Video games in the People's Republic of China (PRC) is a massive industry and pastime that includes the production, sale, import/export, and playing of video games. The landscape of the topic is strongly shaped by China's average income level, rampant software piracy, and governmental measures to control game content and playing times. In China, the PC game sector is worth $6 billion, the largest in the world. Arcade games are also a thriving industry in China. On the other hand, console games have been banned in the country since the early 2000s, the ban has since been lifted in 2013.
China has a number of domestically produced games. These include the Genesis of the Century trilogy (The World of Legend, The Age, and Magical Land), Westward Journey, The Incorruptible Warrior, and Crazy Mouse. There are a large number of domestically-made MMORPGs in China, although many generally remain unheard of outside of the country.
The Chinese game Happy Farm (2008) was included in Wired's list of "The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade" at #14, for its major influence on social network games, particularly for having "inspired a dozen Facebook clones," the largest being Zynga's FarmVille. A number of other games have since used similar game mechanics, such as Sunshine Farm, Happy Farmer, Happy Fishpond, Happy Pig Farm, Farm Town, Country Story, Barn Buddy, Sunshine Ranch, and Happy Harvest, as well as parodies such as Jungle Extreme and Farm Villain.
Although China's growing economy has boosted the economic prospects of most Chinese in the last couple of decades, the cost of a personal computer, video game console, or Internet connection remains prohibitive for many Chinese. Because of this, Internet cafes and Internet cafe gaming have become quite popular in the country. Rather than purchasing their own hardware and software, users are simply charged a small fee (often by the hour) to use an Internet cafe computer which often comes preloaded with a selection of games. Internet cafes have contributed significantly to the growing number of young Chinese computer addicts. Chinese internet cafes often impose age limits to protect minors from what may be adult content.
Arcade games are still a thriving industry in China, where amusement arcades are widespread across the country. Its popularity in China is comparable to that of PC gaming at internet cafes. This is partly due to the country's ban on console games since the early 2000s, it has since been lifted. As a result, Chinese gamers frequently visit the arcades to play action games, particularly fighting games, and occasionally unlicensed arcade ports of popular PC or mobile games such as Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies. The arcades and internet cafes operate in a similar manner in China.
Because of the high amount of software piracy in China, many foreign game companies have been reluctant to enter the country's market with single player or console games. Instead, they have focused on selling online titles such as massively multiplayer online games as income from these titles comes largely from subscription fees or in game item purchases rather than the purchase price of the title itself.
As of December 2005, there were an estimated 100,000 Chinese employed as "farmers", video game players who work to acquire virtual currency or items in online games so they can be sold to other players for real currency.
In recent years, the Chinese government has shown increasing concern over what it perceives as problems with the addictions to and negative influences from video games. In an effort to combat addiction in online gaming for example, time restrictions have been implemented, which hamper the players capabilities in game, creating incentive to take a break.
The Beijing Reformatory for Juvenile Delinquents claimed in 2007 that a third of its detainees were influenced by violent online games or erotic websites when committing crimes such as robbery and rape. In a high-profile case from October 2004, 41-year-old Qiu Chengwei was sentenced to death for murdering 26-year-old Zhu Caoyuan over a dispute regarding the sale of a virtual weapon the two had jointly won in the game Legend of Mir 3. Also, in September 2007, a Chinese man in Guangzhou died after playing Internet video games for three consecutive days in an Internet cafe.
As with almost all mass media in the country, video games in China are subject to the policies of censorship in the People's Republic of China.
In 2004, the Ministry of Culture set up a committee to screen imported online video games before they entered the Chinese market. It was stated that games with any of the following violations would be banned from importation:
The State General Administration of Press and Publication and anti-porn and illegal publication offices have also played a role in screening games.
Examples of banned games have included:
In addition to banning games completely, several games have had their content screened to remove certain imagery deemed offensive or unfavorable. Common examples include skeletons or skulls being either fleshed out or removed entirely. Cases of which can be seen the Chinese version of the popular online game, World of Warcraft.
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