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The alien world of Eastern MMOs

Michael Zenke

That may be overstating things a bit, but from from the Western viewpoint that's a pretty accurate assessment. It's easy to point out the little things that are different in China. They really like steamed buns, for example, and they make stamps that taste like pork. But the games ... the games are what are really different.

Take ZT Online, possibly the most popular game in the country. A fantastic article in the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly took an in-depth look at the title, unveiling the fascinating and utterly alien gameplay that props up the game. It's PvP-heavy, and absolutely riddled with Microtransactions. Almost everything you can think of, from leveling to looting, requires that you pay for it. It's a swirling morass of everything that Western MMOG players say they hate.

And it gets even better! Because in ZT Online if you want some loot, you can obtain it easily, just by gambling for it. With real money. Meanwhile in the states we're nervous about the possibility that the government might tax avatar sales. Hah! This is a really complicated issue, and we could all use some help understanding things.

You should start with Danwei's commentary, as he was the one kind enough to translate the article for us in the first place. (Oh, by the way, did I mention that the article was pulled from the newspaper's official site when the company that makes it made a complaint? Did I mention China is different?) Then move on to Bills Due's observations. He notes that this gambling component is extremely widespread in Chinese games. A less detached and +5 more cynical analysis is available from the PlayNoEvil, who wonders if the highly addictive game is as much a drug as a pass-time. Simon Carless gives a great capper at the GameSetWatch blog, and should hopefully drive home why you need to read this: The full article is absolutely fascinating - in fact, I'd go as far to say that it's one of the best written, most humanistic pieces on games I've read so far this year.

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