Author: sanjihan

Why Korean MMOs are Hardcore (Ethnography)

During my time in the Korean servers of Closers, I learned about how different the MMO experience is when it’s designed for a Korean audience in comparison to a Western/Japanese audience. My experiences were documented here. To summarize briefly;

Closers is a Korean-developed MMO by Naddic Games and published in Korea by Nexon. Originally released in December 30th 2014 in Korea. As of 2017 there are currently only 3 other servers live right now; Japan, China, Indonesia while an international US/EU server in alpha testing.

The overall aim of this research is to utilise this personal experience to outline aspects of cultural experience, making characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders (Elis, et al, 2011)

In the time I’ve played Closers, I’ve done a lot of research regarding why things are the way they are. One of my first discoveries when signing up for a Korean Nexon account was the sheer amount of security surrounding the sign up process. Originally a KSSN (Korean Social Security Number) was required to sign up for all MMOs. However due to the large amount of companies and services requiring a KSSN, cases of identity fraud and theft became commonplace. Because of this, the system was changed from using a KSSN to using I-PIN which is a form of identification that is only available to residents of South Korea. In addition to this, Korea has something called the shutdown law in place. This law forbids anyone under the age of 16 to play online video games from 12am to 6am. With this law in place, children stole KSSNs of adults to circumvent this barrier but led to identity theft and fraud.

As for why they have such a rigorous security system that requires so much to get past is because of the Cyber defamation law . Essentially this law is in place to prevent anonymous acts of defamation. Whatever a person does online, it’s linked to their real self. This allows perpetrators to be easily tracked if doing inappropriate acts online. While there are many debates of anonymity in the western world, South Korea already has an act in place to prevent any sort of anonymity online.

In my previous post, I pointed out that online services in Korea have strong security. With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder they take such measures to protect your account. Because your identity is out in the open and you can’t hide it like in the western world.

Another thing I discovered while playing Closers was the stamina system. While it isn’t unique to Closers, quite a few Korean developed MMOs (Dungeon Fighter Online, Elsword, etc) have a stamina system. In regards to western games these systems are commonplace in mobile games but rarely implemented if at all in MMOs. This topic is often discussed in forums and the common answer as to why the system is implemented is because it combats the act of “botting”.

The use of a bot to act out tedious tasks in an MMO. This is then used to gather resources or items to sell in the market to make in-game money. The act of botting is frowned upon as it ruins the in-game economy. In regards to Korean MMOs, grinding and farming (a term to describe repetitive acts of killing enemies or leveling) is a common thing. Korean MMOs are infamous for requiring to invest numerous hours of doing repetitive tasks which lead to people using bots. The solution to this is of course, the stamina system.

Another benefit that comes from the stamina system is that it makes the game last longer. It forces the player to take it at a slower pace than they normally would. Personally after playing the Japanese version of Closers where stamina could be refilled with in-game money, reaching level 70 within 8 hours is very possible, even at a casual pace. On top of this the game feels repetitive (even more so) without it. The stamina hides that repetitive nature of the game.

Throughout my time with Closers, it’s given me a new perspective on game design. Before Closers, I was very familiar with the different principles of Japanese/Western game design. But after playing Closers I’ve learn many new things and I’ve gotten context for so many things that I questioned in Korean games.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at:



Beyond the Walled Garden and into [클로저스]

In high school, I was well-versed in Japanese media and decided to teach myself the language as it has kept my interest for a long time now. By year 10, I didn’t have to wait months or years for a translations. I could immediately get my hands on the game or manga as soon as it was released in Japan and I felt a little proud of myself because of that. I felt as if I conquered something.

During high school I also had an interest in MMOs that were coming out in South Korea. I could easily access Japanese MMOs even if they blocked my Australian IP (Thanks to VPNs of course). But MMOs in South Korea were a special case. To sign up for any Korean MMO you required a KSSN (Korean Social Security Number) which you can only have if you are a citizen of South Korea. Nowadays an i-PIN is required which is an alternative but still requires you to be a citizen of South Korea to obtain one. With some luck, I was able to obtain an i-PIN and able to access an MMO that I was looking forward to since 2013, 클로저스 (AKA Closers)


Unlike everything I had played before, this was a completely new experience. This wasn’t a game made for the Japanese market I had adapted to nor was it localized for an English speaking audience. This was a pure, unadulterated Korean MMO experience for people in South Korea. Before I even started the game I noticed something, the amount of options for security. I’ll refrain from posting screenshots but there were options for:

  • Blocking foreign IPs from logging into your account
  • Verification of identity when creating a new ID on your account (Requires verifying i-PIN account)
  • Preventing the use of cache for selected games
  • One time passwords
  • Captcha for every time you login
  • Being able to check the log of IPs for every login

It’s safe to say that Koreans take their online security very seriously, even for online games. First thing I immediately notice upon login of Closers is the stamina system which is common for mobile games in Asia but it’s rarely used in Japanese or western MMOs. Even it’s stamina system was unique as rather than having one stamina bar, there were two. One for the character itself and the other which was called account stamina. Rather than simply using another character once that character’s stamina has run out, if account stamina is depleted then you can’t jump to another character to play.

This stamina system clashed heavily with the games I played before such as Final Fantasy XIV and Phantasy Star Online 2. If you’re behind your friends in terms of equipment or level, you could catch up if you put in a few hours of play and with some dedication you can catch up within a day or two depending how far behind you are. In Closers however, progress has a daily limit. If you have a friend who has a week of dungeon runs ahead of you, then you’re forever stuck behind them unless they slow down or you get a whole bunch of stamina potions. Later on in the game dungeons have daily entry limits, so you can only enter a number of times before you’re locked out for the day.

As for the gameplay itself? Quite frantic with lots of special effects, it makes it a little tricky to keep track of enemy movements to dodge but you can either turn those off or get used to it. During the time I’ve played Closers, starting out I noticed that there were very few players below level 60 around. So on my way up, I barely saw any players around my level. Granted there’s an abundance of channels, roughly 200 so it might just be a coincidence. It was interesting to say the least.

Players started appearing once I got to the late game areas where people started to farm for raid gear. Even then I was really surprised looking at their gear. Bumbling around not being able to read Korean I was able to get gear that gave me roughly 60,000 physical DPS but I saw people with gear that gave over 150,000 DPS. It was clear the playerbase was very dedicated and played every single day to make progress.

SCREEN_CAPTURE 2017-05-12 23-01-32-593.png

Here’s my character!

Overall, it was strange starting from the bottom again, not being able to adapt to the playerbase or even communicate with them. In Japanese MMOs, Japanese players frown upon foreign players if they can’t speak Japanese, even more so if there’s an IP block to keep you out. Thankfully I speak the language so I can keep myself out of trouble there. However in Closers? I’d be outright banned on the spot if someone tried to speak to me there. But hey, it’s all fine as long as they don’t know.

Auto-ethnography 101

Auto-ethnography is a bit of a mouthful and a word that’s rarely used in normal conversation so I was a little confused when I first heard about it. Thankfully a reading done by Ellis et al defines it clearly and simply as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno).” (Ellis et al., 2010). My understanding of it is that you as the researcher (despite it not being common in traditional research) use your own personal experience as a basis for your research of a culture unfamiliar to you.

Because of the nature of auto-ethnography, it’s often seen as an unprofessional form of research. The standard form of research requires objectivity and facts, both of these factors are used in auto-ethnography to some extent but there is much less focus on it. In traditional research, you distant your personal self/experiences from your research while in auto-ethnography, you embrace it.

Despite having never heard of auto-ethnography before, after reading the Ellis reading, I realize that I’ve already participated in auto-ethnographic research (although not formally). During primary school, my older brother gave me the first volume of Naruto as a birthday gift. It was the first time I ever saw a book that read right to left. It was my first exposure to foreign media. From there, I learned about Japanese manga and the culture surrounding anime/manga. One thing lead to another and I eventually learned about the customs and differences of Japanese culture. Now, instead of questioning and/or being surprised about something from Japanese culture I’ve learned to understand it.

This all came from my interest and personal experience growing up both in Australia and Philippines. Having both western and Asian perspectives while learning about a different culture helped me understand it much faster.

-Diosdado Lacap


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, <>.

Godzilla – EH? NANI?

As a fan of Japanese media who grew up on Tokusatsu shows such as Kamen Rider Black and anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, I was no stranger to Godzilla. When I was young, my older brother introduced me Japanese media that he was a fan of and I was instantly a fan of giant robots and kaiju movies. Due to living a small portion of my life in the Philippines, I’ve had lots of exposure to Japanese media through all the pirated versions being sold on the streets.

Due to watching already Godzilla beforehand, I already understood the purpose of Godzilla which was to convey the destruction of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. What captured my attention during the film however, was everyone else’s reaction to the film. I was under the preconception that Godzilla was somewhat a household name and people have at least heard the reason why Godzilla exists. People laughed it off at first, commenting on how the rubber suit Godzilla hasn’t aged well etc. It became apparent that people in the room had no knowledge on Godzilla or it’s purpose. As the livetweets went on, people started learning about the parallels between Godzilla and WWII and everyone’s perspective on the movie changed.

It was definitely seeing everyone’s fresh experience of the Japanese Monster King and made me reminisce about my first time watching Godzilla. Back then I was only a child so Godzilla was nothing more than a simple giant monster movie. Of course a few years later I’d come back to it a little older and learn about how Godzilla was representing the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. In the film, while Godzilla is a monster destroying Tokyo, the real monster was Serizawa and his experiments. By itself, the symbolism of “Humanity is the real monster” doesn’t hold much weight. However, knowing that Godzilla was intended for a post-WWII audience makes it so much heavier.

Watching the movie again, I was more interested in the movie techniques rather than the overall theme of Godzilla. Specifically the rubber suit and practical effects as they are essentially a lost art in this day and age. They’re rarely done in the Japanese industry outside of Tokusatsu and Super Sentai shows, even then it’s just rubber suits while CGI has replaced the practical effects.


-Dios Lacap