World Cyber Games Begins In Los Angels

The Olympics of the video game world launched Thursday with players from 58 countries marching through the Los Angeles Convention Center holding their nations' flags. Over the next four days, more than 400 gamers will contend at the 10th annual World Cyber Games Grand Final for more than $250,000 in prize money, as well as new gear.

"We're quite confident," said Johan "face" Klasson, who will be representing Sweden while playing the first-person shooter "Counter-Strike" with his team. "I think the strongest opponents this year will be the Ukrainian team, also identified as Navi. They've been playing really well in tournaments all over the world. Those are the ones we have to look out for."

Players who formerly qualified at regional competitions held across the globe are here to face off in such games as "Guitar Hero 5," ''Forza Motorsport 3," ''FIFA 10," ''Tekken 6" and "Warcraft III." The tournament-style matchups are taking place along rows of monitors erected in a giant circular pattern inside a dimly lit convention hall.

After the World Cyber Games launched in Seoul in 2001, the Grand Final has been held over the past 10 years in such cities as Singapore; San Francisco; Seattle; Monza, Italy; and Cologne, Germany. Last year, organizers said more than 82,000 audience attended the event at the Century City New Convention and Exposition Center in Chengdu, China.

"We wanted to come back to America to celebrate our 10th anniversary because it's the most significant market in terms of entertainment," said Hyoung Seok Kim, president of the World Cyber Games. "It's the center of amusement. Many publishers and developers are located here, and there's a good communications. We don't have to worry about translation."

Kim said he expects 40,000 audiences at this year's Grand Final. While the World Cyber Games have grown over the last decade, aggressive gaming still lacks the same cultural punch in the United States as it does in Asia, where players like Lee "The God of Destruction" Jae-Dong are chased by squealing female fans and earn enormous salaries.

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