Being locked in a room to play Starcraft all day might sound like fun, but for those interned in South Korea's gaming "Chicken Coops", it's far from it.
Starcraft expert Kim Jeong-geon spoke last week of these coops, which are used by the Starcraft industry to create a conveyor belt of sorts for the nation's televised leagues.
Prospective players sign up to Starcraft "academies" lured by the promise of fame and fortune, and after some testing, those deemed talented enough to progress are then able to join clans or guilds. That's far from the end of it, though.
Anyone wanting to go pro must then pay to live in a dormitory, where things don't sound so hot.
"The standard in pro gaming groups is for people to live together 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no travelling to or from work, and for those ranked Group 2 or lower, their entire daily routine consists of eating, cleaning, laundry and games," Kim says. "Because of this structure of bringing in young people, developing them and then replacing them when their lifespan is spent and they have been squeezed dry, it has earned the name of ‘the chicken coop'."
These "coops" are seen as a problem not just for the fact they operate under poor conditions, but because despite paying to live in these dorms and practising day and night, only a minuscule percentage of players can ever hope to make a living out of it.
They're sweatshops, basically, squeezing money out of thousands of people who never had any realistic chance of achieving the goals they'd signed up for.
"Everyone knows about these problems, but if you start talking about players' rights, everyone wants to keep quiet about it, scared they might be branded as an impediment to the growth of e-Sports," Kim continues. "They need to introduce things like a minimum age system for players and limitations on the number of games."
As for the recent scandal in the Korean Starcraft pro leagues, Kim says, "Because players have short lifespans and uncertain futures, you inevitably have a widespread sense of ‘Let's pull something off while things are going well.'"
Labor rights remain nonexistent for pro gamers [The Hankyoreh]