ByAna Valens, writer at Creators.co
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

For most Americans, life in North Korea remains a mystery. But some clues sneak out here and there. For one, North Korea has arcades, and they do include some surprising actual, working games.

Kotaku shows that the Rungna Islet arcade in Pyongyang appears to have modern and contemporary video games there. While not many look like the latest in arcade technology, they're definitely fitting for an arcade. And some even look fun. One of the games available includes a pistol shooter, similar in style to Time Crisis and other point-and-shoot arcade hits.

Oh, and some games from the outside world appear to be playable in the arcade. Kotaku suggests that the 2006 Sega arcade title Let's Go Jungle! appears in a video of the arcade from around 2013, and another commenter suggests that the rare Taito title Gun Fight shows up. While, true, the arcade definitely does not have the kind of state-of-the-art gaming titles that would demonstrate the North is coming up with the outside world, Let's Go Jungle! and Gun Fight definitely gives us another clue that Japanese gaming may break into North Korea here and there.

Is There a Video Game Industry in North Korea?

It's a question that's been asked several times, from the Washington Post to Vice -- what are video games like in North Korea? Do people play games there? If so, is there a games industry in North Korea, and are there "gamers" living in the country?

For one, the Washington Post's look at North Korean propaganda suggests that modern American video games aren't readily available in the communist nation, at least not on PC. Information from North Korean defector and former propagandist Jang Jin-sung reveals: if North Korean propaganda is entirely made and distributed from the North, then propagandists have enough experience playing American video games to figure out which scenes in US games are worth including in anti-American works. That means some North Koreans may have first-hand exposure to American gaming, if they work for the government.

However, the Post explains that "private computer ownership is largely illegal in the country," and that computers are "typically slow, not connected to the outside world and must be registered with police as if they were hunting rifles." Meaning, propagandists are not likely to play Dota 2 or Overwatch on their downtime. Outside cultural material is often banned in North Korea, too, so it's very rare for American games to appear unless there's a good reason -- like making propaganda.

Source: UK:Resistance
Source: UK:Resistance

Meanwhile, the Independent suggests that North Koreans may have access to Super Mario Kart on the SNES. Hardcore Gaming 101 shows one photo of young kids playing on a Famiclone in North Korea, and the site reports that several Flash games were created by North Koreans back in 2006.

A Vice article on North Korean game Pyongyang Racer reveals that it's possible to develop and play 3D games in North Korea, too, but the quality is somewhat mixed.

Meaning arcades may be one of the few areas that North Koreans have to play newer games together, but the opportunity to play and enjoy older video games seems to be somewhat common in the country, even if the outside world is largely disparaged. Whether gaming culture is a part of everyday life, or games are considered a unique rarity, that's a question that remains largely unanswered as the outside world wonders what life is like inside the country.

Thanks to an anonymous source for UK: Resistance, we have a sneak peek. Be sure to check out the full images on their site.

Source: UK:Resistance
Source: UK:Resistance
Source: UK:Resistance
Source: UK:Resistance
Source: UK:Resistance
Source: UK:Resistance

Primary Image thanks to UK:Resistance.

Have any North Korean video game stories to share? Tell your tales in the comments below.

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