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heterodox circulation, distribution, maintenance and repair, modification, circuit-board, electronics market, arcade game center

Copied, Used, and Modified

The Heterodox Circulations of Arcade Video Games through the Cheonggyecheon Electronics Market in 1990s Seoul

Dongwon Jo (The Cheonggyecheon Technological Culture Lab)


This article addresses the significance of heterogeneous distributions along with maintenance and repair in local arcade video game cultures and peripheral markets. Based on in-depth oral historical interviews with distributors and repairers at a game-distribution market in Seoul, it traces the multiple lives of arcade video games in original, copied, used, or modified forms through the market. These forms then interacted with a uniquely receptive culture of video games earlier, faster, and with greater popular support in South Korea than elsewhere in the 1980s and 1990s, which is conceived as heterodox circulations. This research demonstrates how heterodox circulations based on integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance, and repair contributed to transforming the path and pace of the transnational circulation of the latest Japanese games, thus maintaining the global game industry and culture.

The Multiple Lives of Arcade Video Games

Popular arcade video games mainly originated in the United States and Japan. Yet were the games that most players around the world first encountered and enjoyed actually the original versions of these games? Were the Japanese video games that they played imported directly from Japan? It is reasonable to assume that not only new original games, but also their copies, used originals, or used copies circulated to accommodate the global video game culture Where, then, were these versions maintained and repaired so they could be circulated and recirculated?

While video games were invented and then reincarnated in the United States and Japan respectively, they also mutated and evolved in Taiwan, South Korea (hereafter Korea), and many other places. The copying of Japanese video games that was rampant in Taiwan and Korea contributed to the more widespread distribution of early video games by keeping prices low and encouraging transnational circulation of secondhand and bootleg games.1 Although most histories to date focus only on the initial off-the-shelf lifetime of games, these derivative versions have created multiple lives for the games. In addition, heterogeneous forms of games have been maintained, repaired, and recirculated to facilitate local video game cultures and to accommodate the growing global appetite for video games.

To explore some of these heterogeneous histories, I delve into the sphere of distribution of arcade video games (which I will refer to as video games or games) and the maintenance and repair practices that made such heterogeneous circulation possible in the first place. In contrast to the two domains of production and consumption, or developer and player, that dominate video game research, distribution is a neglected field of study. That is perhaps because game distribution is often seen as having little to do with either new game creation or culturally significant interpretation and is instead viewed as just shuttling product between the developer and player. However, the significance of distribution, for all its seeming banality, mediates between production and consumption, influencing both the spheres of creation and interpretation of video games and their interactions. These influences have gradually become more visible as digital platforms have prevailed and brought about major changes in how games are produced, marketed, and received.2 Distribution-related research thus emerged along with the “infrastructural turn” of media studies and culture-industry studies.3 But decades prior to the sea change of digital distribution, the arcade industry was already shaped in large part by the peculiarities of arcade-machine distribution.4

For local game historical studies, the importance of distribution can also be seen in the way it connects the global and the local.5 Mia Consalvo examines this link by focusing on the production practices of Japanese transnational corporations that define video games as “cross-culture hybrids.”6 At the opposite pole—that is, reception—game historians have increasingly focused on users as active agents in the video game industry and its culture. As local users copied, modified, or developed (game) software, local gaming participation and production flourished, which led to the further spread of games and gaming.7 In addition to transnational corporations and translocal users, however, there are still many other intermediaries between them. For instance, as Ian Larson explores, Micro Genius, a Taiwanese Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) clone brand, “illuminates a wider transnational circulation [as] an alternative bootleg network existing alongside the legitimate games market.”8 This case study sheds light on some of the many different kinds of brokers and other commercial intermediaries whose commercial practices have long been overlooked.

These intermediaries include not only unofficial distributors and copiers but invisible maintainers and repairers who are vital to transnational circulation. Scholarship on video games that draws on maintenance and repair studies has also grown in recent years, focusing on the afterlives of games in the collections curated by fans and museums.9 Yet most of this work still explicitly or implicitly lays out linear and one-time game life cycles, from which dotted lines of afterlives or zombie media are extended without modifying or pluralizing the preexisting shapes or curves that represent the original version and its authentic distribution.10 Although a game might enter the afterlife phase in the US, it could still remain hugely popular in the rest of world.

By paying attention to maintenance and repair during the commercial distribution of video games in the rest of the world, I attempt not so much to breathe life back into their afterlives but to examine the multiple lives they lived during their life cycle. We are accustomed to game characters living multiple lives per inserted coin,11 so why not game circuit boards? The curve representing the original version of a game can be overlaid with multiple curves foregrounding the heterogeneous versions of arcade games created by numerous distribution practices. More importantly, as the key artifact of the video game to materialize the mediation between the two worlds, the circuit board would be the main character for the game-like reality of distribution, maintenance, and repair. This article aims to address the significance of unofficial distribution along with maintenance and repair in local game cultures and peripheral markets, tracing how such market activity multiplied the life cycles of arcade games.12

Beside and behind the original, official, or authentic pathways of game circulation, there have been businesses predicated upon derivative, informal, or unauthorized circulations, whose combined mediation I refer to as heterodox circulation and the heterodox market. Melanie Swalwell suggests that heterodox history for local game histories should be moved from local specificities to local-to-local and local-to-global connected ones.13 Drawing on Carlo Ginzburg’s conception of heterodoxy, she proposes that heterodox histories have a double significance as “the outlier examples from the ‘periphery’ [that undermine] orthodoxies [and] question what we thought we knew about the ‘centre.’”14 I apply this concept to this case study of a complex local distribution market, part of the Cheonggyecheon electronics market in the Cheonggyecheon neighborhood of Seoul, where I have conducted most of my in-depth oral history interviews.15

The Cheonggyecheon electronics market was spontaneously formed in the 1940s as a street of electric and electronic junk shops and gradually became the center of distribution and sales of transistors, integrated circuits (ICs), and other components and devices, as well as industrial and consumer electronics, with numerous trading shops and small manufacturing companies.16 This market has vigorously exhibited heterodox circulations of game circuit boards from local to global and vice versa through what I conceive as integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance, and repair. In fact, from the beginning, game trading companies in this market have assimilated a variety of maintenance and repair practices into their main businesses of importing, distributing, selling, and exporting. The case study of this integration leads us to understand the market as a key element of the distribution infrastructure long before the emergence of digital platforms.

The general viewpoint of maintenance and repair has been positioned against (the ideology of) invention and innovation in the new creation or technology in design, and thus scholarship on repair and maintenance explores invisible practices of innovation in the phase of technology in use, with the sphere of distribution, again, accidently left unattended.17 This article focuses on maintenance and repair that happens alongside distribution and mediates between design and use. In particular, my conception of integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance, and repair furthers the exploration that distribution itself, in the context of heterodox circulations, could function as maintenance and repair for the globalization of video games.

Early Import of the New

Game duplication first allowed Korea to enter the game industry and accommodate its own local game culture as early as the mid-1970s. Copying, which was conducted mainly at the Cheonggyecheon market, thrived throughout the 1980s.18 While it persisted through the late 1990s, the import of original Japanese games gradually increased in the late 1980s in the context of national economic prosperity, expansion of the middle class, and growing mass consumer culture. The official import of Japanese popular culture had been ostensibly prohibited by the late 1990s because Japanese products and brands supposedly incited social and political anti-Japan ethos. However, this view contradicted the cultural and economic reality of their enormous popularity since the liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. By the 1990s Korea had become one of the primary markets for new Japanese games due to their faster and greater reception than elsewhere.

The growth of the Korean game market in the 1990s is exemplified by the nation’s total number of Jeonja Orak Sil (electronic entertainment rooms, what I will call e-rooms), which are equivalent to video arcades or game centers (fig. 1).19 Although an official estimate is not available due to numerous unlicensed operations, most interviewees remembered that there were between 30,000 and 40,000 e-rooms during the decade. Media reports indicated that by 1983 up to 30,000 e-rooms had already mushroomed throughout the country.20 For reference, by 1981, the “Arcade’s Biggest Year” in the US, there were approximately 24,000 full arcades (places dedicated to playing video games), along with 400,000 street locations in the US.21 However, unlike the US, where the number of arcades never returned to the heights of its so-called golden age (1981–83) after the 1983 crash,22 the Korean arcade industry actually persisted in 1990s. And over half of all e-rooms were concentrated in the Seoul metropolitan area. As the arcade market endured through the 1990s, the import business grew as well.

Figure 1

Outside of Ok-In Orak Sil, a crowd-funded reopening of Yong Orak Sil (1988–2011) in Seoul, where one can play some old games. (Image courtesy of author)

New Japanese games were imported to Korea earlier and in larger quantities when compared to neighboring countries. Game players in Singapore, for instance, tended not to impatiently anticipate the release of new games.23 They preferred the English versions of Japanese games and waited for their official release, unlike their counterparts in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hence, Singaporean traders usually imported new games six months to one year later than their neighbors.24 And with only about one hundred fifty game centers in Singapore in the late 1990s, demand was much lower.25 In contrast, young Korean audiences eagerly embraced Japanese popular culture, often going so far as to learn Japanese, so relatively large numbers of new games were routinely imported shortly after their release in Japan.

With the relatively fast pace and large number of new game imports, by the mid-1990s the Korean game market appeared to play a role as an unofficial test site for Japanese games, which allowed game companies to gauge a game’s potential popularity before its transnational distribution. The so-called income test of the latest games illustrates the Korean market’s unique position for the global circulation of Japanese games. When a new game came out, Korean traders would procure one or more samples of it and install them in crowded downtown e-rooms to see how players responded so they could estimate the number of units to import. Eventually, the Korean income test even seemed to interest Japanese game companies: “They checked out both [Japanese and Korean] markets for unit pricing decision.... If a new game turned out to be really popular, they set a much higher price.”26

The import numbers of relatively large-scale trade companies reached up to five thousand units at a time. Then, Konami Korea, for example, once imported five thousand boards of the game that cost 3 million won each.27 However, because of minimum order quantities set by manufacturers—around a thousand units according to former traders—the total cost of the official import was too high for most small businesses. Instead, they exploited a niche market. In practice, they were small, parallel importers able to import smaller orders from traders in countries other than Japan. “If Tekken launched, say five thousand boards, in Japan, Korea marked [ordered to import] one or two thousand, and others like Taiwan and Britain did more or less. It’s not a deal of trading twenty or thirty boards. In Korea all were domestically distributed, but traders in other countries imported [the minimum order quantity] and exported the rest [that were left after domestic distribution].”28 In this way, small, nimble companies at the Cheonggyecheon market were able to import additional (and smaller) quantities of the latest games from trade agents in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Britain, and other countries where not all imported games were absorbed internally; those who were left with unwanted stock attempted to cut their losses by selling the games in small quantities and for possibly lower prices to parallel importers in other countries. Traders strove to clear out stock as if every minute counted, since they did not know when a game would lose popularity.

The niche market trading engaged in by the small-time importers fixed the scalar limitations of the rigid mass-market distribution system, helping to maintain the circulation of arcade games by redistributing otherwise wasted circuit boards. In terms of consumption, video games have been experiential goods or “an ideal commodity” in the context of the transition to a post-Fordist economy and postmodern culture since the early 1970s.29 Thus, popularity regulates their distribution; however, their production and distribution must be massive in minimum order quantities, as required by the Fordist system, to the extent that it is still the most viable way of maximizing profit. This niche market has partly filled these systemic gaps.

Repair to Distribute and Maintain to Entertain

The Cheonggyecheon market has been the center for the distribution, maintenance, and repair of video games and other parts and peripheral devices, such as buttons, levers, joysticks, and coin-exchangers since the late 1970s, when over a hundred small distribution and sales companies gathered alongside manufacturers’ and copiers’ workshops. From their center in the market, these small companies supplied, copied, and imported the games that filled most of Korea’s e-rooms. As this market demonstrated, distribution depended on maintenance and repair.

To distribute games, market traders needed to figure out how their prices fluctuated: “We share the prices, going in and out incessantly every day at this market. We got to see money move [as we collected the bill] in the evening. It’s five or six hundred thousand won per circuit board.”30 When asked how much a specific game might cost, they typically suggested a new price that was a little bit higher or lower than previous ones, depending on their knowledge of the supply at the market and the demand from e-rooms. Dealers estimated supply simply by the number of phone or doorstep inquiries, since most of the trading offices were on the second and third floors, and most of the workshops and warehouses were on the fifth to eighth floors in the same building called Cheonggye Sangga and Daerim Sangga at the market (fig. 2). They judged demand by answering phone calls from provincial retailers and e-room operators inquiring about the stock and price of a particular game, and by talking to their colleagues in neighboring stores who received similar inquiries.

Figure 2

Inside of Ok-In Orak Sil, a crowd-funded reopening of Yong Orak Sil (1988–2011) in Seoul, where one can play some old games. (Image courtesy of author)

These daily market practices required the dealers to develop knowledge and practices for price determination and negotiation as part of the job. As one pointed out, “I had to memorize all those hundreds of games and figure out how much each one cost. It’s complicated, but I had got to know them by sitting here for a year.”31 Meanwhile, employees of distribution companies usually moved around the floors rather than sitting in their offices since they had to purchase game circuit boards from workshops or neighboring stores, seek out repairers, or package boards. Some of them were distribution-specialized technicians, though they were just called gisa (technician). Their main job was to merchandise what they procured by hand, taking into account what neighboring stores held, as technicians were responsible for identifying stock without delay through phone calls or doorstep inquiries as to what games were at which stores, how many copies of those games they had, and what prices the games were commanding at the market.

The distribution of arcade games, centered on determining their price, accompanied such activity of maintenance and repair in close relation to the main business of trade and sale of the actors in this particular market. Every distributive activity was meant to activate and maintain the life cycle(s) of each game on a daily basis.

According to repair technicians, they had very busy days in the 1980s and 1990s, fixing broken-down electronics, replacing worn-out peripherals, resetting game difficulty levels, and upgrading old game circuit boards with new ones. From the early days on, the distribution companies needed to hire a technician or two who served as designated repair technicians. “At the time, you must have repair technicians. How could you sell [game machines] without repairing [them]?”32 One new employee, after learning how to wire components in the machine over just a fortnight, was sent right out to any e-rooms that called to request the service. “When on business trips, I brought over twenty circuit boards with me. They [e-rooms operators] requested repair services as they bought new games. ... I carried my double oh seven suitcase with me to repair machines, like broken power supplies and circuit boards. If I couldn’t manage to fix them on the spot, I collected and brought them to repair technicians at the market, and then posted back to e-rooms.”33 A technician at his own game repair shop, who has mainly repaired game machines for over three decades, remembers that there was no time even to eat, as numerous boxes of broken circuit boards were piled up from all around the country.34

Maintenance and repair were not always done adequately. What if game machines were not well maintained? There were a number of such cases, among which I draw on Jeon’s case study that investigates why and how the two play styles of Tekken (Namco, 1994) in Japan and Korea diverged according to the different design and maintenance of levers. When small Korean companies first manufactured levers, they imported and modified Japanese ones in a way to reduce the cost, which resulted in poor quality products in which their input signal became relatively less accurate. Ignoring the need to replace worn-out levers at e-rooms further weakened players’ input signals. Korean players nevertheless adjusted their grip on the lever, as they selected characters who used rougher rather than subtler fighting techniques when playing Tekken 3 (1997) and Tekken Tag Tournament (1999) (fig. 3).35 In short, the neglected maintenance of levers led to the transformation of gameplay style.

Figure 3

Outside of Cheonggye Sangga at the Cheonggyecheon electronics market (Image courtesy of author)

Furthermore, the poor maintenance of the levers affected the design of the games as well. Even as the technology of lever manufacturing in Korea progressed, the levers had been improved not in the direction of resembling technically advanced Japanese products but of maintaining less sensitive input signals to accommodate Korean players’ habitual play style (fig. 4).36 “The best lever technology,” according to an e-room operator interviewed by Jeon, would produce levers that had a less sensitive input signal with the specific amount of error value to which Korean gamers had adjusted. Then they could use these levers to execute their favorite characters’ fighting techniques in their preferred way.37 On top of that, the specific Korean play style in turn contributed to some extent to transforming the design of the next game in the series. After Tekken 4 (2001) had restricted the use of such fighting techniques, Korean players disregarded it and just kept playing Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag Tournamen. For other reasons, it did not interest their Japanese counterparts. Tekken 5 (2004) and 6 (2007) then included the Korean player’s favorite fighting techniques again and facilitated the coexistence of Japanese and Korean play styles.38 This history informs us not only of a specific way reception and distribution could affect production but of the importance of maintenance and repair as an intermediary between production and reception.

Figure 4

Second floor of Cheonggye Sangga at the Cheonggyecheon electronics market (Image courtesy of author)

Whether or not arcade games were well maintained, they tended to ultimately reach the critical moment at which the machine became inoperable and needed replacement parts. More frequently, however, game programs had to be replaced, even if the machines were normally maintained and operative, due to the decline of a game’s popularity.

Although the arcade game market had small margins, its basic transactions were not based on charge accounts but on cash. “Margins were small. It’s taking off five thousand or ten thousand won [a margin of about 10 percent]. We managed to live thanks to cash circulation, though. And instead, there were unit numbers [that made their profit different]. In spite of ten thousand won [profit] per unit, but you sell fifty units, you earn five hundred thousand won, which then was equivalent to a monthly salary. You made it a day [albeit not every day]. In those days, the rental fee of this store cost about seven hundred thousand won.”39 Despite the narrow margins, arcade sales could be a lucrative business, as traders often sold circuit boards in bulk and made extra profit if the unit price increased. Losses frequently cut into profits, however, due to the tendency for prices to go down; the rate of price declines also mattered. If no one had ordered a particular game even for two or three days, dealers judged that its price was about to decrease. When a game fell from favor in all the e-rooms throughout the country, then any leftover stock just meant loss.

One dealer experienced a heavy loss of seven hundred out of a thousand circuit boards of a new game that he had just imported when the game suddenly lost its popularity. This price change, caused by sudden popularity trends, even tended to take place between the time of the import contract and the game’s installation at the e-rooms. Prepayment was thus the conventional practice, typically at the signing of the import contract. That was because traders frequently changed their mind and cancelled orders. The prepayment convention also applied to the installation of new game machines for e-rooms for the same reason. Additionally, traders benefitted from the income test when receiving an order from e-room operators: “I secured a large account in Daegu. She was a retailer there and operated her own e-room. I sent a new game sample to her. It went crazy as soon as it was mounted [installed], and then she marked [ordered] two hundred units, while others marked twenty or fifty.”40 The test allowed traders to estimate import volume and secure buyers in advance.

All this reflects an important aspect of the game market where the fluctuating popularity of video games outpaced the speed of distribution. In the worst cases, a promising-looking game, which had won quite a favorable response in a test and accordingly been imported in large quantities, eventually ended up crashing when its popularity suddenly plummeted. It was not easy to forecast the trend, especially when a game enjoyed quite high levels of popularity early on. To counteract this problem, distributors at the Cheonggyecheon market adopted a rental system for the initial stage of distribution, particularly for the unprecedentedly higher-priced games. The lease system served both as an income test and promotion.41

One of the factors that drove the sudden waning of a game’s popularity was the fierce competition introduced when Japanese companies released new games. Even hugely popular games could crash when a more enticing game launched. For instance: “Sega’s Virtua Fighter 1 [actually 2] was a hit. Then, the unit price of Virtua Fighter 2 [actually 3] was four million won and he [the importer] ordered a thousand. But he just sold a few. … four to six billion [won] flew out, and he ended up being totally broke. This new version of Virtua Figher was in disfavor overseas, too, so no exports were made. That’s because of the coincidental release of Tekken 3, as far as I remember.”42 In addition to its much higher unit price, high level of game difficulty, and the concurrent emergence of online gaming, Virtua Fighter 3 had a release date that overlapped with the launch of Tekken 3 (Namco, 1997), and the latter proved to be a great hit.

While game players chose one of those fighting games for virtual battles, game-market players competed in the real world to distribute them. And game players’ choice of virtual fighting games was key to determining whether game-market players won or lost in real-life competition: “The game market was … killer.”43

Popular games were, in a sense, doomed, since the next game in the series, other more attractive games, or even new devices constantly appeared. When it came to the cultural status of game products, out of date equaled out of order. To combat this cultural flux, commercial actors developed their own market techniques of maintenance and repair that included domestic redistribution, modification, and export of used circuit boards.

Distribution companies at the market bought back used game circuit boards, colloquially called seizing. Distributors seized secondhand boards in order to recirculate them, that is, to send them to places where the game had not yet been introduced. This distribution market greatly relied on e-rooms, as each store served tens or even hundreds of local clients nationwide. The sheer number of e-rooms justified the domestic redistribution technique, since the initial distribution of new games was not immediately implemented nationally, and also the speed of players’ disenchantment varied from game to game and locale to locale. The circuit boards that were returned from any e-rooms to the market were not just broken ones to be repaired but also ones bought back to be recycled until they could be fully circulated nationwide. In a sense, ways of repairing might include recycling unevenly distributed games.

Another market technique to remedy the cultural and economic impact of outdated games was called modification. At the market, modification referred to the practice of recycling old game hardware for use with new games as opposed to fan changes to game content (i.e., modding).44 This practice was performed by skillful main technicians (reverse engineer-cum-developer). Vernacularly, copying referred to the reproduction of an original game by manufacturing the entire circuit board with all its parts, while modification involved the replacement of old game content with new content using the same system boards, although both options provide new games: copying meant manufacturing of new circuit boards while modification entailed maintenance and repair to renew preexisting boards.

According to one main technician, there were two necessary prerequisites for the modification.45 On the economic side, the targeted obsolete game must have been massively distributed at the e-rooms in order to ensure that the demand for modification would be high enough to recoup its cost. Modification prevailed since it offered a cost-efficient method for revitalizing older machines, which e-room operators had to maintain.On the technical side, modification required that the system board for a new game had to be identical to the preexisting game’s board (typically coming from the same game developer, i.e., Namco), in order to copy the program from one board to another.

While copying the game program stored in ROM (read-only memory) chips was relatively easy, reverse engineering custom chips—such as programmable logic integrated circuits (ICs)—was significantly more difficult: “The difference existed not only in the ROM data, but also in the hardware configuration. In it, specific locations changed. You must find out the different locations. The key is custom ICs. Whenever you design it, it changes. Additionally, you can lock it up with copy protect, so it’s not readable. Only those who could read it can make the master for modification.”46 The so-called master version consisted of digital files that were read and extracted from ROM chips and custom ICs, along with a fully modified circuit board as a sample.

This sort of modification, which was behind legal disputes about making the modications, can be understood as a form of maintenance and repair of old game circuit boards in several senses. Culturally it refurbished obsolete products, while economically, it compensated for the depreciation of the old cultural products. Technically, it recycled used circuit boards for new game content. In these ways, modification specifically contributed to maintaining this market and industry. Meanwhile, traders could take advantage of local players’ disenchantment with a game by exploiting the different pace of acceptance in other regions: exporting secondhand games overseas.

Export of Used Copies, Used Originals, or Newly Modified Games

Korean exports of Home Pong clones and copied Japanese games began in the late 1970s and early 1980s.47 By the 1990s, this business included the export of secondhand video games although only four to five companies in the Cheonggyecheon market exported these games.48Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to note that most distribution companies and e-rooms were directly and indirectly engaged in the export of used games due to the circulative structure of Korean game market. Both distribution companies and e-room operators readily cooperated to take another chance to profit by recycling obsolete products.

While used games from Seoul were recirculated in other cities and provinces for six months to three years, foreign countries could place orders for overseas export, though not all used games made their way overseas (fig. 5).Interviewees mentioned places that included not only Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Pakistan, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Japan), but also America (the US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, and Colombia) and Europe (Germany, Switzerland, and Greece). One interviewee recalled: “I took a job at a game company and worked on the factory manager level in 1998. There were about eighty employees for insert [the job of assembling the circuit boards]. I took charge of product release. When arriving at work, I checked in fax calls to check out which foreign companies ordered how many. Mexico, Hong Kong, et cetera, et cetera. ... I exported to everywhere except Africa. Even to Japan. Why? Because ours were, say, one-tenth of their domestic distribution price.”49

Figure 5

Fifth floor of Cheonggye Sangga at the Cheonggyecheon electronics market (Image courtesy of author)

Among those countries were intraregional distribution hubs such as Hong Kong, Dubai, Britain, the US, and others, from where the used circuit boards travelled once again into other neighboring countries. According to one trader, Korean exports of copied and used games to Hong Kong were relayed from there to China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America. Britain was well-known as the hub for the European market,50 and Dubai was the hub for West Asia, according to a trader whose trade partner was a Pakistani running trade offices in Dubai, Hong Kong, and Pakistan.

Exportable games included any possible forms ranging from the original to copies of it and to secondhand versions of both. “It depends on which country and what kind of company ordered our items. Some of them wanted copied boards only, and others ordered just used but original Japanese ones.”51Most countries in Latin America preferred bootleg versions to originals. By the first decade of the 2000s, the Latin American video game industry was seen “as a low-cost producer and exporter rather than ... as a consumer-market”;52 however, according to small Korean trade companies that exported a considerable number of copied and used original games, these forms of imports of arcade video games served local consumers. These markets emphasized lower prices more than novelty of product.

Korea was oriented to faster and more intensive ways for adopting new products, and thus the different distribution pace compared to other countries brought about this sort of cascading secondhand circulation in the sphere of global video game distribution. The circulation of secondhand games necessitated the reconditioning of game circuit boards to accommodate the cycle of a game’s redistribution from one place to another.

The export business at the market eventually progressed to incorporate the import of used boards from Japan’s game centers: “In Japan, they didn’t recycle them. When games were out of date, the circuit boards were barashi (dismantled) and stored in warehouses. That’s the discarded game boards that we imported.”53As another niche market technique, Cheonggyecheon market companies imported original but used Japanese game circuit boards, upgraded them with new games based on a modification master, and then exported the final product. These updated Japanese games were possibly distributed domestically but were mainly exported to meet the unique demand of places that preferred lower prices but still wanted original Japanese circuit boards running the latest Japanese game. In this way, the market functioned as an assembled distribution circuit of import, recycling, modification, and export.

Export tended to situate locally used game hardware in a new environment. Thus, if exported as they had been, out-of-date but still operative circuit boards in Korea might cease to function because of varying electrical standards and climatic influences in other places. Typical testimony about output voltage transformation went: “We use sixty hertz, but most other countries fifty hertz. The output voltage must be the same, so we wound transformers again according to fifty hertz to be put inside machines for export.”54 Electrical incompatibility only pertained to the export of whole, assembled machines such as rhythmic action games, while the export of circuit boards only had no such issue. Instead, humid weather primarily caused breakdowns: “Circuit boards easily rusted away due to moist atmospheres. It was even harder to repair them in tropical climates.”55

As exported circuit boards more frequently broke down for a variety of reasons, the maintenance and repair of exported games in Korea did not stop after the products shipped. Market technicians followed the exported circuit boards to each site of circulation in person. From time to time, foreign businesses invited technicians to come for a few weeks or a month to repair or replace broken circuit boards that had piled up. In some cases, trade companies or wholesalers that imported game circuit boards from Korea would request a technician in residence, who would then spend one or two years at the location, with a renewable contract for more time. After the contract expired, some of them would keep living there, choosing to manage their shops independently. Korean technicians mentioned residing around the world, including Hong Kong, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, the US, Switzerland, and Greece, among other countries.

Why didn’t game distribution companies in those countries hire their own local technicians instead? An interviewee addressed this question directly: “I think there were few middle technicians who could cover intermediate technology [at least in a rich country in Europe where he emigrated to live as a technician of a game-distribution company for over a decade].”56 Emigrant technicians like him, who were between highly education workers and unskilled laborers, partly filled vacant positions for maintenance and repair, design and use, or production and consumption of technology

Another, more important reason for foreign companies to prefer Korean technicians was that their roles were not limited to the relatively mundane job of fixing electronic game machines; they also acted as intermediaries or branch offices, facilitating the import and export of copied, used, or modified games. For instance, modifications were often implemented on-site in overseas locations. The aforementioned main technician, who cracked custom ICs and made a master version of the Street Fighter (Capcom, 1987) series in the late 1980s and early 1990s, answered phone calls from technicians residing in the US and Mexico, for example, to request the master. The technicians overseas then used the master to recycle obsolete circuit boards collected from local game centers to run the latest game. In doing so, they became transnational distributors-cum-repairers of game circuit boards at globally scattered locations. This process sustained integrated circuits of transnational distribution, maintenance, and repair, which then maintained the globalized repair and maintenance of video games.

Re- and Reverse Circulations

Up to now we have explored how heterodox circulations emerged. The Korean game market was one of the first to acquire the latest Japanese games via copying and importing and was also one of the fastest to pursue newer games, ensuring that quickly outdated products could be recycled or modified. Given this characteristic of the Korean market, heterodox circulations evolved generally in two ways: recirculation and reverse circulation.

Recirculation emerged to fill the gaps and lags: technically, between development and reception; culturally, between the faster and the slower reception of new games; and economically, between developed and underdeveloped countries. All these recirculations refer to improvised paths outside of official distribution. A game did not stop being distributed after one such journey but was redistributed to other places in other forms whenever the game did not have enough playing and paying consumers.

In addition to the direct import of the latest Japanese games from Japanese game corporations, the Korean game market further imported new games from neighboring countries that had been imported with minimum order quantities but had been left in stock as their players slowly received new ones. Another phase of redistribution involved buyback and resales among Cheonggyecheon market wholesalers, provincial retailers, and local e-rooms. Similarly, the exported games were further exported via regional hubs such as Hong Kong and Dubai to neighboring countries. Some games imported to Korea were exported to other countries after they received cold receptions in Korea. And the Japanese original but secondhand games were exported elsewhere after undergoing modification in Korea.

One interviewee recounted an extraordinary case of reimported products. A Japanese game circuit board masquerading as an original (whose game title he did not remember) was imported in a store on the second floor of the market; the board turned out to be a copy made in a workshop directly overhead, on the sixth floor, expressly to export to Hong Kong. Somehow, the game eventually made its way to Japan before being accidentally reimported back to Korea. In another case of reimport, when used circuit boards ended up being discarded as electronic waste after a few recirculations, they were ultimately exported to China and elsewhere so their parts such as their ICs could be recycled. To serve the market of enthusiasts and nostalgic fans emerging in the first decades of the 2000s in Korea, some of those extracted ICs were again reimported to repair classic game circuit boards at the market.

The multiple lives of game content and game circuit boards in recirculation would be practically unfeasible unless its second and third distributions were integrated with/as maintenance and repair. While in-game multiple lives are given by simply inserting a coin, multiple lives of the game itself require a variety of maintenance and repair of its circuit boards and other parts serviced by a number distributor-repairers who counteract cultural, economic, and technical obsolescence. Indeed, maintenance and repair can be seen as innovation after innovation, as in renovating the official cycle. Thus, when a new game became unpopular in a developed country, Japanese companies and official distributors might consider it dead, but other regions might not, so the recirculation resuscitated the game.

This recirculation can lead us to a further understanding of how such distribution functioned as maintenance and repair. While it appeared that the “act of exchange … of experiential goods … is potentially always renewable, and the market far less prone to exhaustion,”57 the act of recirculating through the integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance, and repair actually created an unlimited supply of goods. In other words, as these practices have altered the curve of official distribution of the original version, the gaps and lags between Fordist production and post-Fordist consumption of video games have been filled and stitched rather than ripped wide open.

The concept of recirculation, while pluralizing the preexisting trajectory of the game’s life cycle, still remains in the linear and unidirectional movement of the cycle; what I call reverse circulation, on the other hand, indicates movements beyond distribution to bend the curve itself. Reverse circulation refers to games whose circulation opposed the orthodox order of circulation from production to distribution to reception. For instance, the earliest responses to a new game in Korea involved Japanese game developers essentially surveilling the Korean market to gauge their likely incomes by estimating how to set the unit price. The aforementioned ill-maintained levers were a case that shaped Koreans’ heavy play-style, and the style was then incorporated into the original Japanese game design of the next games in the series.

In light of reverse circulations, we can see that the significance of researching game markets of the copied, used, or modified games is not limited to illuminating marginalized and invisible spheres of distribution and maintenance. Just as the altered games were not simply derivatives but changes that fed back into the original to catalyze unexpected evolutions, a profound significance of heterodox circulation comes from the way that it flowed back to the dominant markets driven by Japanese corporations.

The reversal of the order of official circulation also affected the orthodox linear relationships between original and copy, or between new and old. Through the mundane practice of general repair, new components could be assembled into old products that were partly broken. In contrast, the old could be made part of the new, as in instances where used parts and products were recycled into brand-new games through technical and economic practices of modification in particular.58 Consequently, in some cases, the latest games—ones that were recently installed, tempting people to play in their neighborhood game centers—could operate on used circuit boards on which obsolete games had run at distant towns in the near past.

We can understand this as a material remediation of game content and genre that was not always concealed behind the video screen of the game;59 some Korean players preferred used games to new ones because certain features such as power-ups were already implemented in used games.60 To meet the demand of such players, a modification of the game content was also implemented at the market by inserting additional chips into the circuit boards to make some powerful fighting characters appear in the early stages instead of the original high levels.61 And, like some other players’ adjustment to the ill-maintained input device, “enthusiasts looked for copied circuit boards for the sake of their nostalgia. They know the difference between original and copy.”62The users who first experienced copied games seemed to acknowledge their difference from the orthodox original that became available later.

In some contexts, both copied and used games could even replace the original. The original by definition precedes its derivatives. This straightforward formulation, however, does not guarantee that the original would be experienced earlier than the copied and used versions by a larger population of global potential players, owing to the latter’s lower prices and heterodox market agents. The copy could feasibly precede the original in distribution, and the used games could arrive in many other places earlier than the original new games in the first few places of official distribution. Thus, distribution could reversely define the original, as one interviewee put it, “things you first encountered became original.”63As in the aforementioned case of recursive recirculation (a game copied at the Cheonggyecheon market and exported, and then reimported as if it were original at the market again), the copied game almost replaced the original.

Although Walter Benjamin pointed out in 1936 that “to ask for the ‘authentic’ print makes no sense” when “[f]rom a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints,” mass-produced and distributed artwork, based on mechanical and electronic means of reproduction, such as photography, film, and video games, has managed to preserve the authenticity of the original in other ways.64 While the technical distinction between original and copy has become less meaningful, the claim to authenticity of the former has persisted and even intensified in economic and legal terms.65 In the midst of this contradiction, the heterodox circulations of what was copied, used, or modified have contributed to further undermining the hierarchical relational notions of original and copy.66 Endorsing that “[local] content was not ‘100 percent pure’ ... The ‘local’ was already in the 1980s a pan- or trans-local,” I suggest that reverse circulations contributed to the genesis of such “thoroughly mixed origins.”67

Conclusion: Post- and Precirculations

What happened to the used circuit boards at the tail end of these crisscrossing life cycles? Like other products, they entered the stage of disposal that included recycling technically functional parts. In the first decade of the 2000s, used game circuit boards started being sold to miscellaneous wire junk shops: “Junk shops began buying used circuit boards. For exporting them per kilo. Mainly to China. Japanese chemicals worked well for picking out parts.”68 In this stage, the price of used and disused circuit boards was set per kilo, measured as bulk material remains as if all the cultural value of game content and interactive play had been exhausted. They were further recirculated through their export as electronic waste and the reimport of IC parts. As mentioned, those ICs—extracted from circuit boards used in Korea and Japan and reimported in Korea and elsewhere—were reused to repair classic game circuit boards once a retro game market began to emerge in the same decade in Korea. To that end, whenever technicians went on short-term overseas business trips, they combined their repair business with procuring recyclable discontinued ICs.69

The emergence of the retro game market introduced another type of circulation by creating a new market predicated upon new afterlives. While the Cheonggyecheon market has survived (just as some games themselves are resurrected), the arcade game market declined from then on in the early 2000s (circa 2003), mainly due to the internet and online game booms. In parallel, cultural breakdown, which had occurred to each game circuit board, eventually happened to the circuits of distribution themselves as the relative velocity of circulation slowed. Rather, the circuits tended to be not so much disintegrated as more explicitly integrated with maintenance and repair, in order to maintain the afterlife markets for recycled ICs and enthusiast collections.

This article covers diverse life cycles of a cultural and technical product—arcade video game circuit boards, with a case study of heterodox markets—centered at the Cheonggyecheon market and its heterodox circulations. Such circulations were developed, in part, because of Korean cultural characteristics and the history of copying and secondhand distribution. Korea’s unique geographical, cultural, and technical placement ensured that Japanese games hit the country earlier, faster, and in greater numbers than elsewhere, helping to some extent to transform the path and pace of Japanese games’ global distribution.

In each circuit of those circulations, technically out-of-order, economically out-of-pocket, or culturally out-of-date game circuit boards were maintained and repaired to be recirculated and reverse circulated as copied, used original, used copy, or modified new games, which managed to reduce the stock of the original, or fill its vacancy, or even replace it. Thus, rather than remaining as a local case study, this research makes its “significance clear to non-local audiences” by actually influencing their reception of video games,70 particularly in neglected parts of world through the integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance, and repair via a local market in connection with globally scattered locations. Importers, wholesalers, retailers, maintainers, repairers, operators, peddlers, exporters, on-site technicians, and all of their competitors in the real-world game distribution market shaped, and were shaped by, such heterodox circulations. A variety of methods of distribution, maintenance, and repair helped develop market techniques that created circuitous routes for alternate distribution circuits to excel in the established orthodox business structure based on mass production and big-time hits.

Maintenance and repair of game circuit boards in the course of both formal and informal distribution were recursively done for distribution itself. In fact, where original games stopped being distributed after a normal one-time one-place contract, they were informally maintained and repaired to be distributed further or in other forms in heterodox circulations. In this vein, while appearing to go against the orthodox, in reality the heterodox often becomes part of it as maintenance and repair literally imply it. Heterodox historical studies definitely contribute to debunking our common notion of the center in orthodox game history.71 Yet, the questioning nature of this historiography does not necessarily challenge the historical center itself. Rather, heterodox markets and circulations have ultimately contributed to reinforcing and consolidating the dominant structure at large.

It is still crucial to excavate more deeply how the center established both orthodoxy and heterodoxy alike. In-depth research should then follow. Beside, behind, and between the game empires of the US and Japan, why was it particularly in Korea as well as in Taiwan and a little bit later in China that copy and recycling markets rigorously mutated? Perhaps it is because they had been critically dependent on formal and informal circulations of IC chips supplied from semiconductor factories in East Asia. Based on this other heterodox circulation or precirculation between world factories and copy markets, integrated circuits (ICs) for the manufacture of game circuit boards were a key material foundation for the integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance and repair, that is, complementary to the empire of the video game world. The Cheonggyecheon market was just one infrastructure for this. Multiple urban electronics markets in Asia and beyond have collectively become hubs and nodes of the transnational distribution network for Japanese games.

Equipped with large-scale integrated circuits that were manufactured, distributed, or output from nearby semiconductor factories—and given that integrated circuits of distribution, maintenance, and repair were established at local markets but globally connected—the video game circuit boards dispersed the latest Japanese games around the world and so encouraged people to “insert coin to continue.”


I am grateful to the people who were interviewed as part of the research that led to this article. I thank Logan Brown for providing crucial input and editorial work on this article. Additional thanks to Eunki Jeon, Deng Jian, Yasuo Kawasaki, Melanie Swalwell, two anonymous reviewers, and ROMchip’s editors. This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2018S1A5B5A02028336).


1. ^ Ian Larson, “The Bootleg Connection: Micro Genius and the Transnational Circulation of Early Clone Consoles,” ROMchip 4, no. 1 (2022),; and Dongwon Jo, “‘Bursting Circuit Boards’: Infrastructures and Technical Practices of Copying in Early Korean Video Game Industry,” Game Studies 20, no. 2 (2020),

2. ^ Aphra Kerr, “The Circulation Game: Shifting Production Logics and Circulation Moments in the Digital Games Industry,” in Digital Media Distribution: Portals, Platforms and Pipelines, ed. Paul McDonald, Courtney Brannon Donoghue, and Timothy Havens (New York: NYU Press, 2021), 107–25.

3. ^ McDonald, Donoghue, and Havens, Digital Media Distribution; and David Hesmondhalgh, “The Infrastructural Turn in Media and Internet Research,” in The Routledge Companion to Media Industries, ed. Paul McDonald (New York: Routledge, 2021), 132–42.

4. ^ Carly Kocurek, Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 6.

5. ^ Melanie Swalwell, “Heterodoxy in Game History: Towards More ‘Connected Histories,’” in Game History and the Local, ed. Melanie Swalwell (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2021), 225.

6. ^ Mia Consalvo, “Console Video Games and Global Corporations: Creating a Hybrid Culture,” New Media & Society 8, no. 1 (2006): 126–27; and Mia Consalvo, “Convergence and Globalization in the Japanese Videogame Industry,” Cinema Journal 48, no. 3 (2009): 135–41.

7. ^ Hanae Kramer, Scott Kramer, and Wayne Buente, “Recycled Amusements: An Introduction to the Supergun,” ROMchip 4, no. 2 (2022),; Patryk Wasiak, “Playing and Copying: Social Practices of Home Computer Users in Poland during the 1980s,” in Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes, ed. Gerard Alberts and Ruth Oldenziel (New York: Springer, 2014), 129–50; and Gleb J. Albert, “New Scenes, New Markets: The Global Expansion of the Cracking Scene, Late 1980s to Early 1990s,” WiderScreen 23, no. 2/3 (2020),

8. ^ Larson, “The Bootleg Connection.”

9. ^ Raiford Guins, Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014); Melanie Swalwell, Angela Ndalianis, and Helen Stuckey, eds., Fans and Videogames: Histories, Fandom, Archives (New York: Routledge, 2017); and James A. Newman, Best Before: Videogames, Supersession, and Obsolescence (New York: Routledge, 2012).

10. ^ Guins, Game After; and Garnet Hertz and Jussi Parikka, “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method,” Leonardo 45, no. 5 (2012): 424–30.

11. ^ Bernard Perron, “Conventions,” in The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies, ed. Mark J. P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (New York London: Routledge, 2016), 77.

12. ^ It may be worthwhile to compare the life-cycle history of game circuit boards with that of books. A history of books in eighteenth-century France, for example, shows that international supply routes and “their arrangements within the complex world of middlemen … often determined … what literature reached French readers.” Robert Darnton, “What Is the History of Books?,” Daedalus 111, no. 3 (1982): 73. In particular, this kind of distribution of recycling and recirculation was once expressed as “survival” in the Adams-Baker diagram of whole socioeconomic conjucture as a derived and updated version of Robert Darnton’s diagram of the communications circuit. Thomas R. Adams and Nicolas Barker, “A New Model for the Study of the Book,” in A Potencie of Life: Books in Society; The Clark Lectures 1986–1987 (London: British Library, 1993), 14, 31–38; and Robert Darnton, “‘What Is the History of Books?’ Revisited,” Modern Intellectual History 4, no. 3 (November 2007): 504.

13. ^ Swalwell, “Heterodoxy in Game History.”

14. ^ Swalwell, 222, 231.

15. ^ I have regularly visited the market for my ongoing field research since December 2016 and recruited interviewees among those persisting in maintaining their offices and shops by spontaneously asking around and through their reluctant recommendations from acquaintances. For this study, from 2017 to 2023, I have conducted on average two-hour, six-time (once to nineteen) conversations with fourteen interviewees: five distributors and traders, four repairers, and five bootleggers and reverse engineers-cum-developers, who are all male in their fifties to seventies. Their names have been changed to protect their anonymity, and I have translated all quotations into English from the interviews and literature that were originally in Korean.

16. ^ Lee Vinsel and Andrew L. Russell, The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most (New York: Currency, 2020).

17. ^ Jo, “‘Bursting Circuit Boards.’”

18. ^ Differences in local names and cultures of game centers deserve a comparative study. See Kocurek, Coin-Operated Americans. For a brief cultural history of Korean arcade gaming, see Jun-Sok Huhh, “The ‘Bang’ Where Korean Online Gaming Began: The Culture and Business of the PC Bang in Korea,” in Gaming Cultures and Place in Asia-Pacific, ed. Larissa Hjorth and Dean Chan (New York: Routledge, 2009). See also Holin Lin and Chuen-Tsai Sun, “The Role of Onlookers in Arcade Gaming: Frame Analysis of Public Behaviours,” Convergence 17, no. 2 (May 1, 2011): 125–37; Benjamin Wai-ming Ng, “Japanese Video Games in Singapore: History, Culture and Industry,” Asian Journal of Social Science 29, no. 1 (2001): 139–62; and Eric Eickhorst, “Game Centers: A Historical and Cultural Analysis of Japan’s Video Amusement Establishments” (master’s thesis, University of Kansas, 2006).

19. ^ Dongkwon Kim, “Cheonggyecheon Commercial Area, a Miniature of the Korean Economy” [in Korean], Shin Dong-A 231 (November 1983): 405.

20. ^ Steve L. Kent, The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokémon and Beyond—The Story behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World (Roseville, CA: Prima, 2001), 152; see also Mark J. P. Wolf, “Arcade Games of the 1980s,” in The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to Playstation and Beyond, ed. Mark J. P. Wolf (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008), 91, 94.

21. ^ Wolf, “Arcade Games of the 1980s,” 96.

22. ^ Wai-ming Ng, “Japanese Video Games in Singapore,” 151.

23. ^ Wai-ming Ng, 150–51, 155.

24. ^ Wai-ming Ng, 148.

25. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, October 7, 2022.

26. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, June 9, 2021. All currency amounts in this article are given in Korean won (KRW); $1 USD was around 800 won by the late 1990s, and afterward it was close to 1,200 won.

27. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, November 16, 2018.

28. ^ Kocurek, Coin-Operated Americans, 24–25; and Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Greig De Peuter, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing, 2nd ed. (London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003), 75.

29. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, November 16, 2018.

30. ^ S. Jeon, interview.

31. ^ M. Song, interview with author, May 12, 2021.

32. ^ S. Jin, interview with author, May 12, 2021.

33. ^ S. Son, interview with author, February 21, 2017.

34. ^ Eunki Jeon, “Joystick-Producers of Arcade Game Culture” [in Korean], Korean Journal of Communication & Information, no. 96 (August 2019): 125–26, 131.

35. ^ Jeon, “Joystick-Producers,” 128.

36. ^ Jeon, 132.

37. ^ Jeon, 135–36.

38. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, November 16, 2018.

39. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, October 7, 2022.

40. ^ S. Jin, interview with author, May 12, 2021.

41. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, October 7, 2022.

42. ^ There was a hobbyist culture involved in this modification of hardware recycling since the early 1980s. See Kramer, Kramer, and Buente, “Recycled Amusements.”

43. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, November 16, 2018.

44. ^ Y. Kim, interview with author, October 13, 2022.

45. ^ Maeilgyeongjae, “Unusual Boom … Electronic Game Machine” [in Korean], Maeilgyeongjae, December 24, 1982. This topic deserves more in-depth research.

46. ^ H. Jeong, interview with author, April 13, 2021.

47. ^ H. Jung, interview with author, December 15, 2016.

48. ^ Alan Meades, Arcade Britannia: A Social History of the British Amusement Arcade (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2022). See chaps. 6, 7, and 9 for the distribution of copied and secondhand arcade video games.

49. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, November 16, 2018.

50. ^ Jairo Lugo, Tony Sampson, and Merlyn Lossada, “Latin America’s New Cultural Industries Still Play Old Games,” Game Studies 2, no. 2 (2002),

51. ^ Y. Kim, interview with author, October 13, 2022.

52. ^ Y. Kim, October 13, 2022.

53. ^ H. Jeong, interview with author, April 13, 2021.

54. ^ S. Cha, interview with author, May 20, 2021.

55. ^ Martyn J. Lee, Consumer Culture Reborn: The Cultural Politics of Consumption (New York: Routledge, 2003), 135, citing Kline, Dyer-Witheford, and de Peuter, Digital Play, 68.

56. ^ For a similar case at an electronics market in Delhi, see Deka, “Bazaars and Video Games in India,” 185.

57. ^ David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 89–94.

58. ^ E. Jeon, interview with author, January 5, 2023.

59. ^ Y. Kim, interview with author, March 27, 2023.

60. ^ H. Jeong, interview with author, April 13, 2021.

61. ^ Y. Kim, interview with author, October 13, 2022.

62. ^ Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 2007), 224.

63. ^ Sundaram, “Revisiting the Pirate Kingdom.”

64. ^ Sundaram, 41–43.

65. ^ Swalwell, “Heterodoxy in Game History,” 221, 222; see also Jo, “Vernacular Technical Practices,” 174–75.

66. ^ H. Jeong, interview with author, April 13, 2021.

67. ^ H. Jeong. interview.

68. ^ Swalwell, “Heterodoxy in Game History,” 227.

69. ^ Swalwell, 231.

70. ^ Jo, “‘Bursting Circuit Boards’”; Dongwon Jo, “Vernacular Technical Practices beyond the Imitative/Innovative Boundary: Apple II Cloning in Early-1980s South Korea,” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 16, no. 2 (2022): 157–80; see also Maitrayee Deka, “Bazaars and Video Games in India,” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies 7, no. 2 (December 1, 2016): 172–88; and Ravi Sundaram, “Revisiting the Pirate Kingdom,” in Postcolonial Piracy: Media Distribution and Cultural Production in the Global South, ed. Anja Schwarz and Lars Eckstein (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 32. These specific popular and technological markets, such as the Cheonggyecheon market, are prominent in Asia: Akihabara in Tokyo, Chunghua and Guanghua markets in Taipei, Zhongguancun in Beijing, Huaqiang Bei electronics markets in Shenzhen, or Nehru Place, Lajpat Rai market, and Palika Bazaar in Delhi, among many others. In-depth comparative and influential historical research on them has not yet been conducted, including video game histories based on them.

71. ^ S. Jeon, interview with author, November 16, 2018.