September 2, 2015

Brief Update

 Hello, everyone!

I apologize for not having had many updates recently. This summer I enrolled in a graduate program to get my Masters Degree in international studies with a focus on China and concentration on education. We had a six week intensive study in Irvine, and then got shipped out to different parts of China to continue our coursework, do research, and teach. I'm now settled in Shanghai, teaching fourth grade English and Social Studies while doing research on video game addiction. Now that the dust has settled and I'm back in "primary source" territory (instead of relying on news from 17173 and QQ), I hope to update more consistently. Something interesting I missed writing about include gamer jargon is becoming a part of everyday Chinese slang.

I look forward to being back in China, and being able to write about observations and things as they happen, as well doing research and being able to put some of that data here as I start collecting it. Exciting times!

April 22, 2015

Assassin's Creed Chronicles China Gameplay

This installation in the Assassin's Creed franchise will take take players to China in 1526 during the collapse of the Ming Dinasty. The last member of the Chinese Brotherhood, Shao Jun, returns to her hometown on a journey for revenge against the Templars in a 2.5D adventure. It is one of three games in the Chronicles trilogy, with the others taking place in India and Russia.

Reception on Weibo has been mostly positive, with many players saying, "I'm a fan of Assasin's Creed, seeing a Chinese theme is great." Other users worry the Chinese elements will be lost on players: "A video game about Chinese culture... Will it do well with foreigners?" Another user wondered, "Why does Shao Jun speak English?" There was also lamentation for the inability to climb Chinese palaces, but believed that being able to do so would probably get the game banned in China.

April 15, 2015

Less Clothes, More Cute: Objectification of Female Streamers

There's no reason to require that all female streamers be paragons of chastity, but even to make money you should still hold onto a little bit of your dignity.
In the past couple months, video game streamers have been the focus of some concern. As a result of the rise in streaming video platforms (such as, and a trend of hyper-competition, the worth of many professional streamers has soared so that annual salaries of a million or tens of millions of RMB isn't big news. Some “video game streamers” therefore depend on the video game supply chain to survive, and this previously marginalized career has become the focus of industry debates.

In streaming circles, male streamers are often known for technical and practical prowess, with good looks and a sense of humor as bonus traits. On the other hand, female streamers are hired due to preferential treatment as a result of their gender-- they attract an audience of nerds and otaku, and some girls who have no video game skills succeed instead by acting cute and showing their bodies to generate economic benefits for themselves.

Gradually, female streamers have become less about representing girls who love video games, and more about innuendo and controversy. The media has even bluntly stated that female streamers can become popular online, but only as “tools to placate sexually repressed nerds”.

In the male-dominated market of video games, the objectification of female streamers requires more consideration.

April 12, 2015

Vice and Video Games

Guys paying girls to play video games with them isn't a totally new idea (see: GameCrush). The idea is, you pay a girl or an intermediary company a certain amount and in return you get a girl to play video games with you (usually an online game), including full text/voice chat. In China, this service that provides so-called “sparring partners” to male gamers has come under fire following a blog post by one of the girls detailing her experience of providing additional sexual services to her clients.

A 22-year-old third year University student who had been working as a sparring partner for 6 months wrote online that she had been playing online video games 5 to 6 hours daily at net cafes, getting mostly student customers and earning a few thousand dollars. She writes, “[That was] until I met a social (non-student) customer, who spent money pretty liberally. We would play games at the cafe and he would accidentally touch my hand, but not like normal physical contact, while asking me with heavy innuendo if there were any other services I could offer him. Then he pulled out a stack of money and put it in my hand, and looking at him I thought he wasn't so bad, so I agreed.”She slowly began to accept this way of “playing”, choosing to give “special services” only to customers that she felt attracted to and had money, and saying that it couldn't be looked down upon because the original point was to simply accompany guys playing games (it's not prostitution if you're picky, is her gist). She said in the past six months, she's played 15 games and earned twenty-thousand RMB ($3,219 USD).

Obviously, this woman's story has sparked a discussion on the safety and pornographic nature of these services. Hong Kong's Mingpao Daily News, most men who pay for these services are male students or factory workers who don't have an opportunity to get out much and are struggling in a country with a high gender population imbalance. 26 year old Zhang is the owner of an intermediary business in Wuhan that connect clients to girls, and says that they have more than 20 girls charging 20-50 RMB per hour ($3-$8 USD), and his company receives 10-15% of those profits. A girl can expect to make about 6,000 RMB per month, or a little under $1,000 USD. Zhang states that very little is required of sparring partners-- as long as they can play video games and have free time, they can do it. However, a sweet voice and an ability to carry on conversations are important skills, and experienced girls can make thousands by sparring, and girls who become popular can make over a ten-thousand per month.

Zhang says the price of 20-50 RMB is reasonable, and prices that are too high or too low might indicate that the sparring partner service is a front for prostitution. He says his own company is not involved in pornography, but almost every week a girl asks if she should be provide sexual services. “The market for sparring partner services has great potential, but there is a lack of effective supervision.” He worries that a link to sexual services would disrupt the market for online video games entirely.


January 10, 2015

PS4 Postponement Due to Region Locking Issue

 On January 8th, Sony announced that the Chinese release of its console and games, originally set for January 11th, would be postponed. The official message said it was due to "various reasons," but gave no specifics. When pressed by Chinese media to list specific reasons, Sony officials gave no comment, saying only to the Wall Street Journal that it had nothing to do with the recent PSN and Sony cyberattacks or with Japanese-Chinese relations.

However, this postponement followed an email posted online by an official in the Beijing Municipal Cultural Bureau on December 31st, stating a concern that the PS4 was not region-locked and would be able to run games and content bought from other countries without regulatory review, including software that "involve violence, drugs, crime, and other illegal activities."  Players are now convinced that the postponement was a result of that email, and a good old doxing went underway.
In response to death threats sent through Baidu Tieba and a flood of hostile phone calls, the author of the email (whose name was not revealed in the article) published a response defending his actions titled, "No matter what you say, I would still report, so go ahead and criticize me". He writes,
Why report?
1. Join in the fun, it looked fun, and I wasn't the only one sending reports
2. I wanted to see if Sony is slyly trying to take advantage of loopholes
3. I wanted to see the definite attitude of the government
4. I wanted to see what Microsoft will do [editor's note: the XBox One release was also postponed in September due to auditing issues]

Reporting was the only way to make these issues clear.
 He also defends his actions by saying:
In fact, if Sony wasn't abusing loopholes, then my report wouldn't have had any effect. If Sony was using loopholes, then I was only putting it forward-- sooner or later, it would get locked. So my report wouldn't have any meaning unless it was proven true.

While gamers are frustrated and disappointed, another article from Beijing Business Today says this shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody.Despite the fact that the 14-year ban on consoles has finally been lifted, it will by no means be an easy transition for foreign companies like Sony and Microsoft.

According to gamers, there is a huge demand for high-quality games-- Sony and Microsoft are both eying the Chinese market greedily, and they hope that whichever one can get their blockbuster games into the market first will likely capture the majority of gamers in one fell swoop.

However, game consoles and products brought into the Chinese domestic market must face strict administrative procedures. Everything is subject to regulatory policy, meaning blockbuster AAA games don't get to skip the auditing process, even if there's a high demand for them and little enthusiasm for domestically produced games. This contradiction is something both Sony and Microsoft will have to face as they venture into the Chinese gaming market

In their statement to the Wall Street Journal, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House stated that the delay followed “a request from the authorities to make an adjustment to the business plan,” and that the delay would not affect Sony's overall sales expectations foe the PS4 this year.

January 8, 2015

PlayStation Release Date Postponed

Sony Computer Entertainment (Shanghai) and Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group Co Ltd announced today that the original Chinese Mainland release date for Sony's consoles, accessories, and software will be postponed from its original January 11, 2015 release date due to "various reasons".

The official message goes on to read, "We sincerely thank all the players who have supported and encouraged us, and we look forward to our continued journey together!"

Users online have speculated that the PS4 postponement might have something to do with a complaint received by Beijing Municipal Cultural Bureau official Liu Ruizhe and posted by him on Baidu on December 31 which read:

PlayStation 4 (referred to as PS4) is expected to  release in January 2015 as reported by major media outlets. It can run a variety games from other countries that have not been audited by the Chinese Cultural Bureau, including Grand Theft Auto V which advocates drugs, violence, crime, killings, promiscuity, and other details of the game, seriously affecting the construction of Chinese culture. I strongly urge a block of this kind of behavior that shows contempt for China's law by Sony China.

Sony and Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group set up a joint venture back in May 2014, after consoles in China were legalized, to make and market Sony's PlayStation game console in China.

January 3, 2015

Riot Plans English Broadcast of Chinese Competitive League of Legends

It was only a matter of time before the Chinese League of Legends scene would be picked up in the US, after placing second in the last two World Championships, having a team move from China to compete in the US domestic scene, and having an influx of players move from Korea to China.

Meanwhile, fan-created and fan-run group LPLen, which had originally been casting an English version of the LPL (Tencent LoL Pro League) on Twitch, will now be shut down. They had been pursuing an agreement with Tencent to create an official English broadcast of the tournaments, something that is no longer possible with the agreement between Riot and Tencent. According to the Daily Dot, "Riot has yet to offer any an opportunity to continue their work alongside the official Riot broadcast."

August 8, 2014

Team LMQ: From China to the North American LCS to the World Championship

LMQ is a competitive League of Legends eSports team (a sister team to Royal Club) that moved from China to the US in December to play in US sanctioned tournaments. They secured a spot in the League Championship Series by going undefeated in the Challenger Series and finishing the Challenger playoffs 5-2. They then went on to win second place in the NA LCS Summer Regular Season, and third place in the NA LCS Summer Playoffs, securing a place at the World Championship in September alongside American teams Cloud 9 and Team SoloMid.

It's somewhat common for Western teams to play in Asian competitions (in South Korea, usually) because it's an opportunity for them to learn from some of the best, more competitive teams and assess teams they might face in world championships. It's very rare for an Asian team to move to the West for competition, primarily because of financial issues and the difficulty with moving abroad (such as obtaining visas and sponsorships), but also likely because they're somewhat sacrificing their fan base in their home country.

I'm not sure what their motivation for moving was, perhaps they felt they would be more successful in North America-- which they have been; it would be interesting to find out.