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North Korea Made Its First Video Game: Pyongyang Racer

Drive around and take in the sights of a virtual Pyongyang-style city

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Unlike its neighbors to the south, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) wouldn’t have a very strong claim to the title of the ‘Video Game Capital of the World’, should that moniker ever go up for grabs.

In a country where internet access is restricted to all but a few and where the computers that are available to the public run specialized software to ensure that it “correlates with the country’s values,” the rise of an IT or video game development industry seems far fetched. But, says PC World a few years ago, North Korea is turning into a destination for companies looking to outsource their programming needs—at least for those willing to indirectly align themselves with the nation.

One such partnership has borne fruit recently, says the Verge, with the development of Pyongyang Racer, the “first game developed inside North Korea that’s targeted at gamers outside the communist state.” The game was commissioned by Koryo Tours as a marketing tool for their business of offering vacations to North Korea.

The publisher of the game, Nosotek, advertises the bright side of North Korea’s restrictive environment:

In addition to the accessible skill level Nosotek was set-up in DPRK because IP secrecy and minimum employee churn rate are structually guaranteed.

According to Anthony Tao at Beijing Cream, Pyongyang Racer sees “layers race around the “city of willows” collecting barrels of fuel and avoiding obstacles such as cars. (True to the Pyongyang I visited last summer, there are few vehicles and very, very clean roads.)”

You’ll pass the Arch of Triumph (based of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, only bigger), the Victory Monument, the (now-complete!) Ryugyong Hotel, and the Juche Tower, the tallest stone structure in the world — barely eclipsing the Washington Monument.

“Despite the title,” says Tech In Asia, “there is no actual racing in the game, you just drive a black town car through the deserted streets of Pyongyang at whatever pace you wish, occasionally being admonished for your poor driving by a pretty-but-stern-looking policewoman. When you drive past landmarks, you can hit little tiles in the road that give you a brief popup window with some trivia about the location, which is presumably how the game ties into Koryo’s business.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Faces From Afar: A Frightening and Fascinating Journey Through North Korea
A Fabulous New Luxury Hotel—In North Korea?

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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