The History of Video Games in Korea

Date: Nov 22, 2018


The history of video games in Korea is closely connected to the global history of information communications. This paper sheds light on the background of video games and their development globally and in Korea, in particular. The research explores different types of video games in Korea and discusses the attitude of the contemporary Korean society to video games.

The Background of Video Games

The idea of a visual narrative is rather old. In 1827, Swiss artist Rudolph Topffer created his ‘The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck.’ This work was the first comics. Later on, comic strips were improved. First, they appeared in magazines, and then they were published as books. Finally, graphic novels appeared in the 1960s.

The first video games emerged in the 1950s. Nevertheless, they became a success only in the 1979s when the arcade video games, gaming consoles, and home computer games were created (Derboo n.p.).

First games were very simple, such as Pong, Tetris, and Solitaire (Iverson 42). Later on, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Lemmings appeared. These games followed some plot: players had to defend lemmings, to save the planet, or do other imaginary actions. Then, heavy narration was launched. Games Myst, Tomb Raider, and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver appeared. The games of the new generation allowed the player to change the plot of narration (Iverson 42).

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Video games have similar features and common background with the graphic novels; they are the two types of visual media. Both of them comprise visual structure of the narrative. Moreover, previously, society discussed them in an extremely negative way. Nowadays, advanced technologies lead to the creation of the tablet PC, smart phone, graphic novels, and games. They have found their special audience. Moreover, comic books are the main sources for the creation of graphic novels (Iverson 22).

Video Games in Korea

In South Korea, video games are the most popular social activity nowadays. Children, teenagers, and adults play role-playing, massively multiplayer online role-playing, and mobile games. In role-playing games, a person manages all the activities of the main character of the game. In fact, two or more protagonists can exist in the mysterious world of a video game. Dungeons and Dragons is one of the most popular role-playing games in Korea, the plot of which is rather simple. In 1981, Donkey Kong appeared. In fact, it is a succession of video games, depicting the adventures of a gorilla (see fig.2). Later on, different variants of the game appeared. This game became a successful rival of Mario in the 1980s. A decade later, Donkey Kong appeared featuring several other gorillas fighting against numerous crocodiles. This type of video games is known as side-scrolling platform games. In these games, protagonists move from the left to the right, jumping between various platforms. Later, Pungnyu Hyeopgaek appeared (see fig.1). It belongs to the action role-playing games. The main feature of such games is the possibility to manage the protagonists' activities directly while playing. Turn-based and menu-based combat is not useful in the action role -playing games. The player finds himself in the mysterious world of ancient China. In the middle of the 1990s, other two famous Korean role-playing games appeared. They were Astonishia Story and Castle in the Heavens. Among Korean people, online gaming is popular. The Kingdom of the Winds and Lineage are famous modern online games. Some fee is taken for playing online. Nevertheless, there are free online games, such as MapleStory and Lineage II (see fig.3).

Devices for Video Games

Researchers distinguish several generations of original Korean consoles. To illustrate, Hanu Electronics released TV Tennis while Olympus Electronics created Otron TV Sports/ Gamatic 760 in 1976. A pong console suggested four play models. Later on, the consoles were improved, offering a light gun, and increasing the number of play models. In 1983, Taegang Electronics launched Magicom with a 16-bit microprocessor. Numerous Korean models had a success later. Finally, GamePark Holdings created GP2X F-100 with a touch screen, in 2007. The most interesting fact is that international companies had problems with entering the Korean game market. Therefore, they gave the license to the native companies, allowing them to launch their consoles (Derboo n.p.).

Attitude of the Contemporary Korean Socierty to Video Games

Nowadays, video games are the best way of spending leisure time for major population in Korea. Game competitions have become a weekly event. Moreover, three television stations broadcast these games in an exclusive way. Demand creates its supply. In fact, approximately 3,000 video game companies receive revenues of about $4 billion. Moreover, “The Korean government has set a target of $1 billion a year in online exports for 2007” (Shim, Min-Sun, and Martin 122).

There are many video game centers and arcades in Korea. There are certain differences in the interest to video games in Korea and the USA. In Korea, people like playing video games more than online PC games. Moreover, many girls and women like this activity unlike the USA females (“Board Games and Video Games” n.p.).

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Despite great popularity, severe debates discussing the potential passing of a Video Game Addiction Bill take place because video games may lead to addiction (Hwang n.p.). Researchers argue, “The underground comics’ movement is a reflection of the time, challenging taboos, rejection of the establishment and rebellious experimentation” (Iverson, p.22). Graphic novels started introducing extreme levels of violence and sexual content. Society accepted this fact very negatively. Many researchers and journalists stated that video games lead to the game addiction among adolescents. They considered video games a burning problem of the contemporary society. Nevertheless, such negative attitude to video games is not popular among the Korean people who enjoy this activity in their free time.

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