Gaming Is Now a State-Sponsored Pastime in China

By Tongfei Zhang, December 17, 2015

2 0

We’re living in the biggest, fastest-growing gaming market in the world. Out of an online population of 668 million people, over 380 million Chinese play online games – 70 percent of whom regularly play mobile games.

It’s a familiar refrain that young people today spend too much time on video games, that they’ve wasted their talent on something useless, but as a matter of fact, playing virtual games could earn you fame and money in the real world if you nail it. 

One year ago, the State Administration of Sports launched an annual tournament called the National Electronic Sports Open (NESO), calling for China’s electronic gaming masters. In other words, it’s the 21st century, and playing e-sports has become a government-approved pastime. 

Last month, the second NESO was held at the Shanghai Expo Exhibition Center, seeing 577 contestants representing 21 provincial and regional teams – including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong – fighting for the championship through six mainstream electronic games, including League of Heroes, StarCraft II, Dota 2 and Warcraft III.

NESO Shanghai 2015

In case you’re wondering how competitive gaming became a state-sponsored activity, here’s an explainer. While it’s easy to dismiss online games as trivial cosplaying escapism for pimply teens, e-sport events like NESO are an organized test of skill and tactical savvy, with strict time and round limits. The rules are explicit, and the aim is to defeat your opponent.

In fact, electronic gaming has been officially listed as a sport category in China (the country's 99th) since 2003. E-sports have also gained legitimacy in Japan, the US, France, and especially in South Korea, where gaming is the second most popular sport after Taekwondo. With an annual value of over USD4 billion, e-sports also rank among the nation’s top three industries, along with automobiles and steel. 

The Koreans were also behind the Samsung-sponsored World Cyber Games (WCG), one of the first e-sports tournaments to emulate traditional sporting events. Known as the “Electronic Olympics,” the WCG lured fans from around the world, acting as a platform for young gamers and providing a tremendous marketing boost for the industry. 

Although Chinese e-sports are still in their infancy, the country is fast becoming a strong competitor to South Korea. Industry experts predict that by 2017, the number of global electronic game players will rocket to 145 million, with 54 percent based in Asia, while the number of Chinese gamers will increase to 62 million – the biggest number of any country in the world. 

At last month’s NESO, the Shanghai team lost in its home court, but there’s plenty still left to play for. 

more news

Tian Han – The Man Who Wrote the Chinese National Anthem

Tian Han's Beijing ancestral home lies in Xiguan Hutong, Dongcheng district.

Shred the Slopes with This Open-World Winter Sports App

Grand Mountain Adventure is a stunning open-world skiing and snowboarding experience spanning eight epic ski resorts.

This Day in History: Down to the Countryside Movement Launched

Chairman Mao proclaims 'We too have two hands, let us not laze about in the city.'

CP Edition: Creating a Travel Lovers Community Across China

CP Edition is a community for travel lovers and travel-focused content creators

On This Day: Japanese Take Shanghai International Settlement

An inside look at the Japanese takeover of Shanghai's International Settlement, which began on December 8, 1941.

PHOTOS: Japanese Occupation of Shanghai, Then and Now

The Japanese takeover of Shanghai's International Settlement began on December 8, 1941​. Here are some photos of the captured areas then and now.

Guizhou Guide: Diverse Minority Culture and Surreal Scenery

Rolling mountains, flowing waterfalls, traditional minority villages and rice terraces make Guizhou a favorite spot.

Sofitel Sanya Leeman Resort Offers a French 'Art de Vivre' Stay

Spend Christmas and New Year's at the Sofitel Sanya Leeman Resort

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at thatsonline for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in China With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Magazines!

Visit the archives