Research Paper on Gaming in the Asia-Pacific Region
Number of words: 2071
Gaming in the Asia-Pacific region is a huge market, and takes diverse forms which range from massive multiplayer online games to illegal gambling parlors. Within the region, gaming has been seen in a variety of ways, and has an entrenched and diverse role in the Asia-Pacific region. This research paper will discuss trends in gaming in the Asia-Pacific region, with respect to gaming as a form of illicit entertainment, ritual and stress relief in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on East Asia and South-East Asia. This paper will argue that gaming serves a vital role in the Asia-Pacific region, as it allows Asians to pursue entertainment in an institutionalised setting, as a ritual to pursue good fortune, and as a stress reliever in stressful urban environments. Games such as electronic sports, Japanese pachinko, lotteries and casino slot machines will be discussed in this paper.
Overview of gaming in Asia Pacific
Asia Pacific remains one of the world’s largest markets for gaming. Mobile games, mass multiplayer online games, gambling dens, casinos and lotteries have remained staples of the Asia Pacific gaming scene, while hubs such as Hong Kong, Macau, Zhuhai and Singapore have risen on the back of a gaming boom to develop tourism within their countries. (Hsu and Gu, 2010) Nonetheless, gaming remains heavily stigmatised and is often perceived as a significant source of harmful social impacts. Gaming franchises such as DOTA, League of Legends and Runescape have also made major inroads into various settings in Asia Pacific, such as online gaming arenas and internet cafes. Gaming franchises produced by the region, such as the Japanese Pokemon franchise and the South Korean produced Maplestory series, have also received critical acclaim both in the Asia Pacific region and globally.
Gaming as a form of illicit entertainment in the Asia-Pacific region
Gaming has frequently been seen as a form of illicit entertainment with significantly negative social impacts in the Asia-Pacific region, and as a vice that leads to addiction, indebtedness, social withdrawal, truancy and broken relationships. Kim and Kim (2015) presented a study which discussed how internet gaming addictions were positively correlated with a lower quality of the relationship between parents and children, as well as a lower attachment to parents by children. (Kim and Kim, 2015)
The impact of internet gaming addiction has also led scholars such as Mak et al (2014) to study the prevalence of addiction in six Asian countries, and to conclude based on an Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and the Revised Chen Internet Addiction Scale (CIAS-R) that the Asia Pacific region is home to a number of countries with high-risk cybergaming cultures, where addiction is common among teenagers. (Mak et al, 2014) This is encouraged by the culture of Internet cafes, where East Asian adolescents can play popular games such as ‘League of Legends’ and ‘World of Warcraft’ for hours on end after school, and where they form surrogate social networks which distract them from other healthier forms of socialization. (Wong and Lam, 2016) Gaming has also been linked to prolonged, severe and debilitating forms of social isolation, such as the phenomena of hikikomori in Japan, where youth isolate themselves for long periods of time. (Hairston, 2010) Clearly, from the above examples, it may be observed that gaming is a form of illicit entertainment that imposes harmful effects on several countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Apart from its impact on teenagers and adolescents, gaming has also been seen as a form of illicit entertainment, especially in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region which remain culturally conservative. For example, in majority muslim countries such as Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, gambling remains illegal under some jurisdictions ue to strict laws influenced by Islam, with gambling illegal and deserving of punishment under Islamic syariah law, especially for Muslim citizens who have accrued financial gains from gambling. (Loo and Phua, 2016)
As a result, illegal gambling operations have proliferated rapidly in these regions in areas such as sports betting and underground casino tables, as well as private home gambling through games such as mahjong and dai ti. (Spapens, 2014) These illicit gaming establishments have also been regarded as a significant source of social shame, and their participants are often stigmatized by society while being subject to severe criminal and legal penalties if caught. The perception of gaming and gambling as a socially harmful practice has also led countries such as Singapore to implement policies such as the Family Exclusion Order for their legal casinos, which allows family members to submit an application to restrict members of their family from entering into any legal casinos. (Goh et al, 2016) It is thus evident that much gaming in the Asia-Pacific region remains as a form of illicit entertainment, and is perceived as a significant source of social harms.
Gaming as a form of ritual to pursue fortune in the Asia-Pacific region
Another key area that influences gaming in the Asia-Pacific region is as a ritual to pursue fortune. In Singapore, long lines may be observed regularly outside 4-D lottery booths on weekends, while in Japan, working-class businessmen often depart for long nights at pachinko gambling parlors in a bid to seek their fortune. These disparate phenomena may be explained as a ritualistic pursuit of fortune. For example, Bosco et al (2009) also studied how underground lotteries serve as a ritualistic method for poor rural families in China to escape their poverty, and to regularly and ritualistically place their hope in a lottery victory as a means for social mobility. (Bosco et al, 2009)
Such ritualistic fortune-seeking may also be observed in diasporic Asian communities in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, in an exploratory study of Chinese Australians’ problem gambling habits in Sydney, Zheng et al (2011) observed that gambling is an integral and ritualistic part of Chinese heritage, and that the game of mahjong was a regular and ritualistic fixture at Chinese Australian rituals such as weddings, Chinese New Year celebrations and funerals. (Zheng et al, 2011)
Ohtsuka and Chan (2010) also found that gaming, and the fortune-seeking ritual that accompanies such gaming, was also accompanied by other ritualistic behaviors such as the donning of red underwear as an auspicious symbol during mahjong games among Chinese players in Macau, with a strong correlation (of up to 95%) between mahjong superstition rituals and problem gaming in Macau. (Ohtsuka and Chan, 2010) These studies thus demonstrate that there is a ritualistic element to gaming in the Asia-Pacific region, and a repetitive motion to gaming as a means of seeking fortune.
Gaming as a form of stress relief in the Asia-Pacific region
Finally, gaming may be understood as a form of stress relief in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific region is home to a large pool of low-wage migrant labor, many of whom perceive gaming to be a significant relief from their daily toil, as well as being home to a large number of large, urbanised cities with high levels of anxiety and social stress. Gaming thus provides a source of stress relief for several contexts found in Asia-Pacific. For example, in a study of Taiwanese teenagers, Wan and Chiou (2006) found that gaming serves to place Taiwanese players in a ‘flow state’ that serves as a form of psychological relief from dissatisfaction in their lives. (Wan and Chiou, 2006) In a study of Vietnamese adults aged 16 to 24, Lostutter et al (2013) also found using the South Oaks Gambling Screen model that gambling was often seen as a coping mechanism for social anxiety and stress. (Lostutter et al, 2013)
Gaming therefore serves an important role in the Asia Pacific region, in allowing gamers to be more mindful, to relieve stress and to engage in entertainment that allows them to unwind at the end of the day. This is supported by research from Reinecke (2009), which surveyed 1614 gaming participants to show that gaming can be used as a coping mechanism and social support mechanism to relieve work related fatigue and stress. For example, games such as DOTA, World of Tanks, Counter Strike and League of Legends are popular in major gaming markets such as China and Japan, and internet cafes are regular hangouts for teenagers and youths in Taiwan and Tokyo. Furthermore, a study by Beavis et al (2005) demonstrated that local area network (LAN) cafes in Australia, where teenagers and youth frequently congregate to play games, serve as community hubs where these individuals can learn from older mentors and seek a form of stress relief. Finally, gamers in South Korea had reported, in a study by Lee (2017), that their main purpose for playing online games were amusement, stress relief and anxiety relief. (Lee, 2017) This shows the important role of games in the Asia Pacific.
In conclusion, gaming continues to have an entrenched and diverse role in Asia Pacific. This essay has argued that gaming in Asia-Pacific can be best understood as a form of illicit entertainment, ritual and stress relief in the Asia-Pacific region. However, it is worth noting that the Asia Pacific remains a highly diverse region, and that the manifestation of perceptions and trends of gaming in Asia Pacific will depend significantly on the specific country or sub-region of interest.
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