My Life as a Gamer in a Third World Country

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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.