The first esports dedicated broadcasting cable television channel was called OnGameNet. (Later on they changed to OGN). As I said in the previous post, it was too shocking for a school kid like myself back then but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.
Here are the shocking points.
- You could see Starcraft on TV
- And the channel was on for 24/7
- Two guys were playing 1:1, but they were dressed in a weird costume
- There were casters and commentators (just like sports broadcasting)
- And the commentators made the watching experience more entertaining
- The players were really, really good (beyond PC bang master level)
As everyone does it now, but I think it was about this time when the term “GG” was coined, meaning “Good Game” a term that a player who’s about to be defeated writes down in the game chat, which normally signals that the player acknowledges of his defeat. If it’s a very fierce match, the GG in the screen would normally invite many of the audience, including the caster and commentators, to scream just like the soccer fans in the stadium when a player will score at a UEFA Champions League Finals.
The first tournament that I saw had a humble number of participants, maybe 16 but it could have been 32. It was fascinating to see how these players had characteristics, less on their looks but more on their playing style and strategy. The commentators soon given these players a nickname each, which made the show even more fun. For instance, a Zerg user that was being called as the “Sauron Zerg” because he was really good at rapidly expanding the Hatchery bases. I still remember there was this guy called Kook Ki Bong who was a Zerg user, but his facial features strangely resembled that of the Zerg’s…
Choi Jin Woo was the very first winner of the very first Starcraft tournament in OnGameNet (as far as I know) and he was one of the Sauron Zerg-style player. Now unfortunately, unlike other tournaments’ and leagues’ (after the one Choi won) champions who showed up in the following tournaments and even become one of the legends, I didn’t see much of Choi at all after his appearance of the tournament that he won.
OnGameNet was a cable channel — in other words, if you aren’t subscribing with additional cable TV fee, you would have never had he chance to see those exciting gaming tournaments. But, I think it was around that time when we saw Lee Gi Seok, some international esports competition champion, was first televised on a national television channel on some corporate commercial as the main character. This was also pretty “refreshing” to most of us, as the majority of the people back then didn’t have a slightest clue on who the heck the guy was, despite the fact that he was the main character in the commercial and you know how normally a big shot celebrity is expected in a commercial. I’m pretty sure many of us first watching the commercial thought “who the heck is this guy and why is he the main portrait of this commercial?”.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that, it was such a romantic period for a avid game players and game lovers in general. You would imagine hardcore gamers were someones who’d rather stay on the dark side, whether that being his parent’s house’s basement or the far corner of some local PC bang, and would never have the chance to take any highlights from other glamorous outgoing folks. This was slowly changing and this commercial was one of the evidences of transition that we were facing.
Oh, OnGameNet wasn’t only about broadcasting Starcraft tournaments. They had other games like Cart-Rider and Kingdom of Heaven as well as other non-tournament contests like 켠김에 끝판까지, which I can hopefully get back to in another time.