South Koreans barely view gaming as fun. It is more of a culture and passion. But, if you look back in the nineties, the scenario was not the same. Then, South Korean society viewed gaming as a dangerous sport. You could easily spot an angry mother looking for her child in these bangs. Many kids used to sneak out to play at these bangs. When the rest of the world views gaming negatively, South Korea has evolved from that. The perception around video games has changed massively, and it is no more considered negatively in the country.
Thanks to these PC bangs! There is a considerable contribution of the PC bangs and the Korean government behind it. In Korean charge (방, 피씨방 or 피시방) stands for a room or a private room. You may come across this word in almost every nook and cranny of the country. Korea showed how gaming isn’t a tool of being the unsocial but complete opposite of that.
It simply means a private room with a specific entertainment function. From cities to villages, you will find these bangs everywhere. These PC bangs are equipped with high-speed internet and high-end computers—people of distinct age and gender play here for an hourly charge. In Korea, it is a place you get to hang out with your friends and even play with them. Not just that, you may eat or even study at these PC bangs.
Tour of the PC bangs
Let us be very clear at first. The Korean PC bangs are different from any average internet café. These do not encourage isolated activity. Instead are hangout hubs for small to large groups. They are built and designed to play games. They are big enough to host multiple groups together under one roof. You go into bangs, pay anything around 500 to 1500 KRW, log into the game you want, and start playing. The food and beverage can cost you 2700 to 7000 KRW based on what you order.
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You can buy your time from the digital kiosks at the gate of the PC bangs. The computers have a variety of games from multiplayer to single-player and are equipped with high-speed internet. You will find the popular games already installed on the computer. Even though the main focus remains games and computers, but these bangs also serve food and beverages. The best part is that these are open 24 hours. PC bangs are so cheap, including the food, that many prefer them over hotels.
Being able to eat, play, and study at the same place helped Koreans connect. People would even come to these bangs to film Mukbangs. The ones who visit to review PC bangs ensure to taste the food and add to the review. The demand for bang’s food was so high that many bangs even delivered food during the pandemic. They even have comfortable chairs and bathrooms. You get to order your food from the computer you have occupied and get it served at your seat. Thus, it quickly became a popular place to hang out. It is no more viewed as a business. PC bangs are an integral part of Korean culture now. Every Korean is familiar with the idea of bangs.
Brief History of PC bangs
These PC bangs became a thing in the 1990s. They became utterly popular around the economic crisis during the political and economic transformation from the 1980s to the ’90s. Way too many people across Southeast Asia were unemployed. South Korea witnessed a vast and rapid development in these years. This is popularly known as the Miracle on the Han River. It turned into a developed nation from an agrarian society in a matter of decades. This sudden urbanization also invited overcrowding with it. Children had to live with their parents even if they were in their 20s. This led to a lack of privacy which gradually gave birth to the bang Culture.
The Korean government arranged a broadband connection nationwide during the 1990’s time. People who had lost their jobs used these opportunities and started these bangs backed with high-speed internet. At first, people used these cafes to follow the Stock market. But, in 1998, the launch of StarCraft and League of Legends changed the scenario. More people were engaged in games than the Stock market. Hence these ‘Stock rooms’ transformed into PC bangs real quick. These were homes away from homes. The younger generation could indulge in hours of gaming while drinking beer and binging on some snacks. Here, they did not have their folks nagging behind them or grandparents badgering them. From the day it began till 2021, these PC bangs are spread over 20,000 venues.
PC bangs were never the only kind of bangs in Korea. Before the PC bangs came into being, there were karaoke and sauna rooms. Then, as the technology advanced, multiple other types of bangs were born.
PC Bangs and Korean People
To be very honest, the gaming culture runs in the blood of Koreans. You will not be able to separate the PC bang culture from Koreans. From corporate events to breaks during works playing games is a widespread activity in Korea. In other corners of the world, people perceive video games as a catalyst of making youngsters unsocial. Korea viewed video games the same way, but it changed with the emergence of bang culture. Video games demolished the social barriers and made people come closer. You could come close with several people without having to get heavily drunk.
Even men in their thirties, married, and maybe the father of young kids can be spotted here. Most of them had a knack for playing games, but neither had the amenity or money to afford it during their adolescence. These people are the ones you will notice dropping by after their work. Not just that, but you will find many Koreans considering these bangs a perfect date spot. Many PC bangs have designated areas for couples. You can spot a comfortable two-seater sofa with two separate PCs. Teams can play and have a romantic day here.
This is just a tiny glimpse into the cultural integration that PC bangs led to. It was embraced and cherished. It built relationships and bonds among people of all ages and gender. As a result, people came closer professionally as well as personally in these PC bangs.
The Omnipresence of Esports In Corporate Sector of Korea
It has been almost 20 years since StarCraft and League of Legends were released. Since then, gaming has started to run in the veins of Korea, even in the corporate sector. Kids who sneaked into these PC bangs in the late ’90s have become an integral part of Korean society now. They are working and taking decisions for large organizations in the country. The young gamers of the past are shaping the future of the country.
People take breaks between work to play a game of League of Legends. You may even find workplaces organizing esports tournaments. Even team leaders, managers, or even bosses who are practically in their 40s or 50s are good at playing games. Hence, you can say that the PC bangs had a lot to do with the Korean society accepting gaming. People perceive it as a catalyst of bonding and a potential career option.
To date, Korea has hosted multiple pro gaming tournaments and events. Pro gaming is way too much famous. There are TV channels that directly broadcast the events and gameplays. It is considered the same as any other program on television. Even many PC bangs promoted tournaments and got them published on tv.
The gaming culture is increasing across the world. Professional esports can be considered as an attribute for that. We may get to see a social integration of video gaming all around the globe. The day does not seem very far away. The ones into gaming today will be in some multinational company in the future. This will further help in normalizing the gaming culture. Almost all the generations will one day relate to the craze of gaming.
However, when it comes to Korea, we need to give most of the credit to PC bangs for the social acceptance of gaming. It has been two decades since the emergence of PC bangs. The pandemic failed to die down the craze of the PC bangs in Korea. They are an integral part of the collective pastime all around Korea. Many bangs have evolved into PC hotels. You may even land into a training ground if you want to pursue gaming professionally. Here, you will be building your skills without any distractions.
If you ever visit Korea, ensure that you visit one of the PC bangs at least once. This could be a lifetime experience. These are unique places to chill, have food or beer, and of course, play some fantastic games.