First things first. I am never going to apologize for being slow in writing new essays. It makes me sad to read bloggers groveling. In addition, I am not a blogger (I prefer “essayist”) so I will not apologize for not writing. I shall, however, justify my distinct absence from the site by saying I was conducting research.
I started Gaming Culture before I knew that I would be moving to Hong Kong to start a career in public relations. Given the state of the job market in the U.S. (and increasingly the world), I figured I would have months of downtime to spending waxing eloquently on how society is reflected through games. Instead, a great opportunity appeared on the horizon and I took it. Not only does working in Hong Kong give me a great start in this world of grown-ups, business, and tax returns, it also gives this site a great opportunity to occasionally explore a new perspective of gaming. That is to say, I have a way of looking at how gaming in Asia differs from my own previous experiences in North America.
So when I say I have been “researching,” I mean I have been playing video games in Hong Kong and picking up on some differences between Asian gamers and Western gamers. For instance, my move to Hong Kong brought with it my first console, an Xbox 360 and some new games. One game I felt obligated to buy, particularly after my article about its predecessor, was Call of Duty: Black Ops. Conspicuously absent from my last article was mention of Call of Duty’s popular multiplayer scene. I simply did not have the ability to play Call of Duty 4 online due to my slow internet connection and the fact that the COD fan base had already moved on to the newest iteration of the series, Black Ops. When I bought Black Ops for the 360, I did not buy it for its single player experience, rather I wanted to see what all the fuss was about online.
So, I made an Xbox Live account, popped in the Black Ops disk, and dove in. The first time I played was 2:00 pm local Hong Kong time. This is important because I was being matched with players from the United States playing around 10:00 pm Pacific Time. Every stereotype about the COD fan base was confirmed for me over the course of three or four matches as the players chatted with each other using the game’s voice chat system:
- COD players represent the “bro element” of gamers, with frat boy mentalities and interests such as:
- Under-aged drinking
- Living in their parents’ basements
- They curse often, with little creativity, but with a lot of passion
- They are young, between the ages of 7 and 20.
My experience with Black Ops did not damage my experience with the game though. The multiplayer portion of Black Ops is perfectly serviceable if a little simple for what I personally want out of an online first person shooter. Hearing people with names like RockStar420 and xxX_L33tSHOTZ_XxX curse at each other does not bother me either since I have been playing multiplayer games with those types of interactions since I was very young. I learned very early on that people playing online games had both anonymity and cause to say foul things about other anonymous people. I assumed everyone in the world played online games in which they were constantly exposed to a stream of wretched vitriol.
Apparently, I was wrong.
A few days later, at 8:00 pm local Hong Kong time, I played some more Black Ops. This time around, I was matched with local players from Hong Kong, as well as players from other parts of Asia like the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. I went in expecting a barrage of young teenagers cursing at each other in their native tongues, but instead I heard virtually nothing. No cursing. No shouting. Only the occasional word of Cantonese, Mandarin or English and nothing that sounded remotely close to a string of unbroken curses and hate speech.
In addition to Call of Duty: Black Ops, I also played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Team Fortress 2 on the PC, again with both Westerners and Asians. I had an experience similar to my Black Ops journey. On Western servers, people chat endlessly about all sorts of things, but mostly about how the opposition “totally sucks”. On Asian servers, people rarely chat and when they do it is usually to coordinate strategy. Games that I had always known as having fierce competition even among teammates were seemingly more cooperative on Asian servers than on Western ones.
A few days later after my initial forays into Asian multiplayer servers, I played more Battlefield around four in the afternoon. After a couple of matches, I noticed more players joining the server who were a bit more talkative. These new players chatted a bit more than usual, occasionally insulting other players or accusing them of cheating. My assumption is that the introduction of immaturity into the server coinciding with the time most young children are let out of school for the day is no coincidence. I don’t think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that regardless of ones cultural background, ones age has a greater bearing on ones ability to “play nicely” and act mature.
I am not arguing that Asian gamers are fundamentally different from Western gamers. I do not yet consider myself to have a lot of experience playing online games in Hong Kong to make any conclusions about the distinct differences between the East and West in games. Having said this, I would venture a guess there probably are cultural differences that might manifest themselves online. When Battlefield 3 comes out, I will play online and in between dominating the opposition (ha!) will try to pay attention to the cultural dynamics at play.
In the meantime, I will play a few single player games and write some essays about how they reflect society. Unless I think of something better to write about before then, I plan on writing my next essay on the recently released action RPG, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Deus Ex has some gameplay issues, but it also has a deep and engaging story about humanity’s future, our relationship with technology, and where we draw the line between natural and unnatural.
Until then – cheers!