Digital Gaming as a Dominant Cultural Practice
Background for the Development of Online Gaming
Expansion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) contributed to the growing popularity of digital games in Asia. Online gaming as a form of digital gaming has evolved into a prevailing cultural practice in Korea.
The proliferation and improvement of advanced infrastructure for information technology have defined the evolution of online gaming, namely massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). The process of informatization of society has essentially shaped how the youth perceives the reality and forms social and cultural relations (Yang 740). Korean increase in broadband Internet subscriptions enabled the growth of the MMOGOs niche (Jin & Schneider 6). This form of digital gaming spread from Japan. It developed mobile and Internet markets but failed to properly address the demand for online games. At the turn of the century, Korea entered the competition with the most favorable social and cultural context that contributed to the MMOGs evolution in the market (Jin & Schneider 6). The social aspect of MMOGs success in Korea relates to the times when the Internet was not common and when the demand for special Internet spaces was formed. The increasing popularity and growing number of Internet cafes created an opportunity which allowed the users to enjoy the MMOGs (Jin & Schneider 8). Online gaming became the flagship and the necessary precondition for the development of the digital industry in Korea.
Social, Cultural, and Economic Factors for Online Gaming Evolution
The specific factors that fostered the development of online gaming in Korea and other Asian countries predetermined the immense growth of the market. In fact, this type was also very popular in highly developed European countries with the advanced ICTs infrastructure. However, although the trend for online gaming came to Korea from Japan, the Korean environment became the most advantageous for the evolution of the industry. Hence, the combination of social, cultural, and economic peculiarities of the Korean context benefited the emerging online gaming industry.
The social and cultural aspects of online gaming development reflected the demography of the users. It should be mentioned that the scale of the evolution became possible due to the interconnectedness of the ICTs environments and the interrelationship of mobile, Internet, and gaming industries (Jin & Schneider 8). The changes shaped the underlying basis for the social connection between people and created the need for new and more advanced types of communication. Moreover, the diversity in the game production and trends in the youth culture, such as the proliferation of smartphones and digital games, made MMOGs particularly attractive for users (Jin & Schneider 9). Hence, the cultural context for online gaming evolution was also favorable. Along with other digital technologies, online games entered the daily routine of Koreans (Jin 723). The youth left other hobbies and interests in favor of online gaming making it the landmark of the contemporary Korean culture.
The demographic population of youth as the major group of users contributed profoundly to the online gaming development. Additionally, the governments of the Asian countries, especially Korean authorities, realized the major benefits of encouraging online gaming both in social and commercial aspects and introduced the favorable policies (Jin & Schneider 8). That decision resulted in the creation of the largest digital gaming market in the world where approximately half of the total revenue came from selling digital games (Jin & Schneider 9). However, the problems still exist in this field. On the one hand, the government promotes the development of the online gaming industry with the improved financial and legal instruments. On the other hand, MMOGs advocates experience certain pressure from the government within the frames of the fight against gaming addiction (Jin & Schneider 9). Therefore, the government supports the business environment but overlooks the social aspects of online gaming.
The economic factor for the development of online gaming is one of the most influential, and it entails a further increase in the market. Moreover, the online gaming industry has become a considerable contributor to the youth culture development. MMOGs represent a new tendency that encourages young people to spend more time in the virtual world. The games make young people devote their time and money to the Internet. The virtual world has been substituting the real environment with the formation of the drive for users to succeed in virtual reality because it makes them think that they are the winners in the real world. The constant presence in MMOGs has led to the occurrence of the professional players and the formation of the game-related economy, which is known as gold farming (Jin & Schneider 9). The economic, social, and cultural factors of online gaming revolution interrelate. Furthermore, their combination allows to integrate the international aspect of communication and economic interaction since Korea has been attracting the audience worldwide.
A special field of the digital gaming industry is the development of the e-Sports. This realm is a type of online gaming with the involvement of two groups of participants: players and fans (Jin & Schneider 8). The contexts that facilitated the development of e-Sports in Korea included its popularity as a new trend among youth and a great number of Internet cafes as the corresponding venues.
Korea has become the most favorable environment for the development of the online gaming industry. The ever-increasing popularity of MMOGs among youth, a huge number of Internet cafes, and the existing economic interest of the country essentially contributed to the evolution of the online gaming industry. A special type of online gaming production is e-Sports that involves not only the players but also fans from all over the world. Therefore, social, cultural, and economic conditions have been the most influential for online gaming industry development in Korea.
Mobile Phone Technology as a New Mode of Youth Communication
Mobile phones have been pervading in Asia to such an extent that they have been regarded as an integral part of this culture. Moreover, mobile phones have become a new means of communication for Japanese youth. Keitai, or cellular phones, have become an indispensable part of everyday life for Japanese (Daliot-Bul 955). The device appeared in the market as the means of associating the virtual life with the real life. Eventually, it gave the impulse for the latter to be more exciting and entertaining (Daliot-Bul 955). From the advanced technology, mobile phones turned into little friends that help to structure the life of a young consumer in Japan (Daliot-Bul 955). Hence, mobile phones with a highly important characteristic of text messaging have become a new form of communication for the youth in Japan.
While mobile phones were primarily regarded as a compulsory technological device for modern communication, they transformed into an entertainment that accompanies every Japanese youngster. As the popular culture has a profound influence on the environment, keitai became the entertaining device that facilitated communication in different forms (Daliot-Bul 955). However, a paradoxical conclusion was made concerning the increased usage of mobile phones aimed to improve communication. On the one hand, keitai with a possibility of text messaging facilitates communication; on the other hand, it can distort the relationship among the users (Wallis 412). Undoubtedly, people have been involved in the process of communication more since the emergence of the first keitai, but this interaction happens mostly in the virtual environment which often diminished the value of exchange. Moreover, keitai created a particular context for its development and guided the responses of consumers to technological innovations, which eventually shaped a genuine eco-system for keitai usage or playscape. In the process of its development, this system has been growing by the integration of communication with new media discourses (Hjorth 91). Obviously, communication helps to express emotions and to represent the identity of an individual, and mobile texting technologies managed to comply effectively with this purpose.
Keitai and Youth Identity Representation
Keitai has become a tool for young Japanese people to represent themselves and to express their identities. Although text messaging was a simple means of communication initially, young users made that experience personalized and unique for a particular group of people (Daliot-Bul 956). Maintenance of social contacts became the primary aim of the keitai system. Instead of simply exchanging information, young Japanese received a chance to structure their social life, to convey feelings and emotions, to entertain, and to be themselves (Daliot-Bul 956). Keitai forms the entertaining environment within which young people interact and connect.
The primary aim of text messaging was communication. However, it has become a part of popular culture. The accessories for keitai or any additional technologies are perceived as the demonstration of a progressive identity. For this reason, young people tend to accept all the novelties that appear in the mobile market. They believe that the advancements allow them to have fewer words and interactions in real life but to increase virtual communication which is more convenient (Daliot-Bul 965). Thus, mobile technologies and applications shape the everyday environment of Japanese youth by enabling convenient communication in the virtual world.
The mobile Internet service of i-mode enhanced the experience of young Japanese who regard the text messaging as an important part of their everyday communication. I-mode offered the email service that enabled the Japanese youth to exchange a bigger amount of information (Daliot-Bul 961). Although texting often targets various demographic groups or sectors, i-mode applications focus on young people. Emphasizing the desire of young people to express themselves, the developers develop the mobile internet service in Japan. For example, they also introduced the heart images which should help the youth demonstrate their feelings (Daliot-Bul 961). Thus, the online exchange became particularly personalized as it could characterize the character, emotions, or current mood of an individual. Moreover, emoji icons originated from a simple heart-mark indicating that text messaging changed from communication mode to the emotional exchange (Daliot-Bul 961). Emoji transformed how people express their thoughts. They contributed to the changes in both the economy and the popular culture of the Japanese youth. Increased expressiveness in messages allowed young people to withdraw from real communication. The tendency of turning from real life to the mobile or Internet environments has become very popular among young people in Japan nowadays (Daliot-Bul 961). For instance, high school girls even use virtual communication with the important aspect of real-life communication: facial expressions. Thus, young Japanese female users who spend a significant amount of time communicating via text messages created kaomoji or emoticons that implement punctuation and other special marks to express emotions (Daliot-Bul 962). Evidently, emoticons are popular among teenagers and youth.
Consequently, emoticons in text messaging allow making the conclusion regarding the tendencies in online communication not only on the emotions conveyed by an individual but also on the preferences of certain groups. However, the texting is not a reliable source in determining the identity of a user. Although we can make certain conclusions, we cannot distinguish whether the users use mobile texting as a gaming context in which they could pretend to have other identities (Daliot-Bul 963). Therefore, the most common way of misleading the interlocutor about the individuals identity is to use emoticons. They create an impression of a funny and sociable person, while a writer may be a reserved and gloomy introvert in reality (Daliot-Bul 963). The misleading aspect of emoticons as one of the features of mobile texting underlines the artificial aspect of non-personal communication.
Keitai hascreated a new cultural environment in which young Japanese learn to interact and to communicate. In addition to purely technological or functional application, keitai offers an entertainment. However, for the Japanese youth, one of the most crucial aspects of keitai usage is the opportunity to express themselves and to demonstrate their true identity. Text messaging as one of the most popular practices offered by keitai represents the possible way not only to communicate but also to show the world who you are. This fact of keitai playscape makes it immensely popular among young Japanese.