Games and Culture: A Case Study

September 30th, 2008

video games and culture
About a month ago I wrote a piece entitled Culture Bred Through Game Design. I’d been thinking a lot about games and it’s relationship with culture leading up to that piece, with the hopes of writing a couple of follow on articles expanding on the issue.

My travel to Shanghai has done a lot to postpone and yet at the same time nurture my thoughts on culture. Now that I am over here and settled, I’ve finally gathered my ideas together and have a plan on how to address the complicated matter of culture and games. I also wish to stir in my commentaries of games in China as it’s most appropriate. Here is my plan of attack;

Rough Definition of Culture:

Culture can roughly be defined as a set of socially transmitted norms that characterize the behaviour of a community. Our culture affects our understanding of the world around us and hence dictates how we behave in this space.

For starters, culture is an unwieldy beast when it comes to definition and it would be stupid of me to try and explain it all, if that were even possible. As such, I’d like to cut a slice out of the definition and just look at that. This slice is what I’d refer to as ‘world culture’, that is the differences between countries, states, provinces and regions.

Secondly, to further adjust the lens, I think that we’d be best to analyze this issue on the rationale of “How culture affects games” and not the other way around. With games being industry, community and design.

I want to talk about this issue as there isn’t much coverage in general about games from a global perspective outside of Japan, American and Europe. Even out of the three, game coverage is still largely skewed towards America. Despite this games are a powerful medium in other countries too, which is what I wish to look at as well as the influence of culture since there isn’t much talk of that either.

Games and Culture

Perspectives from Different Cultures
-series of interviews
China, Games and Culture
-series of articles
Various Articles
-Implausibility of niche cultures, Markets and Cultures etc.
Culture Affecting Game Design
-case studies

Since I’ll be working on this topic for a few months, this isn’t intended to be a single stream of posts, put out in that order but instead this is just an outline of what I wish to look at and how it all relates to one another. If you have any ideas or think that you can contribute then please comment or send me an email (daniel [at] Will try and get the contact form fixed soon.

Gaming Observations from Shanghai (China)

September 28th, 2008

shanghai internet

I’ve spent the past weeks in Shanghai and after a lot of commotion I have finally settled down and am ripping into my studies. Of course, as I promised, I have been keeping my eye out on the state of gaming in China, while I will undoubtedly be going more in depth on these issues on the future – you know I gotta makes some more friends first – for now here is everything that I have noticed in dot point form.

Firstly, it must be said that with or without piracy, games are big in China, much as they are around the world.

A driving force behind that are Internet Cafes (Wang Ba) which provide facilities for the most popular games in China this includes games that can be played locally, as well as access to movies, instant messaging and a wealth of other services.

Many of the internet cafes are themed around gaming with furnishings inside very similar to the old Time Zone arcades.

The most popular games in the internet cafes seem to be World of Warcraft and Counter Strike with random card and party games also being popular (I think these are linked to QQ; China’s most used instant messaging service).

People spit on the floors of the internet cafes – spitting is normal in Chinese culture but this shocked me – and smoking is allowed and often taken up by the participants.

I noticed a shortcut to Bookworm Adventures on my computer.

Much like in other Asian countries, the arcades still maintain a significant following in China, both new and older titles. I’ve been to one arcade in Xujiahui (Shanghai’s electronics centre) so far which had most of the typically popular games for arcade players. Also plenty of sponsers from Sega.

Most popular arcades game is – no surprise – King of Fighters ’98, this is the most tournament likened KOF game.

Department stores seem reluctant to sell video games or consoles full stop (I tried two upper class stores and a Best Buy).

Although I did notice on the Samsung TV displays – everything is divided by brand and seems individually licensed out – they had 1080p video of Street Fighter 4. Samsung TVs are popular for their colour so it was a suitable selection.

Electronic stores (as in crowded complexes filled head to toe with electronics) do sell games though. Maybe I am not looking in the right place but they don’t seem to popular in contrast to laptops and whatnot. I think that I need to find the pirated goods store.

Most games on sale are probably legit (well at least where I was; a lot of *seemingly* brand sponsored stalls).

All games are NTSC, being either Japanese or Hong Kong imported, proving that nobody wishes to sell games directly to China.

Nintendo do though and their products are co-branded with ‘iQue’ so that is ‘iQue Nintendo DS Lite’ etc.

I have also spotted several DS card readers with the mini SD cards, too bad for the iQue.

Overall though the PSP seems to be the most popular console (handheld or otherwise), although I didn’t check, the consoles on sale are again probably Hong Kong or Japanese. They’d have to be as they had so many colors available.

The PSP is also beating the DS in the subway wars.

Oh yeah, the Wiis would have been from Japan as they had Tales of Synphonia 2 being demoed and I confirmed with the shop keeper that it was Japanese.

Also the reason why the PSP is so popular is because they are the easiest to crack and get games for.

Lastly, when I was in best buy they had a rom or hack of Super Mario All Stars going on one of the laptops (looked like a hack) with a PS2 styled controller hooked up.

Back in the Chair

September 26th, 2008

That’s right after two failed attempts, the third is a charm! I’m back online and ready to plug away at some more articles for your pleasure. I’m fortunate in that I’ve managed to get in at the right time too, being the Friday before the national festival which gives me a few days off.

I should be back in the swing of things soon enough. Life over here is pretty relentless; be it my classes, catching the overcrowded subway or just trying trying to do the most basic of tasks in a foreign language. The intensive study is banging on tedium, it’s like a slow death – not too enjoyable. So I will try to channel as much creative energy as I can salvage into the blog over the the next few months.