Jun 20 2013

My Life as a Gamer in a Third World Country

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Video Games

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Most of the people who follow my articles online know that I was raised abroad in a third world country known as the Philippines (I really hope no one is assuming I live in a hut or a jungle). I was born an American, but I was raised in an Asian country for nearly two decades until I decided to return on my own. I thought that America wouldn’t be too much of a shock for me since I primarily spoke English, visited the country a lot, and was constantly surrounded by western pop culture when I was growing up. I was wrong.

Regardless of my upbringing, it makes a big difference if you were raised in America or not. I thought that video games and gamer lifestyle were the exception. I knew that the world of video games had a vibrant culture of its own, but it’s extremely fascinating to realize the variations of it in different nations. Let me share with you some of the funny, depressing, and odd stuff I’ve learned. However, I just want everyone to know that I’m not saying one race/culture is better than the other. Consider this an informative piece!

1. We don’t complain or fight against the system as much as Americans do

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When Mass Effect 3 was released, people on the Internet protested with digital torches. They fought and campaigned for a solution, because they felt that they deserved a better ending to their beloved trilogy. Back in the Philippines? The only thing you’ll hear is “the ending sucks” at most. We aren’t going to do anything about it, except move on. We hardly call getting a ‘bad ending’ consumer abuse. If that were the case, then all the soap operas in my country would go out of business. Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen or experienced much worse than that. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I honestly found it hilarious how people were going nuts about The Sims 3: University expansion pack not being released exactly at 12 midnight on the day of its release.  Even if we get missing DLC in our products or something similar, we’ll be mad but we won’t preach to the choir.

Asian societies highly value ‘face’ or reputation and it is highly frowned upon to ‘disturb the peace.’ We also follow a hierarchical structure of power wherein seniority and age are of huge importance. Now, what does this have to do with anything? Well, it says a lot about how we respond to discontent. Most of our notions adopt a “suck it up, and smile for everyone” mentality. It’s not like we want to please Microsoft (perhaps, we want to please our family and peers). It’s just the way we are. Sure, we can use the power of the Internet to let our voices be heard. However, it’s a lot harder if it’s a problem unique to our country.

2. Internet is a luxury

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Two years ago, there was a kid in my high school bragging about having an internet speed of 2 mbps and everyone was green with envy. I think I overdosed on the Internet when I settled in here in America. I remember calling Optimum and I actually thought they were kidding when they said that the basic plan was 25 mbps Internet speed. Oh America, you have spoiled me rotten. Internet service isn’t offered everywhere in the country either. Services like Spotify or Netflix aren’t particularly appealing for us. Consequently, we mostly prefer games and consoles that enable us to play primarily offline. Most of us just go online to download DLCs or cute stuff for our avatars. It’s not that convenient for us to get Microsoft points either or pay in dollars because not everyone can afford to have debit/credit cards. In addition, we only have one retailer dedicated to selling computer software and video games.

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Online gaming is big in Asia, but not like how CoD or Battlefield are big for consoles. People in the Philippines love MMOs and the like. How do they play without internet in their homes? Internet shops spread across the city. It’s also quite a lucrative business too. I used to go to one when I was a kid.

3. ‘Let’s play Multiplayer’ still means playing side by side.

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I remember Paul’s post about this topic as I am writing about this now. Since the internet is not as advanced and spread out like I explained, it’s not really a common idea for gamers to play console games online together.

4. All hail piracy & no used games

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Imagine one whole building filled with booths selling pirated video games? Well, stop imagining because they do exist in the Philippines. For a while, I didn’t think that piracy was wrong because almost everyone I knew had their consoles “converted” to ones that could play fake games as soon as they got them. Last time I remember, it was possible to buy four fake triple A video games for around $2. You didn’t have to wait for so long. However, this only applied to PC and Xbox 360 games since PS3’s Blu-ray discs were hard to replicate. So, there were no fake games for the PS3. Used games are an option, but they are extremely rare. I only know of one store in the entire city that buys and sells used games. Other than that, the only option you have left are your friends.

NOTE: I do not encourage piracy simply because that’s how a country works. Please remember that it is still a crime. This article only serves to enlighten people about the video game lifestyle in the Philippines.





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23 responses so far

  • anon

    I usually reserve my bile for posting on Pauls articles, however:

    This article is crap. You can help by: deleting it.

  • Charlotte

    This article is interesting but I’d love to hear more about life in the Philippines, not just stuff related to gaming.

  • http://nope hallamq

    I loooved this article. I was born in England, but left when I was six to live with my American uncles in Florida. I didn’t like it much, so when I was 15 and got a chance to move to Mexico as an exchange student I went for it. I lived in Mexico until I was 22, then returned to the US for a couple of years to study a bit more before settling in Mexico. I’ve also lived in Spain and Brazil. As a result of my nomadic life, there’s almost nothing British left in me, I’m not even that proficient at English anymore. So there’s nowhere I feel 100% at home, but I’ve seen a bit of everything.

    Anyway, everything you say is spot-on, I’d only add that PS3 games are also massively pirated in Mexico, via disc images read with flashed programs like Multiman. For about 5 USD, your trusted piracy prodiver will copy any game on your USB thumbdrive (which you should physically bring with you, of course). Why not torrent the games instead? It’s hard for Americans to understand, but downloading anything over 10GB is often out of the question. PS3 lost A LOT of ground on the third-world because although you could pirate the shit out of it, it was much easier and cheap to own a 360 or a Wii.

    In third-world countries, console tampering and pirate games are HUGE industries. When the authorities seize pirate games, they report in the news how many “tons” of games they found, because it’d be impossible to tell how many discs. During the Holyday season, parents roam the flea markets -home of the pirates- looking to buy tampered consoles for their kids, even if tampered costs $20-$60 USD more. Since most parents see consoles as toys and games as very short-lived diversions, the ability to play pirate games is a must. Otherwise, I’m positive they wouldn’t buy the console at all.

    After the E3 announcements are complete and the first world knows what’s waht, there’s a CRUCIAL reveal pending for the rest of the world. Is it possible to pirate it? How expensive will it be? Is it a software exploit or a physical mode? And (to a much lesser degree) will the mod disable online gaming? Literally tens of millions of units will -or won’t be- sold depending on this fact. Of course manufacturers know this. If their console can be easily modded, they’ll sale a lot more hardware, but game publishers will get the short end of it. If they aggresively block that market, including used games, they’ll lose ground to the competition.

  • http://saraclemens.com Sara Clemens

    I, for one, found this article fascinating. And hallamq, I found your comment just as fascinating! I love the idea of viewing another country’s culture through the lens of a shared hobby.

  • http://www.joybossardet.com Joy Bossardet

    As someone who is FAR from a world traveler (I don’t count the cruises I’ve taken because I live in Florida and I haven’t been on a plane in 10+ years) I LOVE learning about how “real-world” things work in other countries. You can visit just about anywhere as a tourist, but its always a more complete depiction of another nation’s culture when you hear it from someone who’s LIVED it.

  • http://nickverboon Nick Verboon

    I think I’ve seen this anon fellow before. He’s like the only guy who posts on some crazy message board site. He seems kind of mean.

    It’s always good for ‘Muricans to get some insight into how goddamn spoiled and whiny we are. They may not like realizing that folks in other countries actually have bigger problems than underwhelming video game endings and the like, but they need to hear it once in a while.

    Now that you’re here, Benny, I’ve got to turn you in for playing all those pirated games. You cost billionaires dozens of dollars, you thief! And for what, so your family could afford to eat!? The gall.

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @Charlotte

    Thanks! Well, I could do that but I think it’s not that suitable for a site like Unreality if it’s not pop culture related. However, maybe I’ll post something on my blog :)

    @hallamq

    Wow, I appreciate the reply! yes, you are also “spot-on” about everything you mentioned. Yeah, 10 GB would take like nearly a week to download on a basic internet plan. That’s even if your computer is on 24/7! hahaha I also relate to the sentiment about people not buying a console if it won’t play pirated games. That’s like a part of almost everyone’s criteria! For $60, you can freaking get a hundred, if not a thousand games. It’s important to consider though that standard of living and wages in third world countries are drastically lower. $60 is 90% of our household help’s monthly salary!! So for people in my country, the cost of one “original” game can keep a family alive for a month.

    I actually thought that Microsoft could effectively prevent piracy with their online check-in and game restrictions, but now that they changed their mind. Piracy will still live on in third world countries…

    One more interesting thought: In the Philippines, there’s this term called “suki” which translates to loyal customer. You also use that as name for stores you frequently visit. Most of the time, people have a video game “suki” of their own wherein the store owner would give them even better deals and inform them when the pirated version of the games you want are available.

    @Sara

    Thanks Sara! I was quite surprised to learn so much, just by looking through a gamer’s perspective.

  • Emilio

    I like this article. I know most of your readers are americans but some of us are not and it is cool this page noticing the world.

    Man, I know your pain. You forgot something: GAMING IS QUITE EXPENSIVE, in a third world country cames and consoles cost three or four times more than in the US and has no support, specially if you cracked your console to play pirated games.

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @Joy

    Thank you for reading!

    @Nick

    Ha! But I need to feed my family…. wait, I don’t have children.

    @Emilio

    Thanks for pointing that out! My friends are asking me to pre-order PS4s for them when I visit the Philippines this Christmas because like you said it’s more expensive. Plus, we always get things late in a third world country!!

  • http://nope hallamq

    @Benny, I can picture exactly how the “suki” deal works, but it’s funny that there’s an specific word for it.

    It should also be noted to everyone else who’s interested that piracy is so widespread and so “accepted” that even upper middle-class folks will do it, and there’s nothing shady about going out to buy pirate games, it’s just like going to the store (although the industry itself IS controlled by the organized crime, at least in Mexico). I lived in a nice neighborhood, went to a semi-expensive University and everyone I knew did it. Since most gamers grew up having to convince their parents that videogames were worth buying, and those parents shrugged at videogames, even rich kids grew acustomed to piracy, because it was just around the corner and it meant they could buy games on their child-sized budget (“allowance”), without having to ask their parents.

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @hallamq

    I totally agree! Buying pirated games doesn’t necessarily mean you are poor. I think lower prices are generally appealing to everyone regardless if you are rich or poor.

    You know sometimes I feel like those confiscation raids we see on TV are fake? I get the feeling it’s done just to show the people the government is remotely doing something. it’s all for show. I remember finding out that vendors know when these ‘raids’ will happen.

  • http://museodelpixel.wordpress.com/ Manuel

    Living in Venezuela for the most part of my life I can totally relate to this article! Many of the things you tell here happened here, the booths full of pirated games and movies, etc.

    The problem here is that importing games is usually a costly affair, and sometimes near impossible. Consoles here are usually are hacked here. Digital distribution has saved my life as a gamer… all you need is a decent PC… Steam and GoG are my long dear friends.

  • http://thirdworldgeeks.com/ Fiefo

    Just read your article and I have to say that, in the Philippines, piracy of games isn’t the exception. It’s actually the norm. As much as possible, I buy original video games from, as you put it, “one retailer dedicated selling to computer software and video games.” Still, this practice makes me the weird one since I don’t buy pirated games.

    Also, I have to agree that the Internet structure really sucks here. Try playing a Street Fighter game online with a 3Mbps connection… practically impossible! That’s why I’m glad Microsoft cancelled their Xbox One “gotta connect to the Internet” plans.

  • oiger

    I am from the Philippines and I am living in the Philippines right now. This is just a top view of gaming in the country. There are a lot, A LOT of internet rental places. This is important because even the poorest of the poor can be a gamer for just USD 0.50/Hr.

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @Manuel

    Thanks for reading Manuel! I didn’t do much digital games in Manila since it would take me ages to download.

    @Fiefo

    Hey man, nice to see you again here. Nah, you are not weird at all. I mean once I grew of age… I bought my own games and chose to go legit. I know what you mean dude!

    @Oiger

    I did mention that in the article there are a lot internet rental places used for MMOs, but not a lot of people in the country have internet at home for consoles and their own PCs for non-MMO games. Even if they do, the country doesn’t really have fast internet.

  • Alonso

    Im form Chile and i can relate xd…from this part of hte world we also pirate every game that comes out. ANd the poor do it and the rich do it to (to a much lesser extent).
    Sorry for my bad english xd

  • DJ

    You forgot to mention that you have to use a freaking fake address to even get a PSN account here. Damn it, Sony, our country exists! I had to use a hotel address in Hong Kong just to register an account.

    Either that or I just don’t know what I’m doing.

    Also, nice article. Just the right length to inform people.

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    That’s right DJ! I remember calling my relatives in the US just to use their address for my Xbox live account. So yeah, it’s not just the Internet for us. There are a lot of barriers that hinder players from going online.

    Thanks for reading too!

  • J. Morales

    Well, people can be a bit whiny, that is true. At the same time, I don’t think we should just lie down and roll over whenever a company does something we don’t like. Overall, I was fine with the movement re: ME3’s ending, in a way it was a compliment to Bioware, people were so invested in that story. Means Bioware did a good job. Some people did go a bit overboard, that is definitely the case. That one wasn’t “consumer abuse” so much as “shoddy storytelling”. I’m definitely glad we got Xbox One to do a 180, that is a win for everyone so far as I’m concerned.

  • Rei Rafael

    As a Filipino that’s been born and raised in the Philippines(probably gonna die here too), I can confirm everything in this article. I can’t say I am proud of it, because I buy original games from, as Sir Bedlam said, the only retailer in the Philippines; however, I think its because most of the people here can’t really afford to buy consoles and/or they consider it a luxury and would rather buy other things.

    I am also studying to become a game developer here in the Philippines(believe it or not there is a university here that offers a Game Design and Development course) and from my studies, the people here have absolutely no idea how hard it is to create a game. In fact, the video game industry here is just starting, probably the farthest a studio here has gone is outsourcing for a triple A game. And if you say Gaming Industry here people will tell you that its the industry involved with the games one play in casinos.

    As for the internet, it sucks so much, the fastest one can get is 100 Mbps, fast right? Well, it only costs $457 a month and its exclusive to certain areas only. So yeah, its kinda hard to play online multiplayer games here. I can’t really make the best of the multiplayer games I have on Steam because of this.

    Anyway, things related to video games are different here which I think won’t change anytime soon. Probably the only time that’ll happen is if we stop being a Third World Country(na mangyayari lang kapag pumuti and uwak).

  • http://commanderbedlam.com Benny Bedlam

    @J. Morales

    True, each culture has its own pros and cons. There should definitely be a balance, because extremes aren’t always good.

    @Rei

    Yes, I even heard about a 200 mbps speed but the price is ridiculously high that even upper class household won’t pay for it. I guess it’s only for offices!

    Thanks for reading!

  • Pingback: A Third World Gamer’s Look At Piracy | Gamemoir

  • Jurgen Garcia Gonzalez

    i know

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