pats the tufts of hair above his temples, a recurring tic. Initially, SKT's coaches were put off by Faker's shyness.
One was even worried he might have a speech disorder -- some days, he uttered only a few words. Gameplay[ edit ] Cave Story's simple controls allow for movement, jumping, and shooting. The heads-up display in the top left displays equipped weapon, weapon level, and current health. The yellow triangles represent experience points to be picked up. The player controls the on-screen character directly using the keyboard or gamepad.
The player progresses by navigating platform game puzzles and shooting enemies with the equipped weapon. Defeating enemies sometimes yields yellow triangular objects, which give experience points to weapons when collected. The player must interact with a variety of non-player characters and objects to complete the game. Setting[ edit ] Cave Story takes place within the cavernous interior of a floating island. The island is populated by Mimigas, a race of sentient, rabbit-like creatures.
A particular species of red flower that grows in the island causes the normally peaceful Mimigas to fall into a violent frenzy when ingested. An army of robot soldiers was sent to the floating island on a military expeditionseeking to harness the Demon Crown as a weapon for wars on the surface world. He finds a village of Mimigas, who are being persecuted by the Doctor. Not finding her, they mistakenly abduct another Mimiga named Toroko instead.
The player finds Sue in the Egg Corridor, where she discovers the eggs of a Sky Dragon, which could allow her to escape the floating island if hatched. Sue tasks the player with retrieving Kazuma from Grasstown.
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After freeing him, they meet Professor Booster, who reveals that the Doctor plans to use the red flowers on Mimigas to create an army to take over the surface world. Booster sends the player to the Sand Zone to destroy the red flowers before the Doctor can find them. While there, the player meets Curly Brace, a female robot who also has no memories of her past, and Jenka, an old witch who is Misery's mother and guardian of the red flowers.
Jenka calls the player character a "soldier from the surface", one of many who were sent to the island to slaughter the Mimigas. Before the player can reach the warehouse, however, the Doctor force-feeds the captured Toroko a red flower and gravely injures King, leaving the player to fight the rabid Toroko, who ultimately dies.
Misery banishes the player to the Labyrinth deep inside the island as punishment for interfering with the Doctor's plans. Curly Brace has also been thrown into the Labyrinth and they cooperate to escape. Balrog helps them to move the boulder blocking the exit, revealing his kind nature. However, the Doctor steps in to save it before the island collapses. When he returns to Mimiga Village, he finds that the Doctor has captured the Mimigas.