Observations from the Shanghai Subway

November 10th, 2008

shanghai subway

After being here for maybe two months I’ve realized that I haven’t actually said much about the gaming scene in China. I’ve been to a few arcades, shuffled through pirated and import markets, observed gaming on the subway and made friends who all play games in some form or another. I also have a room mate who owns a Japanese Sega Saturn, although, he is creepy, so I probably won’t explore that avenue!

The only facet that I feel well grounded in is gaming on the Shanghai subway, which is much more prominent than you might first assume. Inspired by Stephen Totilo, I decided to keep a tab of the number of times I spotted a handheld game being played on my daily commute and back. Unfortunately, the more I tally, the more I realize how useless my original plan is since the PSP is wiping the floor clear.

While Mr Totilo counted something near 70 PSPs on the New York subways in over a year, in only two months I have see upwards of 30 PSPs being played. I see at least one PSP player a day, sometimes up to five or six. The DS on the other hand is much lower but I occasionally spot a DS, which my tally being up to around eight. It’s quite obvious which way the data will skew, so I have decided to give up counting.

A lot of rich Shanghai’ers are also equipped with flashy mobile phones too and much like anywhere it is common to see people flash them out in public. The most popular mobile phone games are simple card games, Mahjong and Bubble Bobble.

For the DS I’ve spotted one of the Harvest Moon games being played (the 3D, isometric one) as well as some Castlevania. I’m not sure if people are using a SD card adapter but it is likely as they are readily available.

For the PSP I have seen it been used for a number of features. Games have included God of War, GTA: LCS, Jean D’arc and a number of popular Asian titles; weird stuff like half turn based, half board game RPGs. The PSP is also used quite often as a movie and MP3 player, I see more of this in public than games being played. Most surprising of all is that the most widely used function of the PSP (and by a considerable margin) is to display .txt files. Ridiculous I know, but is quite common to see passengers scrolling through a novel of Chinese characters while jammed between the divides.

And that concludes all that I have to report. I want to do some general surveys on gaming in China soon, wrap up my thoughts on internet cafe culture and start doing some actual analysis of networked games that my friends are hooked on as well as the pirating/import scene. I’m currently doing some general online and forum research.

  • Great to hear a few things about gaming in China. I never could have guessed you’d see so many PSPs on the trains over there. Keep the cross-cultural posts coming.