Thursday, March 25, 2010

K-Mag Adventures: Episode 3

Disclaimer: This post is based on true events and only just a little bit pretentiously bloated with fabrications.

Now things start to get interesting, as we go on the hunt for the three of the oldest Korean dedicated gaming mags.

I found two of them, Game Champ and Game Channel, in the catalogue of the National Library of Korea, but when I tried to request it for a sighting, the troubles began: The library's online request system didn't work on them. So I went to the help desk to get some help, and after a bunch of telephone calls and a night's sleep, the devotional secretary found out the shocking truth for me: No one was supposed to ever find this mags!

It was only searchable through the homepage because of a database error, and now that this had been detected, the library would correct the mistake and lock the magazines away for the centuries to come. It appears the national library was the only place on earth were they were stored systematically.

I could, however, negotiate a deal with the library and got one and a half workdays with the volumes from 1992 to 1994, before they would forever disappear in the deep dungeons below the building. So I packed my digital camera, locked my brain in browse mode, and secured more than 1000 photographs of articles, screenshots and interviews.

But let's first have a look at another publication: Game World. This is either the first or the second (read at the bottom why I don't know for sure) games-only magazine from Korea, it started with issue #8/1990. This one is not in the national library (or completely unaccessible for mortal men, like the other two zines are now), so if I want to have a look, I have to search buy the individual issues myself. For that reason I have only four so far, the usual price for issues from the first two years is about 20 bucks each.

Initially it featured almost 200 high-gloss colored pages, but while the magazine grew thicker with the time, the paper quality underwent a change for the worse and the last part of the mag turned black&white.

In the beginning it also had this episodic comic strip:

Most of the mag was made up by game guides and walkthroughs.

The most interesting part turned out to be the advertisements once again, but there are also a few good articles, like the above round table about the future of the video games market, or this preview on the first two Korean PC Shoot 'em ups:

Next is Game Champ, published from late 1992 to 1998. This is really one for the kiddies, with a section for drawings of readers, anime covering and whatnot. It's kinda funny they of all publications would be the first to approach something akin to game criticism, every issue would have two editors (who were only refered to by aliases in the beginning) uttering in short their opinion on a number of recent games. There were scores in the categories "Graphics", "Sound", "Controls" and I guess the last one would translate to "Fun Factor".

Game Champ started out as a pure console mag, but soon it would regularly contain a mag-inside-the-mag for PC and Arcade stuff.

In every issue some personality out of the producing industry, as well as one shop owner or clerk would be introduced with an interview. Sometimes there were also introductions of development teams in addition, which makes this the most valuable ressource for the upcoming first part of my planned article on the history of video games in Korea.

Game World featured original art on the Cover, Game Champ instead had all those hilarious drawings inside:

Then there's Game Channel, a rather shortlived mag that was published for a little longer than one year between 1993 and 1994. This mag was completely about PC games. It partly consisted of translated articles from the American Computer Gaming world. In consequence, other than reviews of Korean games and a series of articles on the development of the Korean PC game market from 1987 to 1993, there aren't many features of interest for my research.

I think it was either produced or sponsored by the PC game publisher DS Game Channel, which led to a slight bias especially in the ads department.

Oh, and there was also this. A magazine called Computer Land, obviously published at least since early 1990 until at least 1994. Like Game World, this is nowhere to be found in lybraries. I couldn't get hold of any issues yet, so I don't know how much of it was dedicated to games.


  1. Magazines that are supposed to be locked away from view? Why?

  2. The art in these things is amazing. I'd love to see some full scans of these (though I realize it's nearly impossible).

  3. @ X-pert74: I guess it's about protecting them. As I wrote, there's only one library that has these. But, yeah, kinda defeats the purpose to protect stuff by making sure no one is gonna see it...

    Also was the first one to ever open the mags in the 15+ years they've been stored (the pages where the library placed its stamps were stuck together so I had to loosen them).

  4. I always feel uplifted when I read another Derboo post on Korean gaming.

    You seem to be the world's only archiver of this information - keep up the good work. I wonder if any native Koreans have taken an interest in this kind of stuff?

    So, when is this big, epic Korean article for HG101 and print magazines due? You seem to have so much information, you should stagger it week by week, rather than all in one go.

  5. I remember growing up in the early 90's in Seoul, a lot of these gaming magazines came as bonus to science-y magazines. I don't remember much about them, other than being mesmerized reading an article about Wolfenstein 3-D. I was in 2nd grade; my school library had bunch of these :p My holy grail back then were copies of Nintendo Power the import bookstore carried.

  6. The old school console gaming scene in Korea has been of interest to me since I started living there two years ago. I've never looked for the old magazines, but I have come across some of the old games in second-hand stores. The Korean edition of Axelay is quite a trophy :)
    Anyway, I was surprised since I wasn't too sure that console gaming was popular in Korea (compared to Japan, North America, and Europe). Oddly enough, it was Hyundai Electronics that released a lot of the consoles, and game them odd names. For example, the Super Famicom being renamed 슈퍼컴보이 (Super Comboy). Strangely, the north American Super Nintendo logo is present on the cartridges and yet the design of the carts and the console is identical to the Japanese Super Famicom. I think the logo is also on the console, but the store only had a display copy they wouldn't sell me :(