China’s rich culture spans thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that games play a vital role in promoting leisurely activities. That said, we’ve come a long way since the days of games as mere hobbies. Now, we’ve got a whole gaming industry fueled by a rapidly growing Chinese market.

Online computer games are typically what come to mind when you discuss China’s gaming industry, but there are lots of other avenues that are building this economy of play.

The rise of the Chinese gamer

The e-sports industry is a huge hit globally, but its emergence is most prominent in China. The Drum expects China’s market to be the largest in the world by the end of this year, surpassing the United States. Total expected earnings are $45 million, which is a huge increase from the US’s $28 million total as of last year. Furthermore, researchers expect eSports viewers to reach 557 million by 2021, as compared to about 300 million in 2018.

That’s not all. Our article on female gamers emphasizes that eSports is changing the very fabric of Chinese culture. We are, of course, nowhere near equality — female gamers still make significantly less than their male counterparts, and are often the target of discrimination and unwanted remarks. Still, the fact that China has female professional teams (unlike Korea, for example, where eSports reigns supreme) says a lot about just how much this industry has captured the minds and imaginations of China’s youth.

The gaming industry is causing a generational shift in China, with more and more young adults looking into eSports as a viable career option. As Chinese schools continue to have rigorous entrance exams and competitive academic cultures, e-Sports provides a new way for individuals to make a living for themselves.

Casinos and gambling

While the eSports industry is growing leaps and bounds, China’s casino and gambling market is also on an upswing. In fact, the Bangkok Post recently found droves of Chinese tourists leaving Cambodia after a ban on online gambling. Politics surrounding gambling have always been tricky, and part of the reason why Chinese tourists flock to other countries to gamble is because China itself has yet to legalize gambling.

That said, the news of these Chinese tourists is a testament to just how big of a role casinos now play in today’s culture. Chinese gamblers are an extremely lucrative (not to mention huge) market, with casinos looking to attract Chinese tourists. Indeed, one need only look at the gambling hub that is Macau to understand how popular gambling is nowadays. As a special region of China, Macau has been the de-facto choice for Chinese gamblers. That said, this might change with the likes of Singapore and Japan entering the casino industry. This growth speaks to the industry’s general rise in the region; in terms of Japan, it looks like the country will have its own mega-casinos opening soon. A guide to Japan by online gaming magazine ExpatBets, states that it is no surprise to the gaming industry; this makes its inclusion into the casino market an exciting one. Indeed, concessionaires such as MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands are now looking to expand beyond Macau and into Tokyo.

When it comes to mainland China, casinos are still banned. This is because government officials still abide by traditional communist thinking that bans vices like prostitution, drugs, and gambling. It’s perhaps this ban that has shifted Chinese tourists to look outward, a fact evidenced by South China Morning Post’s reporting of Chinese tourists in casinos from Saipan to Russia.

E-Sports and flashy casino gambling may be gaining traction, but there’s still those who prefer more traditional past times. The prevalence of mahjong parlors — and even mahjong tables on street sides — shows that China’s new gaming industry comes from a long history of games forming a vital part of Chinese culture.

Edited by staff


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