Rainy season in Shanghai and sweltering heat takes many of us into the air conditioned confines of our apartments for recreation. Sick of DVDs? Why not venture into the newest home video games? (Shanghaiist sure has.) Now that we are all officially “victims of piracy,” just blame the whole mess on those wascally Westerners, and gaming can be cheaper then ever.
Chinese youth take their gaming seriously — too seriously at times. But internet cafes, while offering a wide range of gaming choices, can be more dangerous then just the wafting cigarette smoke would suggest. So why not pony up some maojamens and buy yourself an altered GameCube.
Shanghaiist visited a dank gaming hole called Egshow somewhere along Weihai Lu near Chengdu Bei Lu and talked to gamer extraordinaire and shop-keep Eddie Shi to get the scoop on home gaming China style. GameCube, PS2 and Xbox have all arrived, but there is a catch. “In order to play pirated (盗版 or dao ban) games, all the game consoles need to have a mod chip installed,” the ever business savvy Eddie said in Chinese. “You can buy the GameCube for RMB 1,250 with the mod chip installed, or RMB 980 without. If you bring your own console from overseas, we can install the mod chip for you. Don’t worry, you can still play authentic (真版 or zhen ban) games with an altered console.”
Nintendo calls this sinister mod chip “The Viper Chip.” PS2 and Xbox all require similar modification. Once modified, you are ready for cheap gaming bliss.
“Chinese gamers prefer the PS2 because it has the most games, about 300 available in China,” Eddie continued. “GameCube and Xbox only have around 100 games. PS2 games are also the cheapest at about 7-8 RMB a game. But also because Chinese prefer fighting or sports games which PS2 has lots, and there is less English in those types.” Understandably we could see the difficulty in 14-year-old Shanghai students trying to navigate the story in the latest English version of Zelda for GameCube.
When asked if he sold any authentic games, Eddie said he could order them for us if we want, however, “in China authentic games are expensive. For GameCube they cost about 300 RMB or more, so we prefer to buy pirated games. And it is pretty much the same!”
Gaming shops like Eddie’s can be found all over Shanghai — almost every neighborhood has one. Just follow the packs of chain-smoking teenagers.