I’m interested in virtuality, experience, and culture; Zafka Zhang is a metaverse researcher, blogger, and evangelist, directs research at China’s virtual world HiPiHi, and according to his Twitterstream, recently started his own youth insights and marketing company, China Youthology青年志; Li Feng is an Instructional Technology Specialist at University of Massachusetts Lowell and Second Lifer. Along with about 20 others, we’re all members (thanks Zafka) of the Association of Virtual Worlds’ Virtual Worlds in China group. It’s new, we’ll see. Join?
Archive for the 'Games' Category
Mafia is a decently well-known game within role-playing communities. To put it succinctly (see wikipedia for a more elaborate explanation of the game), it’s a game played by a group of people in a living room, where people are secretly assigned mafia or innocent roles.
During each turn the innocents have to suss out which people are mafia and vote to kill them. At the end of each turn, the mafia gets to choose to kill another innocent. The game ends when only mafia or innocents are left alive.
Sometimes this live-action game is played on a forum, or even through IM.
And then (according to press statements), the game was brought to China by a foreign student who was in Silicon Valley.
Exhibit A: http://killer.uland.com/
The game was transferred to forums/chatrooms in China and the avatars were dolled up. They also added a new cops role (making it cops, killers and innocents).
Exhibit B: http://www.ss911.cn
These people dolled it up some more, stole some graphics from existing games and created a spiffy GUI for it. They are currently setting up the ability to buy items for your character (making them look prettier or have new special weapons).
What’s interesting to me:
- Does the game work well with just text (versus the living room in-person context)?
- Does the game become more interesting with the cops role?
- Will it evolve further?
(Also: Is it unethical for them to use pirated graphics? I don’t think so — at this beta stage, they’re clearly placeholders for what’s to come. Even if they’re not: They’re using them so badly right now, it would be silly to penalize them.)
A friend mentioned this to me when I was back in Hong Kong: Young professionals, after overworking themselves far past midnight, gather in McDonalds armed with… PSPs and Nintendo DSs.
Even though they are strangers to one another, they will get together for a good multiplayer game of, say, Monster Hunter. It’s popular enough that one local gaming magazine published a list of McDonalds to play.
They even offer 20 whole minutes of free Wifi! (Free Wifi is not easy to find in Hong Kong.)
Danwei and billsdue have already blogged this stuff, but it’s just so brilliant that I have to repost! China’s most popular indigenous MMO, ZT Online (征途), which is run by a guy who got rich selling a vitamin tonic, is described in a Southern Weekly article that was taken down after its publication online, but translated into English by Joel Martinsen at Danwei. When you take the time to read the details of the game and the design of the system, it’s a bit frightening. It reminds me of the mentality behind some of the Chinese chuanxiao pyramid schemes that I studied in the 1990s. Crazy, crazy situations, where entire business organizations spring up to use the crudest psychological manipulation to extract money from their "members," who often are there because they crave or need social or financial status. In the case of ZT Online, it looks like there is a network of salespeople who pull people into the game, ramp up competition in face to face encounters in web cafes; and then the system itself uses all the tricks at its disposal to get players to spend more money. Tens of thousands of RMB, to become a really powerful player. It’s also similar to chuanxiao in that the collectives organized by the system turn and revolt against the system, in this case holding mass sit-ins inside the game. As playnoevil says, "Take everything you "think" is good MMO design and turn it on its head."
The whole article is well worth a read if you haven’t already, but here are some of the really good bits:
A newly-born ID is at level 1, while the most courageous heroes
among the kings can reach "reincarnate level 170": after bringing a
normal character to level 168, they gain a new incorruptible body and
can reach level 170. Simply put, this is the difference between a
mortal and a god. Heroes wield "Perfect Sacred Weapons", and they are
enveloped in the purple aura of nobility, while you stand empty-handed,
clad in only a pair of shorts to hide your nakedness.
Now you can purchase a point card to pour RMB into your game
account, allowing you to ascend levels more quickly and purchase
precious materials with which to craft equipment. You do not have to
spend money; if you don’t, if you only sit there within the game, then
will take not even a single penny from you. But you will quickly
discover that you are unable to kill even a mosquito in that wasteland,
and your movements are restricted to the place where you were born, a
small village called Qingyuan; the wide world outside is for heroes. Of
course, even more discouraging is the fact that you, a descendant of
royalty, will live forever under the threat of another player’s secKill.
…One day in 2007, at the web cafe that Lu Yang frequented, a salesman
appeared in front of her while she was running around. He was smartly
dressed, wore a smile on his face, and spoke in alluring terms of ZT
Online, a new kind of game. "There’s absolutely no need to thread
mazes. We just want you to be comfortable," Lu Yang remembered that he
So Lu Yang and her friends went on to ZT Online. These friends were
her colleagues at the hospital and her husband’s business partners.
They were not short of money, but they had little free time. They
quickly discovered that ZT Online was indeed a wonderfully satisfying
game, as if it were designed expressly for people like them.
You do not need to waste your effort to find a NPC to give you a
mission; press the F key and a drop-down menu displays character names
set out like hyperlinks. Double-click a name and you will automatically
be taken to them. If you want to go to a particular location, there is
no need to thread a maze. Open up the map, find a place name, click on
it, and you will arrive in a moment’s time.
…"Personal enemy" is the social relationship most often found here;
animosity also exists between clans, factions, and kingdoms. Spreading
like a fission reaction, bitter animosity is something eternally
encouraged and glorified.
…The pressure came not just from the game. At Lu Yang’s web cafe, ZT
Online’s promotional four-panel comic was posted even in the bathroom.
When you washed your hands, you could see a cartoon character mocking
those "lazy people" whose next level ascension was far off. The
awe-inspiring hero in the posters tacked up at the entrance to every
web cafe stared at you, and diligent salesmen frequently appeared
Compared with various promotional offensives in the media, these
salesmen are called Shi Yuzhu’s "ground troops." Many of them are from
Naobaijin’s old sales force and are active in China’s major second and
third tier cities. They possess a well-trained sensitivity and
skill-set in digging for profit.
…"The [game] system provokes wars
and we pour in our money. Whoever allocates more money is the winner."
She felt that there were no winners: "Everyone’s been played by the
…Gamers were furious. They stopped fighting monsters, refused quests,
and the kingdom’s rulers sat down in a rare peace and refused to
request wars. The Royal Plaza at the center of the game map was thickly
dotted with seated warriors, mages, archers, and summoners. These
characters, usually bent on slaughter, used absolute peace to protest
the insatiable greed of the system.
Also in the original Danwei post is this wonderful bit from a Southern Weekly sidebar article that characterizes Chinese gamers:
"Chinese gamers are an unwelcome species on European and American
servers," said a game manager who once worked on World of Warcraft.
Chinese players always have ways of quickly ascending levels that leave
European and American gamers in the dust, and on group missions they do
not like to respect the tacit rules of profit division. For those
"pedantic" European and American gamers, Chinese players are like
fearsome pagans. "European and American games do not encourage
unlimited superiority of power; they put more of an emphasis on balance
and cooperative support." The former WOW manager said, "Perhaps this is
because of the influence of traditional culture and the current
environment; truth be told, Chinese gamers are better suited to
I’m going to tell this story backwards from the way I read it on billsdue, because I have a different take on it.
Part 1: BaoBao BengBeng (宝宝蹦蹦)
BaoBao BengBeng is a safe, candy-coated virtual world for kids. See the video above — there are rooms, cutesy avatars, items/inventories and casual games built in. It looks like it’s targeted towards elementary schoolers.
Part 2: 17-year-old boy burns classmate in retaliation because he’s a WoW Fire Mage
The boy responsible gave his classmate a third-degree burn on 38% of his body and is being sent to jail for 8 years. Talking reporters after the trial, he said:
我喜欢模仿游戏人物，特酷，有种“一统天下”的感觉。到后来，虚拟和现实界限已模糊，分不开了。(I love the characters in virtual worlds, it’s cool, and there’s a feeling of "being on top of the world." Afterwards, the boundaries between real and virtual worlds blurred in my mind.)
While some have suggested that BaoBao BengBeng (above) is a safe alternative to violent worlds like WoW, they’re actually two worlds for two audiences. BaoBao BengBeng is for elementary schoolers and WoW is for teenagers. You’d be hard pressed to find teenage boys roaming on BaoBao BengBeng for fun (unless there’s a meeting girls component…).
To take a step back: I really think virtual worlds are not the solution for virtual worlds. In this case, there’s blame attributed to the behaviors promoted by the virtual world, and these behaviors have been catalyzed by an intense attachment to the virtual world. But if the boy had other things to do, other things to play, other places to hang out — perhaps he wouldn’t be roaming the halls at school as a fire mage with a can of gasoline in his "inventory."
Catching up on news: NTT DoCoMo unveiled the official mobile phone game of the 2008 Olympics at the Tokyo Game Show 2007 in September:
"In one of the game’s events, you put the phone down on a table and pump your arms like a sprinting runner. The phone’s camera picks up your movements and accelerates your onscreen running character accordingly."
Unfortunately I have been unable to find more information on the game.
Suezanne Baskerville is tracking both Second Life and HipHi (China’s own Second Life-like game) on her blog.
The latest entries surround HipHi’s hype in Newsweek International that led to a public beta, and before that various resources (forums, screenshots, walkthrus) on how to get around in HipHi in English.
And of course, some experiential posts such as, "How do you delete a fire in HipHi?"
Linked to from her posts, I found:
A great quote from a post on an English HipHi forum, written by the administrators, asking visitors to vote on HipHi policies:
"The genesis of HiPiHi world has gone through three development stages, ‘Sundering the Heavens and Splitting the Earth’, ‘Nu Wa creates Humankind’, ‘The Heavenly Duke Creates the Things’. During those phases, we witnessed great changes in this world, and now we are stepping into another brand new era where the economic transaction system and social systems will be introduced, that is the ‘Mirage’ and ‘the advent of the social organisms’."
Also linked from her blog, a great Newsweek International article photo:
With an interesting concluding paragraph:
"Netizens looking for raunchy sex will be disappointed—HiPiHi’s avatars can’t even strip nude. But Xu says there’s still a chance for romance; indeed, it’s already blossoming. One resident, ‘Wen Xi,’ the avatar of a woman from Hangzhou, apparently has several love interests—and she’s built a hip, bamboo-lined virtual bungalow for entertaining pals. She’s just the type of creative resident Xu and his investors hope will populate HiPiHi—but pioneers like her are scarce. Xu and Zhao have built a world. Now they can only wait to see if the Chinese will come."
Thanks to China Digital Times for the link to this rather extraordinary video, posted by someone called daughterofchina, whose producers are using the Internet and Youtube as a means of online environmental activism. It would be nice to know more about who produced it. I searched Yoqoo (which I notice is now calling itself Youku, thank god), Baidu, and Tudou and could not find it on any of these Chinese video sharing sites. It must have been posted there, however, so perhaps it has been deleted?
You can find a collection of Chinese videos of newscasts on the Wuxi polluted tap water issue here.
Sony Online Entertainment Taipei and Shanghai Northstar are teaming up to create an online game for Stephen Chow’s hit movie, Kung Fu Hustle.
The game will only be released in China, and it will be free to play… unless you wish to purchase extra lives and special items.
According to the press release, it’s a sort of "classic fighting game."
Also, "in Versus Mode, eight players can go head to head in all out multiplayer mayhem."
To try to predict what is to come: here’s an example of a casual, Tetris-like game developed by co-developer Shanghai Northstar called 无厘头快快 (Nonsense On Speed), which features some stock characters from Chow’s movies:
But according to Joystiq, "the shots of this game [the Kung Fu Hustle one] that they showed us look pretty … painful"
According to a Sony spokesperson, Chow’s "an avid
video game player, with a strong sense of game design."