Street Gaming!

Written by on December 13, 2011 in Arts

Koreans work hard. I mean they work really hard. Most of my colleagues start work before 8am and finish some time around 7pm during the week. On weekends, many go in for part of a Saturday more than once a month. It’s an insane amount of time, but demonstrative of the focused effort by the nation to bring itself out of the state of destruction it was in during the Japanese Occupation and time immediately following the Korean War. I’d be hard pressed to find another country that modernized and rose to the top of the economic community so quickly.

There’s also a limited amount of time off many Koreans receive. While time-off does vary based on position and role, overall, holiday time is scarce. In a given year, roughly fourteen public holidays occur. Unfortunately, if they fall on a weekend, there’s no Friday or Monday carryover as in many other countries. Even then, one is not guaranteed to get the day off. One of my former co-workers received only three days of vacation a year. Another was lucky… he had nine.

With all this effort devoted to work, one might get the impression that Koreans are “all work and no play.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Inside this tiny nation of 50 million, are some of the best gamers on the planet. But computer games aren’t the only thing that captivates those roaming the cities at night. No, that honor belongs to the 야구 사격장 or Baseball Range. These storefronts are located throughout Korea and a common place for men to meet after work on their way to and from their favorite watering holes. Just what is a Baseball Range? The best place – ever.

Outside these establishments is a wide range of games, perfect for those needing to unleash stress from their jobs. Giant kiosks house bunching bags and soccer balls affixed to robotic arms. Some even have pistons and hammers. Regardless of what the contraption appears like – the goal of these games (usually W500) is to hit the target has hard and as fast as possible. Since I am not good at soccer, I usually avoid kicking games; however, punching games are an entirely different story. There’s something therapeutic about positioning your body before a bag and channeling energy from your foot, up your legs, through your torso, into your fist, and onto a target. It… is… awesome.

Baseball is one of the most loved sports in Korea. While proper batting cages dot city streets and many service areas on the nation’s highways, they usually only appear here as a single stall. Stepping inside the batting cage, one will need to deposit W1000 to W2000 to set the pitches in motion. While the balls don’t come all that fast – hitting them isn’t the goal of this game. It’s scoring points. Affixed to the back of the cage is a pressure sensitive board. Simply hitting the ball scores 10 points but a home run 60 points. It’s a game that seems relatively easy until you stand at the plate and hit every ball… only to have them miss the plate entirely.

BB-Gun ranges make up the other part of most facilities interiors. These tiny pellet rifles  use compressed air to launch white balls down range at a series of targets varying in value from 60 to 100 points. Once a shooter has knocked them all down, they reset and pop back up. Most of the time, hitting the targets is easy, but when the shop gets noisy, then one can easily become distracted.

All in all, a good time can be had for less than W10,000 – making it one of the best ways to unwind after work with friends. How do people relax after a hard day’s work in your area?

About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site