Additional reading

Selling games by the kilo

The first piece I ever published academically about games behind the Iron Curtain is this one on informal distribution, published in the proceedings of the 2010 FROG conference. In many ways, it has been superseded by Chapter 5 of Gaming the Iron Curtain, but it does contain some unique material about piracy in the early 1990s that has not been published anywhere else.

You can buy a copy here or read a pre-press version of the chapter.

The summary:

Building on a larger research of the early gaming cultures in the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia, this paper describes the alternative distribution channels of computer game software in the post-communist environment and their relationship to gamer communities. Before 1990, there was virtually no computer software or hardware market in the former Czechoslovakia. Copyright of digital works was rarely enforced or debated. Instead, informal distribution structures were forming, many of which survived well into the late 1990s. The “shadow economy” worked on a number of levels. Exchange and distribution of game software was an important activity of local gaming communities. On top of that, there was a huge number of “mail order pirates”, predominantly young gamers, who published their contact info in ad papers and copied games for money. Using archival material and oral history interviews, I will (1) describe the way informal distribution worked socially and economically, and (2) analyze the way distribution influenced the gaming culture in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.

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