[Promoted from our Managing Editor’s inbox, here’s another fantastic Guest Writer! This piece comes from community member, Brandon Powell. Brandon is from Kansas and has been living in China for a few years. He writes about video games in China. You can follow Brandon’s adventure in China on his Tumblr, follow him on Twitter, or add him on Facebook]
Living in China for the past few years has given me a unique opportunity to experience a lot of interesting things. I have met some incredible people and seen beautiful places. The last thing I would have expected to fall into as heavily as I have, is the gaming culture here. China in many ways, is complicated, and its relationship to video games doesn’t escape that, which is to say it’s unusual. Video games in China have been a mainstay of modern Chinese culture, and have been around a lot longer than people realize. Given that China has the largest market for video games in the world, I’m not sure why people just assumed video games never became popular here. Many people in China grew up playing the same games, on the same consoles as we did growing up in the good ol’ USA.
Most people in China get around to playing video games one way or another. Internet Café’s are on nearly every block, and in many of the smaller villages. They are cramped and filled with virus-ridden PCs that gamers are using to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, and Counter-Strike while chain smoking cigarettes (these cafes have the most horrifying bathrooms I have ever seen). Smartphones have changed the overall accessibility of games to the public; just getting on the subway you will see everything from 2 year olds on iPads to elderly ladies playing Bust-a-Move clones on their smart phones. Many people treat it more like a form of brain training to keep your mind active during long commutes or down time. The Vita and PSP are ridiculously popular here for some reason; I think outside of Japan, China is the only other country that they sell remotely well in. It’s a rare day that I see, or if I’m super lucky, Street Pass another 3DS. When I do, they’re usually Japanese tourists. I street passed ONE iQue 3DS (Nintendo’s partner company for the Chinese console ban) and they didn’t even bother to give them a region map.
The foreign console ban that was brought into law in 2000, never really stopped the purchase of or play of games at all since for the most part it was largely either ignored or people just didn’t know it was a law. When I first heard of the ban, I was already living here for a while and the news was that the ban was being lifted. It was difficult for me to believe given that there are many dedicated console shops all over Beijing and are frequently sold on Taobao (China’s Ebay). For the most part, people play most AAA popular games like God of War, Call of Duty, and FIFA (which people will get the fuck down on). I went to a shop I frequent when Grand Theft Auto V launched and saw boxes upon boxes filled with copies of the game. More and more people here seem to be playing and utilizing games. I have seen schools use Wii’s to supplement outdoor play on days that the pollution makes it hazardous to do nearly anything outside (some days it seems like outside is actively trying to murder you).
The general attitude towards gaming in China is really positive. Cab drivers ask me what I am playing on my Vita more frequently than I could have ever imagined before moving here. Generally, people are too shy and reserved to talk to foreigners, but gaming has been a great way to meet some awesome people. There is a large community here filled with excited and passionate people coming together to have a great time. The newest generation of consoles have been selling well and PC gaming isn’t going anywhere. The world should and can expect a bright future for gaming in China.