Hello Kotaku readers, my name is Eric, you've probably seen some of my articles these last couple of months. If you haven't already figured it out I live in China (the Chinese mainland) and these last three years haven't exactly been a picnic.
Now don't get me wrong, life in China isn't bad. In fact, it is definitely not the backwater, copyright infringing 1984 Orwellian society that many westerners think it is. Sure there are cctv's nearly everywhere in the big cities, State media that spout propaganda, and the Great Fire Wall of China, but for the most part life here is simple and enjoyable... that is until we start to talk about the internet and video games.
As you have probably read in previous Kotaku articles, video game consoles in China are banned. While they are banned, consoles and their games are also widely available through the use of the grey market and online outlets such as China's own Amazon/Ebay mash-up taobao.com.
However this is where it gets tricky. Many of the imported grey market games comes from either Japan or Hong Kong, leaving the English reading gamer out of luck. Every so often (especially in the last few years) Taiwanese and Hong Kong releases, in particularly Japanese games, are available in both English and Chinese languages. 3DS owners in China are screwed big time due to the fact that their system is region locked.
On top of not having easy access to games in international languages other than Chinese or Japanese, Chinese online games aren't very friendly towards foreigners. Anyone can enter an internet cafe in China (Children have restricted access times) by just showing their passport and registering, but entering an internet cafe does not mean you can play the games. To play online games in China one must have a Chinese ID or a passport to register, however many games will not recognise or support passport registration thus, the only way is to use a Chinese ID.
Now some of you living in China in, particularly those of you in Beijing, will say, "Hey Eric, why not just borrow an ID from a Chinese person, or get a fake ID made for $US500 at Renmin University's west gate?"
One can use a Chinese national's id number but keep in mind that said person will not be able to register for the game again, and that they are in turn technically the proprietor of the online gaming account. As to getting a fake ID, the whole process is a futile adventure in wasting money, especially since ladies at Renmin University in Beijing only make fake student ids.
So because of the restrictions set on online gaming in China foreigners are left to play online multiplayer PC games in local area network modes.
Now this brings out one of the biggest problems, and my biggest gripe, about living in China, the internet. The Chinese internet is all those terrible things you read and then more.
Any site that has posted defamatory commentary or a sensitive topic about China is usually blocked. Youtube, Facebook, and many blogging sites are blocked. Google has terrible service issues in China. Search engines such as Yahoo.com.cn and Bing.com have to agree to filter out search results in China, on top of that accessing foreign websites that aren't blocked in China results in ridiculous load times.
Heck, even our very own Kotaku has had service isssues in the People's Republic, everything from DNS redirection to loading very very very slowly.
Of course there are ways around the Great Firewall of China, methods such as the use of free or paid Virtual Private Networks and proxies, but for those not in the know, the process of reaching out to outside world is a pain.
Living and working in China is rather hard for a gamer and internet junky such as myself, but after a while I've gotten used to it. There are ways around the crappy internet and alternatives to blocked websites. Personally I have a VPN that allows me to access Kotaku during outage periods, but I also use Chinese websites for my video needs. I'm on Baidu for search just because Google is so spotty and I use Sina weibo as my social network because of my day job. As to video games, I use my lady friend's Chinese ID and I buy English language games whenever I'm in the US.
I get by, it's not that bad, it's just annoying.