Cyber gamers get thumbs up from China

Dec 20, 2005

The Chinese government loves computer gamers. And it will go out of its way to support them.

Never mind that the Communist state shut down a gay and lesbian cultural festival at the eleventh hour last weekend that many in the community had hoped would increase HIV/AIDS awareness as well as acceptance of homosexuality. While the Beijing event that should have kicked off Dec. 16 was quashed by the authorities, Shanghai welcomed computer gamers across the globe with open arms for the China Internet Gamings National Competition Grand Finals.

It was by far the largest tournament to be held in the country, which culminated six months of competing among some of the world's biggest names in the rapidly growing world of competitive gaming. A total of 350 finalists made the cut, with about 3,250 people actually attending the event to see gamers win the total prize purse of $150,000 in cash and prizes.

Nearly all of the gamers were men between the ages of 18 to 35, and most of the diehard fans were male as well.

This year 15 cyber cafés across China hosted more than 200,000 gamers who played to qualify for the final round in Shanghai's Multimedia Park Dec. 17 and 18. Meanwhile, 10,000 cyber cafés from 30 of the 32 provinces in the nation took part in promotional activities in the run-up to the tournament, while Shanghai's biggest cyber café chain, East Day Bar, also was a sponsor of the event.

The competition was officially sanctioned by the China Ministry of Information Industry's People's Post & Telecommunication News Group and supported by the China Ministry of Culture and the National Sports Bureau. Moreover, the tournament got sponsorship from some of the biggest multinationals in the business, including Intel, which signed on as chief sponsor of efforts to broadcast the games live, for which the Global Gaming League won the rights. In addition, Chinese telecommunications giant Shanghai Telecom signed on as a corporate sponsor and provided high-speed bandwidth for the broadcast. Other sponsors included Nokia and Coca-Cola.

The result was "one of the most exciting things to ever happen to pro-gaming and GGL," said GGL Chairman Ted Owen, adding, "China is the new frontier in gaming."

The big winners, including Warcraft III champion Su "SuHo" Hao and WarCraft III international all-stars invitation champion Dae Hee "4K.FoV" Cho consolidated their status as minor celebrities to those in the know.

Yet while China's appetite for electronic goods and entertainment is surging, the government has staunchly refused to stop censoring its people's access to information in cyberspace in addition to continuing to keep a firm lid on free speech. Yet when it comes to violence and decadence in the world of online gaming, the government has been surprisingly open to the extent that it is expected to continue supporting its ballooning gaming population.

Of course, China is far from alone when it comes to seemingly having double standards about censorship and gaming. Singapore, for instance, hosted the World Cyber Games final last month for five days of intensive game-playing from competitors worldwide. While the United States was the top gaming nation of that tournament in terms of collective wins, China's Li Xiaofeng as well as Dennis Schellhas of Germany emerged as kings of the gaming world.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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