What It’s Like To Be An Asian Gamer – Part 1


It being my first piece over here at DarkZero, I kept racking my brains thinking of what a suitable, and yet unique, topic for me to write about would be. And then I realised that my experience with gaming itself is a worthy topic in its own right, simply because I live in Asia.

While I’m definitely relatively younger than most gamers and won’t be familiar with classics like Goldeneye 64 or Star Wars: TIE Fighter, I have been gaming for practically my whole life. However, it has been far from smooth sailing, because being a gamer in an Asian country can actually be quite a hassle a times.

Spoilt Gamers

In my opinion, gamers from places like the UK and the USA (especially) have been spoilt, till the point where they take a lot of things for granted. Since most games are mainly developed there, except for the occasional outstanding Japanese game, many aspects of gaming are catered towards Western gamers.

Problems Playing Online

The biggest example? Game servers. Every single time I refresh my server browser in practically any game, I’ll see dozens, if not hundreds, of USA servers available. Of course, living on the opposite side of the world means it’s impossible for me to play on those servers, seeing as how I’ll definitely have a ridiculously high ping. Of course, the same applies to UK servers as well, though there are probably slightly fewer servers available, but it’s still a substantial amount.

In contrast to Singapore, it’s a pain to search for game servers that give me a reasonable enough ping. And it’s not just small games that have insufficient Asian servers, I’m talking about the major, so called Triple-A titles that don’t have enough Asian servers as well. When Left 4 Dead was first released last year, I almost always had to host games locally just so that I could play without any latency. But then again, my computer itself then proceeds to lag because I’m hosting the game. It wasn’t until roughly a month later that a group of Singaporeans managed to sponsor a couple of servers for us to play properly. However, the demand for local servers was so high that they were almost always full as well and I had a hard time trying to play online.

For Team Fortress 2, I can count the number of servers available on 2 hands. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? I can count the number of servers available on just 1 hand.

This problem isn’t just present in Singapore. For example if you went over to Game Tracker and searched for Call Of Duty: World at War servers:



Number of Servers

USA 303 million 1375
UK 60 million 505

In comparison:



Number of Servers

China 1.3 BILLION 8
Japan 127 million 5
Korea 47 million 4
Malaysia 25 million 1

Not to mention Japan and Korea are probably the two Asian countries with the most active gaming communities. Oh and at the time of this writing, only 1 out of the 8 Chinese servers have 29/38 people playing, the other 7 are completely empty.

Thus, you can see how frustrating it is for us to come online and see people discussing about how great the multiplayer aspect of a certain game is, yet we’re simply unable to enjoy them in the same way.

I Need Instant Respawn

Of course, the lack of servers also mean we have very few custom servers as well. For example I’m a guy who hates respawn time. I know, I know, it’s there to balance the game. But growing up on Quake 3 has spoilt me into demanding instant respawn in all FPSes I play. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people out there who have the same preference as me, yet I could only find a single server for both TF2 and COD4 which had instant respawn rates. Of course, it’s not only instant respawn, different people definitely have different preferences as to how they want the server to be set up. But here in Singapore, we don’t have much of a choice.

This is the reason why bots have been my constant companion in many FPSes over the years. For example I’ve been playing Quake 3 for quite some time now, and I’ve only ever managed to play with bots. In the many years thus far, I’ve never ever been able to play with someone else online without being on a level playing field with them. All because of my latency. For some reason, as games die out many of them will still have a strong following in the USA and in Western countries. Thus, all my favourite games will only have servers in the USA, which makes it impossible for me to play online.

This problem isn’t just limited to PC gaming. Of all the people I know who own PS3s and Xbox 360s, I don’t know a single person who plays online. Why? Simply because there aren’t enough servers and players.

It might seem like I’m making a big deal out of the fact that we have very few servers, but it’s actually a pretty big problem for us. However, that’s not the only problem.

Asians are… shy?

When Left 4 Dead first game out, I actually went out to buy a proper headset microphone, thinking that I’d need it to play the game properly with others. However, I soon found out I might as well not have a microphone. For some strange reason, no one uses a microphone here, even for games that really require teamwork (ie. L4D, TF2). I once joined an Australian L4D server just for kicks, and though it was completely unplayable with such high latency, it was insanely fun because everyone was using their mics. However, it seems like it simply isn’t as popular to communicate with people online among us Asians, for reasons I simply cannot fathom.

So… what’s the gaming scene in Asia like?

Even though Asia has a whopping 4 billion people, the gaming culture here just isn’t as strong. I personally put it down to the fact that games are mainly developed in the Western world, thus most aspects of gaming will be catered to you guys. However, there are certain perks that are definitely unique to Asian gamers, which I’ll cover in another blog post. So stick around for Part 2 of this series of articles.