Just a few years ago, gaming was an interest of a select group in the world’s largest country. But with the arrival of the cell phone in combination with a change of attitude, China has quickly become one of the world’s largest gaming markets. Chinese gaming companies as well as universities, once isolated from the rest of the world, are beginning to look to the western gaming culture for sharing and exchange.
As part of the research project Game Hub Scandinavia, the University of Skövde and partners in Scandinavia (and Gothia Science Park and community colleges) are studying the process of game development – from initial studies to becoming an operational and successful gaming company. The Scandinavian model has attracted attention outside Northern Europe. Not the least from China. Marcus Toftedahl, PhD candidate in socio-technical systems at the University of Skövde, has travelled to Shanghai and Beijing several times to start up collaborations.
– We have made visits to trade fairs to network with gaming companies and made connections with universities in both Shanghai and Beijing. After a closer dialogue with several gaming companies, we currently have an active exchange with the gaming companies Shinezone in Shanghai, and Indienova in Beijing. This spring, eight of our gaming students have travelled to China and done their thesis work there, to mention one example of our collaboration.
One of the students who just came back is Sofia Zetterman, a third-year student of the Programme for Game Development.
– It is a great opportunity to experience new cultures, and also an opportunity for us to see how the gaming industry works in China, and see how it differs from the Western gaming industry.
Mobile Games Popular
The differences can be explained, says Marcus Toftedahl.
– Between the years 2000 and 2013, gaming consoles were forbidden in China. So, in comparison to for example Sweden, the Chinese gaming industry is very new. Even if gaming consoles from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have become more common, they are still considered luxury items in China. The mobile games, on the other hand, are extremely common and make up a large part of the gaming market.
The fact that the Chinese gaming industry is fairly new also affects the type of games. Many games that are successful in the Western world do not work at all in China, and vice versa.
– The motivation of the player is different. In western games, there is very often what we refer to as a conflict. To succeed, the player has to defeat a problem or an enemy. This is not as important in Chinese games. Buying success is also more accepted, I would say. It is considered a status symbol, while in Sweden we would rather think of it as cheating. That is one example of why these international exchanges are so interesting. We learn about our different gaming cultures.
Invited as Experts to the "Google of China"
Marcus Toftedahl and his colleagues Per Backlund and Jianguo Ding are traveling to China in a few weeks. On the agenda await meetings with several universities. The colleagues from the Univiersity of Skövde have also been invited to Tencent, often referred to as "China's Google", to talk about gaming research in Skövde.
– We know that we are well advanced with our close connetions to the industry, and our students are developing successful games. We also receive requests from large universities and corporations in China that are interested in both our research and our education. Our Master's programme, Serious Games, has accepted students from Shanghai, as a result of the exchange. We are beginning to see a ripple effect from all the efforts.