Step into any wangba (网吧, internet café) in Beijing, and you’ll be able to observe the horde (forgive the pun) of furiously buffing and power-leveling enthusiasts who are steaming the online gaming industry forward. Powered only by coffee and willpower, they are the Role Playing community. They live primarily solitary lives as magical warlocks vested with unimaginable power, high elves living in Ewok-like communes, or grisly warriors armed with only an enchanted claymore and a sense of righteousness.With over 457 million netizens, China’s online industries are booming. Along with social networks, blogging hosts and news sites, one of the most popular markets is gaming.
Their motives for playing vary. Pixilated gold can fetch real money in the online community and many players “farm” resources for this exact purpose; others are simply seeking escape into a world where it is possible to monitor success by simply viewing your XP bar.
World of Warcraft is a huge success here, as in most countries, but the most popular game is unquestionably Fantasy Westward Journey, a Chinese game that boasts a following of approximately 1.6 million and counting. For those looking for a change of pace Rift seems to be the popular choice. With EQ2 graphics and WOW’s interface, it’s fast becoming a huge success. A major attraction of Rift is that, opposed to other games in which instances are separated from the map, this game exists in one massive, never ending world-event which encourages every player to become involved with one another, complete with separate PvP (Player vs. Player) arenas
However, there is a more serious side to online gaming: addiction. Many countries have begun releasing regulations (for example, time limits on playing time) to ease the addiction problems of the 18-30 generation. Many can end up suffering severe health consequences from night after night on the virtual town. There have even been recent discussions about including “Video Game Addiction” in the next DSM (the official diagnostics manual used by psychiatrists in America).
These recent acknowledgments have stemmed in large part from the “heroinware” horror stories that occasionally come to light. Cases like that of young Xu Yan, who died in Jinzhou after playing for two weeks straight during the Lunar New Year holiday in 2007. “Everything in moderation” is definitely a sound ethos when it comes to MMORPGs (Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Games). However, if you think you can feel your eyes turning square, here is a good list of tips for those who don’t know when to stop queuing for dungeons and go to bed.
Casual gaming is big in China too. Watch out for the plants and zombies as they battle it out.
And, of course, online gaming is pretty freakin’ huge too.