Photo: Lee Sang-hyeok, also known as Faker. Credit: LCK.
The Asian Games - held from September 23 to October 8, 2023 this year after COVID-19 delayed the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games - typically feature some sports not included in the Olympics, such as squash, chess, go and breakdancing. One of the newest additions to the Asian Games is eSports, with seven video games including League of Legends, Street Fighter V and DOTA 2. Inclusion in the Asian Games is a new milestone for eSports, once considered a fringe hobby for gamers not typically associated with athleticism.
South Korea has played a major role in the rise of eSports as a global spectator sport. The world’s first mass introduction of broadband internet allowed South Korea to be the first to establish professional eSports leagues, stadiums and cable TV stations dedicated to showcasing video games played at the highest level. In the Asian Games, Team Korea acquitted itself well as the progenitor of eSports, medaling (two golds, one silver, one bronze) in all four events in which it competed.
Among the gold medalists is Lee Sang-hyeok 이상혁, known better under his gamer pseudonym Faker. Playing for team T1 in the game League of Legends, Faker is widely considered the greatest eSports player of all time, a veritable Lebron James or Lionel Messi of eSports. Lee played the critical mid-laner position for Team Korea, whose six-member League of Legends team captured the gold. Team Korea was undefeated as it faced off against Saudi Arabia, China and Taiwan on its way to the championship.