Game City

September 15, 2016 2016年9月15日

In an effort to curb the problem of video game addiction, the Chinese government passed a law in 2000 that banned the production and sale of game consoles, in addition to all gaming accessories. It wasn’t until 2013 that the ban was lifted. In these 13 years, Microsoft came out with XBOX, Nintendo came out with Wii, and the Sony Playstation 2 evolved into its 4th generation. During this period of rapid development in the gaming industry of home consoles, Chinese players could only really buy pirated games and equipment through rather unconventional channels. During this time, the traditional arcade has managed to survive in China.


The Beijing-based Portuguese photographer Ana Pinto, who is also an avid video game enthusiast, has been documenting arcades in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other Chinese cities, and the people that she encountered in them, for about two years now. Ana started this project partly out of curiosity and surprise that so many arcades still existed in China, but also partly out of her own nostalgia for such places. Many of the subjects that Ana would encounter seemed “completely absorbed in this world of colorful artificiality and constant stimulation of flashing screens, having become detached and oblivious of everything else around them.”

现居北京的葡萄牙摄影师Ana Pinto,作为一个电子游戏爱好者,一方面出于对中国传统街机厅这种现状的惊讶和好奇,一方面也出于怀旧情绪,她从两年前开始举起相机,在北京、上海、广州等城市的街机厅里边游戏,边记录下她看到的人群。正如所有沉浸在游戏中的玩家一样,Ana所观察的这群人也是心无旁骛,“看起来完全被眼前那个五彩斑斓的虚拟世界,以及闪亮屏幕带来的持续性刺激完全吸进去了。”

Usually when taking these photos, Ana tries to avoid disrupting or distracting her subjects, but on the occasions when she was noticed, it produced some interesting reactions. “All I can say is that the ones that did acknowledge my presence and intention would smile, giggle, or proudly try to show off their dancing skills,” Ana admits, “I definitely felt that the dancers – more than anybody else – loved being photographed. They felt special.”


At first, Ana was surprised that arcades were still popular here, but after realizing that until very recently home consoles were banned, it made a lot of sense. She was also especially impressed with the popularity of dancing games like Dance Dance Revolution, and how some people would play the game as a way to keep fit, sometimes even showing up at the arcade in their gym clothes. “I also became acquainted with the Chinese fishing game, which is used for gambling,” Ana tells us, “and actually, some arcades in China only serve as a front for such illegal practices, and I ended up running into some of them.”


Now with the increasing popularity of home consoles and smart phones, China’s arcade market will inevitably face some decline. But as a consumer, Ana believes that the arcade experience is irreplaceable and unique. When thinking about its future, she ponders, “as long as there are nostalgic enthusiasts, who knows? The U.S. has been experiencing a minor arcade resurgence. It is like with Polaroids and vinyl records. People love revivals.”


These photos, in addition to capturing the nostalgia associated with the video games from our childhood, also draw attention to the great and significant cultural relevance of video games. Her series of candid portraits Game City examines our sometimes conflicting relationship with technology, reiterating our relentless engagement with screens, which she doesn’t “necessarily perceive as a negative thing – but as an interesting and inevitable force that will shape things to come.”

而在这个系列的图像中,除了追忆我们童年时期屏幕上的娱乐体验,Ana更强调的是电子游戏的文化相关性。这个叫做《Game City》的偷拍肖像系列,不可避免地审视着我们和科技的关系,重申我们和电子屏幕之间无尽的牵连。而这种牵连,“我个人并不认为这些行为是消极的,而是将它看作一个不可避免的有趣驱动力,这种驱动力也决定了其他由此而发的事物形态。”


Contributor: Banny Wang



供稿人: Banny Wang