The thrill of victory, the agony of cyber-defeat

At the World Cyber Games in Seattle, the competition spills over from Starcraft and Counterstrike to good-old fashioned nationalist flag-waving

Published October 10, 2007 3:10PM (EDT)

Promotional materials for the World Cyber Games, currently convening in Seattle, Washington, declare that "The WCG was created to promote harmony of mankind through e-sports, by providing youths of the world with the opportunity to come together as one."

And kick each other's virtual asses!

Unfortunately, the in-game aggro appears to be seeping into the non-virtual world. After winning the bronze medal in the Xbox 360 game, "Project Gotham Racing 3," Taiwanese gamer Liu You-chen unfurled a Republic of China flag at the award ceremony, sending members of the mainland Chinese delegation (representing the People's Republic of China) into a tailspin of sputtering outrage. (Thanks to Michael Turton's "A View from Taiwan" for the link.)

From the Taipei Times:

More than 10 Chinese gamers and Chinese media employees scrambled toward the stage to grab the flag, she said.

After the ceremony, Chinese players confronted the Taiwanese contestants, requesting that they surrender Liu and calling Taiwanese players "sons of bitches," the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) reported.

Chinese-Taiwanese political tension at international sporting events is nothing new. So perhaps this latest outbreak of what Turton justifiably calls "mindless, belligerent nationalism" is a sign that world-class competitive computer gaming has truly come of age, especially in Asia. Millions of Asians reportedly watched matches during last year's World Cyber Games finals live via satellite. In South Korea, gamers are pop stars and showdowns between top players can sell out stadiums.

(The World Cyber Games have a distinctly Korean tint to them, and not just because the Korean national team is a perennial powerhouse. The WCG is produced by a Korean outfit, International Cyber Marketing, and has historically been sponsored by Samsung.)

But whether harmonic or not, there is a still a poetry to tales of gaming derring-do that is unlike any other sports reportage I know of. Some excerpts, from the World Cyber Games' own event coverage.

The Night Elf mirror match employed two different strategies, with SoJu using the standard Demon Hunter while Levin opted for the Priestess of the Moon.

To win, NoA is going to have to keep their composure versus the Chinese and not get peak happy.

The Korean hit the G key with intense frustration after knowing that his tournament had come to an end.

Now only one hope remains for Korea and that hope is Stork.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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China Gaming Globalization How The World Works Video Games