Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
The Online Games Industry in China, 1995-2013: A Critical Cultural Perspective
Adopting business and industry perspectives, current studies are interpreting the Chinese online games industry predominantly in positive terms. They rightly marvel at how the industry manages to grow extremely fast, produces numerous popular titles every year, and collects immense corporate profits. Focusing on issues of creativity and cultural localization, this study supplies an alternative assessment that takes into account some of the most problematic aspects of the Chinese online games industry. This study periodizes the history of the industry in four phases. It interprets the first period (1995-2001) as one in which remarkable levels of creativity and localization were generated by gamers and non-commercial groups. The second period (2002-2005) is analyzed in terms of how rapid growth have left ample room for local creativity despite the fast pace of corporatization and dominance of imported products. The third period (2006-early 2009) is analyzed in terms of how and why a Chinese invented online game business model arose, became dominant in China, and heavily impacted on global market. The fourth period (mid 2009-the present) is read in terms of contesting dynamics of ongoing corporatization based on the pay-to-win business model and the re-emphasis on creativity based on new mobile and browser game formats.
Keywords: online game industry, Chinese online games, creativity, game design, cultural localization