Monday, February 7, 2011

The Dongin game and why it might be dying

What's a Dongin game? I've shown a few in the past, like the old Korean Street Fighter II DOS version and the much more recent Gomanna. As some may have guessed by now, Dongin is the Korean translation for Doujin, meaning games created by amateur developers.

I'll introduce a few more examples in the following weeks, but for now I'd like to call awareness towards an issue fellow gamer & researcher Kim Jinjin has brought to my attention. In Korea, age ratings for media, including video games, are mandatory and binding. Publishers have to apply for rating, which takes time for the procedure and costs a certain fee. If a game doesn't have a rating, it is simply illegal to distribute it. But of course, that would't affect free amateur games, would it?

Well, the RPG maker fan community Nioting (then Nioti) received what boils down to a cease & desist order by the Game Rating Board in September last year for offering unrated games for download. In reaction to that the community has closed their game upload forum ( This hasn't been a mistake by the rating board, either, as there are even seperate fee rates explicitly meant for non-profit games offered online. Taking a chart with the rates from, it is in Korean, but mostly numbers, so you'll get a rough idea:

Applying for a rating of a 10 MB platformer might not be too much with about 40 bucks (21,000 Korean Won for 10 MB or less, times 2 for action games), but a 350 MB big RPG speaks quite another language. 168,000 Won times 3 for RPGs = roughly 450 US dollar are a bit steep for any possible product that doesn't have any kind of budget to begin with. Add to that the fact that games have to be rated even before distributing them for open beta tests, and re-tested after major updates, and you get a very grim picture of the future of Korean indie games.

Of course persecution is very sporadic as of now and will never be entirely thorough. It definitely makes the distribution on more well-known platforms unnecessarily difficult, though, and sends a very negative signal towards developers who might have been working on games but now have to think twice about putting any more work into something they can't legally share with others online. It also shouldn't be forgotten that with this, technically distribution of any old dongin games, as well as foreign indie games on Korean servers is illegal as well.


  1. Bloody hell, that's terrible. It's in effect killing off the entire movement - who wants to even deal with the hassle and delay and cost to get a mere $10 indie game rated? I wouldn't bother to begin with. That is so narrow minded and blinkered of the government - it's insane!

    It seems like the best solution is if a Western company/website/fan group helps native South Koreans to distribute their work on Western servers and via the west. I mean, they can't do it under local laws, but is there a law stopping them downloading unrated American games from TIGsource for example? If not, what's to stop them freely distributing things via western outlets?

    Or is it not that simple?

    Obviously this would need people to bridge the language barrier.

    Alternatively, it could result in a super elitist and totally badass underground blackmarket of unrated game traders, where you have to visit smoky little basements accessed via dodgy back-alleys, to hand a creepy man with a cigarette a brown paper bag full of Won to get the 'gear' you need.

    Age rating for games has caused another major problem. I discovered the reason why Xbox Live Indie Games require you to be online when playing them, is because they're unrated, and if MS receives too many complaints about them being inappropriate they pull them. So having them online allows them to side-step not having ratings. I've heard rumours that iPad apps are going to start needing ratings.

    This whole ratings culture sickens me. It appears to be the result of over-zealous parents (soccer moms) who can't be bothered to monitor what they're children do, but sleep easier knowing a government body is doing their job for them. And the result? Creative freedom is stifled.

  2. @Sketcz: I was honestly wondering the same thing. Would having an intermediary in another country hosting the games be sufficient to circumvent this, or does the law require all games, even foreign releases, to be rated?

    If this is a solution, it's one I hope to see.