Literally everyone was playing Starcraft. Back in the late 90s in Korea that is.
Some played at home with their own PC, but most of us played at PC bangs, i.e., PC gaming net cafes that went on live throughout the entire country just before the game was launched.
The game itself wasn’t easy for a first timer or people who are used to playing games like Diablo, but wasn’t bad at all for Age of Empire, Warcraft fans as the format was pretty much the same. I think the real secret sauce behind Starcraft was the perfectly well-balanced characters within the game, in this case three civilizations, i.e., Terran, Zerg and Protoss. It’s just pretty amazing how Blizzard developed such a game.
School kids went crazy playing it. Afternoon PC bangs were packed with after-school kids that came straight from school with their school bag and lunch bags. Were there adults in the scene? Oh yes, of course. Soon there were real adults (over in their 30s through my teenage eyes back then but I may be biased as a kid) playing one side of the facility.
People gathered up around a good player, and screamed with awe when good control or strategy was shown. There was this middle aged guy, I remember, who was playing Protoss and the sensation when watching him doing Reaver drops for the first time was beyond my teenage-back-then description.
Soon enough, the good players became a regular visitor for that specific PC bang and so did the not-so-good players who were just enjoying. I went to a male-only junior high and high school in Seoul, and it was extremely hard to find anybody who didn’t play Starcraft within the class room, maybe a rare few. Perhaps because we were male only, we had nothing else more exciting to do. Perhaps other mixed-sex school had a lower penetration rate.
But then one day, on television there were people playing Starcraft professionally and just like professional sports, there were casters and highly opinionated commentators lively commenting on the gamers’ play. I will get to part later in more detail, but can you believe this? Your favorite game is on television out of the blue and there are people competing each other just like sports..