If you play any of the popular games on PC, you’d know this already. Gaming culture in Korea is much more popular and socially accepted than the United States. New York Times has called gaming and esports in Korea a “national pastime”. It’s no wonder that they have been ranked at the top for several games, like League of Legends, Starcraft, and Counterstrike. Along with phenomenon is the crazy popularity for PC Bangs in Korea.
In case you don’t know what a PCBang is, it is essentially a computer cafe where people can pay to reserve a computer for a desired amount of time. This might sound pretty standard, like a library or something, but PCBangs are actually targeted towards gaming. Now, you may be wondering why PC Bangs are popular in Korea. It’s probably due to their extremely cheap rates (with 1,000 WON an hour being the common fare), the social aspect of gaming, and Korea having the world’s fastest average internet connection speed. More than anything, PCBangs are a social meeting place for gamers. Especially for school-aged gamers, it is an activity where they can meet up with friends and queue up together for some games. Compared to the US, console gamers might have more of a following, but PC games are definitely more popular in Korea.
Anyways, PCBangs are pretty easy to find as there is an estimated amount of 25,000 PC bangs in South Korea. Especially around universities or popular provinces, there are many to choose from. Even just looking on Naver Maps, a Korean equivalent of Google Maps, you can see there are a good amount nearby. I decided to go to a local one called BiWon instead of a larger, more popular one but it was a pretty good size. Like most PCBangs, they are located in a basement type of area.
Once you enter, you will find a screen where you select how long you want to stay at the internet cafe. Some larger places will assign you a seat, but local places usually let you sit wherever you want. I chose to stay at the PCBang for 2 hours for 3,000 WON which is less than 3$ USD. After you pay, the machine will print a receipt along with a “pin” number that you will enter when your computer boots up. This pin number keeps track of the time you start using the computer and at the top of your screen, it shows your remaining duration. From here, you can do whatever you want!
Tons of gaming computers are lined up against each other, accompanied by expensive and powerful high-end gaming equipment— huge monitors, mechanical keyboards, noise-canceling headsets, gaming mice, the whole shebang. It’s a pretty competitive set-up for gaming, allowing people to come in and get an optimized experience for gaming.
They have the popular games preinstalled, such as League of Legends, PUBG, CSGO, pretty much every single Blizzard game, Nexon games, and much much more. The only thing that I do want to mention is that, of course, since we are in Korea, the client for the games are Korea-based. Therefore, if you want to play on America servers, you will need to switch your settings. To authenticate users, Korean accounts for games are usually attached to a social security or a phone number so it may be difficult to create accounts as a foreigner. My suggestion is to use your American accounts and change the settings, as it is a hassle to create a Korean account.
Something interesting about PCBangs is that you can actually order food while playing! It’s pretty convenient and allows people to stay for extended durations. Located at the top of the screen, there’s a little menu that you can pop out and pick what you want. Since this is a smaller cafe, the choices are more limited, but you get the general idea. Basically you just pick what you want and the chef will bring it to you momentarily, and you can pay them then.
It’s such a unique experience and something that I personally haven’t seen in the States. If you’re into PC gaming, I definitely recommend visiting one in Korea to get the full experience. It’s also a neat way to make some friends— just ask around if they want to play some games together. People are quite friendly, so it’s worth a shot.