Living in Seoul has its perks. For instance, I live within walking distance of Lotte World, one of the largest shopping malls in the world. But as I discovered today, I also live just a train ride away from a place that English speakers refer to as “Video Game Alley.” What is Video Game Alley? Oh, boy, let me show you!
It is a hidden oasis tucked away in Yongsan, and the best directions for how to get there via subway can be found here. The trip involves taking a long, long walk down a claustrophobic corridor that probably looks a lot scarier at night.
Once you get out of there, you just have to look for the giant billboard ahead. The image on the billboard changes from time to time, obviously, but the one I saw today was pretty rad. Video Game Alley is directly underneath the billboard, at street level. (You want to go where the arrow is pointing.)
Based off what I’d heard, I’d thought “Video Game Alley” would just be one giant video game store, but I was wrong. It’s literally just a long, long stretch of stalls operated by individual shop owners, and the selection of games past and present is pretty insane. Hence the nickname Video Game Alley. But the actual name basically just translates to “Specialist Game Shop.”
Now, here’s the not-so-shocking downside to the shopping experience: Most of the game selection is Korean, which is a bummer if you’re not fluent. (I sadly fall into that category.) However, a large selection of games are also Japanese, and I’ve started collected old Japanese RPGs that never reached America. Thus, I came home today with Japanese cartridges of Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Dragon Quest V, and Dragon Quest VI for a reasonable group price. I probably could’ve bought them all on eBay for a little less money, but discovering them out in the wild and buying them all at once was more exciting.
Obviously, those who are Korean or fluent in Korean should rush on over to Video Game Alley. But for video game collectors–both toy collectors and retro or Japanese game collectors–Video Game Alley has a ton to offer too. I’ll conclude with a sampling of photos I took today, to provide an idea of just how much history is on display (and for sale!) at Video Game Alley.