Monday, April 21, 2014

The Game “Go-Stop” and its image in Korea (Project: Localizing “Go-Stop” #2)

For the first project of localizing niche Korean entertainment products called “Korean Americana Project”, I am trying to localize and improve the game “Go-Stop”, which is popular in Korea, for the American market.

As a Korean growing up in Korea, my relationship with the game “Go-Stop” is complicated. I have memories of older family members, usually the male adults, playing it on holiday gatherings. Korean was at that time and to a degree even now a “sit on the floor” culture. So it is common to see people sitting on the floor and not on the furniture when there is a large family gathering like the ones on lunar New Year.

The adults would take out a blanket and a deck of “Flower Cards” to play the game. Since everyone was sitting on the floor, the blanket was used as a playing space instead of a table which is a common play space for Americans who like to play card and board games. Everyone would sit around the blanket and start slamming down the little red cards (Flower Cards) with either such gusto or with a whimper because they had a bad card.

Try to picture this image of grown adults sitting on the floor surrounding a blanket and tossing small red plastic card down like they are kids. After the novelty of the situation wears off, it is not a cool scene compared to the poker games you would see in either westerns or Hong Kong movies which were popular at the time.

There is somewhat of a nobility of seeing men play poker. It is similar to seeing a gun dual in a western. In comparison, the scene of people playing Go-stop is similar to seeing a street brawl. It is messy and rather complicated because of the vagueness.

This was the opinion of most the kids in our age range. While kids who knew the game from playing with their relatives played it, kids who did not know how to play the game never bothered to learn it. We instead started with “Go-Fish” and moved on to Poker. The Game was simply not cool enough. It was the game of the past.

So, the game of Go-Stop has had an image problem in Korea for a while now. It is seen as a game of poor old guys. It is seen as the game of slimy hustlers or poor daily workers. “Go-Stop” was too ingrained in the public’s consciousness as the game of the “market” in which people lived dirty and difficult lives. So for people whose only real life goal is get out of the “market” and make money, this image is not welcoming.

At the same time, you cannot get the “Market” out of you that fast. People still played it. They played in a lot. Whenever the police broke up a gambling ring, you could always see a large quantity of “Flower cards” confiscated as evidence alongside piles of cash on the TV. In a way, the game of “Go-Stop” could be said to have a similar association with poverty as with “Rap” music has in the U.S. Well it may be more accurate to say “had” in the case of rap music.  

“Go-Stop” is street! Yow!

In any case, over the past few years, there have been attempts to rehabilitate Go-Stop’s image.  There have been attempts in Korean media to imbue the game with a coolness factor to varying degree of success. Korean movies such as Tazza put Go-stop for front in which were basically typical Hollywood gambler genre movies.

The game of Go-Stop…
If you strip off all the cultural context and baggage, the game is basically a variant of a “Go-fish” game. You use the hand of cards you are given at the beginning to score points and the game ends when your hand is empty.

It is rather simply game at its core and does generate some interesting psychological responses on the part of the players. However, it has some seriously poorly design cards which does not clearly present the information required. This is a huge no-no for an abstract game. 

So, a redesign in the cards are essential!

Will go into more detail in the next post. 


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