Vice tasks Matt Shea with doing a documentary on e-sports, so of course most of the shooting ends up happening in South Korea (with a bit of a detour into Europe), and mostly revolves around League of Legends. It makes for an okay gloss of the phenomenon, but is also a rather interesting look at (a slice of) Korean culture.
The full documentary is about an hour long, but if you don’t have the time, we’ve summarised the contents of each part so you can decide whether it’s worth a watch. All of the videos are below.
Vice heads over to Seoul, South Korea, to attend the semi-finals of the 2014 League of Legends World Championship. Here we’re introduced to the dedicated e-sports stadiums and internet cafes (called “PC bang” in Korean, pronounced “PC bong”) that form the ecosystem for this burgeoning pastime/profession.
Next we get a look at the shoutcasters, who commentate matches, with Shea visiting the folks over at Nice Game TV, one of four e-sports stations in Seoul.
We’re introduced to the socio-political impact that e-sports has had in South Korea. Most Korean websites and online services require the use of a unique identification number, a gaming curfew has been imposed*, and video games are treated like an addictive habit. We also get to see how gaming and internet addiction is treated in South Korea.
At the end, we’re treated to some South Korean cosplay.
The documentary visits Europe next, where we’re introduced to UK vlogger and e-sports personality, KSI, and the e-sports team, Fnatic. While e-sports may be nascent in America, it’s growing pretty well in Europe. We’re taken toGamescom—or, as Shea refers to it, “nerdtopia”—and watch as Fnatic loses to Alliance.
We return to South Korea and its PC bangs. “For youngsters, gaming culture has become part of their life,” says the manager of one of these PC cafes. Shea has a night out with some college students, to get an idea for South Korean gamers’ lifestyle, and then returns the favor, by taking one of the college men to a nightclub.
This transitions into a look at e-sports teams, and how they work, and Vice talks to the coach of a new team. And they interview Cheon Min Ki, or “Promise”, formerly of Ahq e-Sports Club Korea, who tried to kill himself after his manager engaged in match-fixing and forced the team to lose matches.
Shea heads to the Seoul World Cup Stadium to watch the League of Legends World Cup Championships 2014, and experience the fanfare and cosplay, tens of thousands of fans, and professional players that make it what it is.
* The gaming curfew is a blanket ban, imposed by the Juvenile Protection Act of 2011, which forces online gaming providers to prohibit people under the age of 16 from gaming between midnight and 6 a.m. According to This is Game and All Kpop, the South Korean government is now reconsidering this ban, and may soon allow parents to exempt their children from the restrictions.