Internet cafés or ‘wangbas’ in China create a space for internet addictsInternet cafés in China have created a new space where people lose themselves within the virtual world of online gaming—a chance to explore an experimental world without any impediment.
Internet cafés in China have created a new space where people lose themselves within the virtual world of online gaming—a chance to explore an experimental world without any impediment. Possessing a dynamic new identity and engaging with a fantasy realm beyond monitors and the haze of cigarettes, one could even go as far as to say that such a life is more comfortable.
Shut away in a room filled with computers is convenient, especially when it’s inexpensive and open indefinitely. Junk food and caffeinated drinks fuel long hours or even days of playing games like League of Legends, World of Warcraft and PUBG. This life seems acceptable—reality seems to sit well—when all that it takes to wage wars is a seat in an internet café.
In China, internet cafés or ‘wangbas’ provide computers with internet access along with some food and drinks. There were about 145,000 registered internet cafes in China in 2011, but that number is expected to have increased significantly. Being the first country to declare internet addiction a clinical disorder in 2008, China estimates that 24 million of its citizens between the ages of 14 and 29 are internet addicts. As such, authorities have instituted several restraints on online video games.
Hazy with smoke and loud with swears.
They enter this room to escape reality,
to become someone else.
The never-ending clatter of keys fill the room
as one kills another.
Long hours or even days are whiled away
in front of glowing screens.
Junk food and caffeinated drinks help
keep their tired eyes open.
Here the lights never go out.
Eyes seldom close.
Battles don’t cease.
There’s always more wars to wage,
more enemies to kill,
and more quests to conquer.
This work was produced in an internet café in Kunming, China, during an International Storytelling Workshop in collaboration with the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway and Pathsala South Asian Media Academy, Bangladesh, Mino Art Centre, China and Photo.circle, Nepal.
Photos: Tripty Tamang Pakhrin