This entry was written in response to the Research Blogging Assignment for Stanford’s Fall 2008 Cultural Interfaces class. For more about this assignment, click here. You can leave a comment on this post by clicking on the “comment” link below.
My research focuses on the role that PC bangs have played in Korean culture. PC bang is the Korean term for PC room. These numerous establishments are a hybrid between Internet Café and videogame arcade. Since their introduction in 1998, PC bangs have become the hub of Korean online gaming. Offering popular titles such as Starcraft, WarCraft and Diablo II, PC bangs have become an important part of leisure for youth in South Korea. The social aspects of PC bangs have been thoroughly analyzed. The economic impacts that PC bangs has had, however, has long been overlooked. In an article from the Journal of Education, Community, and Values, Byungho Park and Thom Gillespie of Indiana University present PC bangs as a business that has deep ties with the gaming industry in Korea.
Park and Gillespie first relate the rise of the PC bang to the expansion of the online gaming industry. Piracy had been a huge problem in South Korea and the lack of copyright laws discouraged software companies to establish businesses in the country. PC bangs provided these gaming software developers with a market. Because PC bangs were legal businesses, they could not use pirated material and thus were forced to purchase games for their computers. The success of Starcraft in South Korea helped to cement the profitability of PC bangs, as well as that of the software market in Korea. According to Park and Gillespie, “Just after one year since its introduction, PC-bangs became the center of the Korean software market, an inevitable change considering the PC-bangs purchase six million dollars worth of game software every month.” Once it found a market, the gaming industry then began to diversify its products offered in PC bangs to include online chatting. This was aimed at the female adolescents, “who were stereotypically thought to be unfriendly with computers,” but were more interested in socializing.
In this way, the gaming industry and the PC bangs worked together to target customers from ranging demographics. This is important to my topic because this helps to explain why PC bangs have such a widespread influence on Korean culture. From the journal, it would seem as if the gaming industry played a pivotal role in promoting PC bangs, which in turn, enhanced the gaming industry.