Within a now-famous Overwatch video, a Korean player is banned mid-match as a consequence of his shameless hacking. He’s streaming himself as Widowmaker, effortlessly flinging himself over the map and landing perfect headshots in-air. A Hanzo approaches, and in a moment, he’s gone. Widowmaker’s crosshairs, that were feet clear of him, rubberband to his head.
A few minutes in, he’s locked from the game. Someone reported his cheating. But it’s no issue – he just navigates straight back to the Battle.net website to make another account.
Cheating on the Asian Overwatch server is endemic and widespread. About the Battle.net forums and Reddit, complaints about hacking South Korean players’ too-accurate headshots, immediate gun-downs and in many cases DDOS attacks against winners in competitive mode are widespread.
Just today, 22,865 Korean hackers were banned from Overwatch. Between January 26th and 31st alone, 3,095 accounts were suspended. Harry, the Korean Blizzard representative who reported the ban wave on Battle.net, proudly affords the numbers, but doesn’t explain steps Blizzard takes to definitively stomp out Overwatch hacking in South Korea. For months, Korean fans have begged Blizzard to avoid playing whack-a-mole and address the root in their servers’ endemic hacking problem.
Depending on my conversations with Korean players, it would appear that hacking culture Korea is inexorably bound to the over 25,000 “PC bangs” where Koreans chill, slam energy drinks and grind on Overwatch Hacks. They’re like North America’s now-antiquated ’90s LAN cafes where patrons pay a little $US1.00 ($1)/hour fee to play at the top-notch computers. At PC bangs, cheaters often download aimbot software with impunity. Recently, “nuking” is becoming widespread. It’s a practice where people hack into enemy control systems to alter maps or freeze them at spawn.
Since Overwatch’s release last May, Thomas Lytwynchuk has frequented PC bangs to experience this game. In Korea, Overwatch will be the second most-played title in PC Bangs, second simply to League of Legends. At the cafe, he grinded for months in Competitive mode to achieve Platinum rank, where he says he’s come upon lots of hackers. Recently, while defending in the Anubis map, he turned a corner and in just a nanosecond, was pummelled by McCree’s rapidfire, a bit faster than human impulses permit.
“I checked the deathcam replay, and sure as hell, he’s hacking,” Lytwynchuk explained to me. “His crosshair instantly locked onto me, so when I’m jumping and crouch-spamming out of the corner, the crosshair perfectly follows my head.” Later, that same player switched to Widowmaker, whose crosshairs, in his words, “would literally flick on to your head then perfectly track it, even through walls.”
Lytwynchuk reported the ball player, but doesn’t think it created a difference. In Korea, it’s easy to play Overwatch by using an infinite amount of Battle.net accounts provided that you’re inside an unmonitored PC Bang. That’s because Blizzard features a take care of Korean PC bangs that allows patrons to pay a meagre $US.80 ($1)-$US1.50 ($2) an hour to get into this game. They don’t have to buy it themselves. They are able to only make a brand new account each and every time they play. The cafes pay Blizzard a subscription fee in exchange.
“If you had to pay $US40 ($52) for a copy of Overwatch each and every time you hacked and got banned, like in the West, nobody would practice it,” Lytwynchuk explained. “Except if you got a lot of spare alteration to throw around.”
Players don’t even have to attach their private data to those accounts. They are going to use VPNs to produce North American accounts with burner emails. For home computers in South Korea, Blizzard requires a form of strong identity verification to perform Overwatch. That’s what empowers Cinderella’s Law, which prevents kids under 16 from gaming after midnight, to learn gamers’ ages. So essentially, in numerous PC Bangs, anything goes.
“It is actually ruining the video game for individuals as well as its endemic in Korea due to the free-to-play model,” Lytwynchuk explained. “Because you can hack and play games together with your friends for $US1.50 ($2) an hour without any repercussions is what’s enhancing the worst in people.” PC bang owners, I’m told, don’t have a great deal of a motivation to report hackers, since the capability to hack is an important draw to play there. Employees’ pay is low and monitoring every user would call for a surveillance panopticon.
Daniel Na, that is operating out of Seoul, mostly plays Overwatch in the home, but estimates that he’s encountered hacking 50 times in the Asian server. He’s ranked at Diamond and states that, at higher levels, it’s more widespread. “Usually hackers’ IGNs [in-game names] are famous enough that whenever a game starts, both teams just agree to tie the match if there is an aimbot in the room,” he told me. He described it as a a “manner system,” so nobody wins or loses when there’s a hacker.
After I asked Na why countless PC bang attendees enjoy hacking, he informed me that “I believe it really is all brought through the competitiveness that Korean culture has generally speaking, particularly for younger generations in gaming.” He added, “Breaking the principles could be viewed as fun if you are located in a world in which you always have to hear your mother and father and live your life in tight studying-schedules since elementary school.”
If 22,865 Korean Overwatch hackers were banned today, it’s an easy task to picture how toxic their server could get. Korea-based players I spoke with said they absolutely despise hackers. They decimate any potential for fun and fair play.
That’s why, within the very early morning, you could see Korean players in your North American server – they don’t want to deal with hackers. English-speaking players have widely complained relating to this, since they can’t get in touch with their Korean teammates. Some have even called for Blizzard to ban Korean IPs in the North American server.
Korean players are constantly posting their pleas to Reddit and Battle.net, with one, “BLIZZARD DISREGARDS KOREANS OPINION,” garnering over 17,000 upvotes. Relief is needed, but Blizzard’s licence agreement with PC bangs may tie up their hands. Mass account bans may look effective, but to cite one response from today’s news, “And 22,865 new PC bang accounts were made.”