Let us explore two questions--First, are video games a great scourge, or a diverse form of modern entertainment? Second, should China resist the arrival of video games, an industry even greater than the film industry in developed countries? If yes, would it be possible to resist, and what do we do if we couldn't. Before everyone comes up with their own answer, I would like to first provide some background for those questions. I always prefer to convert complex problems into simple ones, before trying to come up with a solution. An in-depth understanding is always the first step in simplifying a complex problem, so I will discuss these complex questions in four parts: 1. The current situation of video games in China. 2. The other half of the education system. 3. The nature of video games 4. iQue's ideas and expectations.
Video games are as diverse as any other form of entertainment: film, novel, music, and painting. Just as there are different genres of films like, action, wuxia, romance, comedy, and cartoon, there are a variety of game genres such as puzzle, adventure, sci-fi, social, sports, war, stunt, role-playing, online social, and online multiplayer role-playing. Video games can also be generally divided into two major categories: those played on a computer and those played on a TV.
The video games in China now are rather lacking in variety, not a result of herd behavior as some suggested, but rather because the video game industry in China lacked process. A deep form of artistic expression must be diverse, such as painting, music, and film, because everyone is different. Art is the self-expression of people, and a sublimation of social culture; diversity is a manifestation of maturity; diversity is the natural and certain outcome of development.
To get from one point to another, people walk at their own pace: some are faster than others, but everyone goes through a certain process. Growth without process will not build a deep industry. In an industry without a gradual and benign growth process, people either end up radical or superficial. For instance, in my heart, Christmas is a holiday of warmth and childlike innocence, but many young people in China experienced Christmas as an extremely commercialized festival without any significance. Some views on video games were affected by a similar phenomenon: Chinese gamers today experience games via computer downloads, bootleg discs, and imports. Without any subtle guidance, they easily went for highly exciting, unrestrained, and marginalized options when they got their hands on video games. The consequences of this premise gave rise to the subjective impression that video games were not a thing of high grade, or even something horrifying, like a great scourge!
Human civilization has used many ways to go through processes. I have worked in many industries, went to various countries, and witnessed different cultures. I am a firm believer in seeking progress from stability, because this is the most efficient way. It is best to undergo the process with subtle guidance under certain extents and mechanisms, especially for the processes that will happen with or without guidance.
In China, most of the parents consider video games as a great scourge, yet they are also an unstoppable modern trend. The video game industry in North America has become greater than Hollywood movies since the year 2000. More importantly, the constructive feedback mechanism at the core of video games can provide a very positive impact on children and teenagers. A good video game multiplies its good influence on teenagers, and a bad video game may also multiply its bad influence on them. Video games can have both good and bad influences. Therefore, the best course of action is to face the problem, build an objective understanding of the situation, and walk through the process under parental guidance of choosing games strictly and developing self-control.
When I first got my hands on a video game, I was under a literal sense of shock. The bright red flowers, the bright yellow doors, and all of the colorful and eye-catching graphics of a video game brought me an inexplicable sense of happiness. It was just like the time when I first went to kindergarten. It showed up suddenly before my eyes, its bright colors giving me uncontrollable excitement. Do you believe that video games could shape a child's attitude toward the world when they become an adult?
Have you ever wondered why children and teenagers love video games, but not the elderly and the middle-aged? This is a worldwide phenomenon independent of country. Adults do not enjoy video games because they have already lost the desire to receive feedback. Here's a somewhat inappropriate analogy: A beast tamer does not like to tame mature animals, because they are usually unresponsive to feedback in taming.
Education comes in two forms: The first form is the Instructive, or the instructional and indoctrinating education. Classrooms are mostly of this form. Each country has its own education system, but their educations are all essentially instruction and indoctrination. I think the reason therein is a Math problem, like two funnels of the hourglass facing each other.
The upper funnel concentrates thousands of years of mankind's knowledge and wisdom over a relatively very short period of time, and the lower funnel is the small group of teachers and the large group of students. This mouth-to-mouth funnel structure sums up the modern-day education system. While educators around the world constantly strive to innovate, they could hardly escape the indoctrination nature which is this Math problem. While many refer to China's education system as "cramming", it is but a natural phenomenon. Most teachers in China are quite responsible in fact, and China's education system before College and Graduate School will only be better than that of the U.S., and never worse.
In short, instruction and indoctrination are a natural outcome of this hourglass-shaped, mouth-to-mouth infrastructure, and it is not unique to China's education. The other form is the Constructive, or the education of constructive feedback. This form of education comes from life experiences in the actual environment, something that Chinese children and teenagers lack in comparison. This form of education rarely comes from schools, and is hardly effective when they do. An old Chinese saying goes: "A teacher is one who could propagate the doctrine, impart professional knowledge, and resolve doubts." The essence of the first two are instructive, but the last one could hardly be instructive.
Resolving doubts is constructive in essence, not only because there are more students than teachers (and every student has a different "doubt"), but also because to "resolve doubts", a student must have "doubt" before a teacher could resolve the "doubt". This is a process of feedback. However, "resolving doubt" could also be a conscious act (the ultimate form of self-education, the Chinese word "悟 (enlightenment)", best describes this meaning, which I couldn't find a proper word to directly translate into English). When I was training new managers, the most difficult part was to have them ask good questions. I always say that it's much harder to ask a good question than to provide a good answer. Because, to ask a question, one must shape up a framework, whereas providing an answer only requires working in an existing framework. In fact, we can say that asking the question–"Why?"--is the mother of "enlightenment". If a person could constantly and consciously ask questions about self or job, they will become a person of tremendous promise.
The unconscious "doubt" raising from the surroundings and then "resolving the doubt" (obtaining constructive feedback), as well as the self education from evolving the unconscious questioning to a conscious act, are a form of growth (constructive feedback). It comes from living with parents and siblings; it comes from a child or teenager's own social life; it comes from contact with nature. These growth experiences are very hard to obtain from the classroom. The greatest difference between Eastern and Western education is the daily life outside of school. The teachers in China actually did a very good job, but outside of classroom education, there's a shortage of everyday activities that satisfies and guides a child or teenager's need for constructive feedback. This is the responsibility of families and the surroundings, and could hardly be considered that of a classroom teacher.
Do you still remember the first time when your father held your tiny hands? Do you still remember the feeling when you first held hands with your girlfriend? I remember those feelings vividly, it was a warm feeling, a type of constructive feedback. A mother tells her child not to touch hot water, and the child touches anyways: This is the most simple form of constructive feedback. Children and teenagers have an innate desire and special need for constructive feedback. In contrast, adults are slowly losing such intrinsic needs (and they also don't learn as fast). Video games provide a form of positive constructive feedback. Children and teens have an intrinsic need for feedback, while their love for video games was acquired.
Modern society is going at a faster pace. With it increased a child's need and desire for feedback. Under the current Chinese society, the parents' busyness, the difficulty with embracing mother nature, and the lack of normal social activities between children and teens mean less channels for a child to receive constructive feedback. Furthermore, with the Chinese parents' eagerness for their children to go to prestigious schools, or their mentality to forcibly build "talented children", they have put so much pressure on their children, which greatly compressed their living space. Compared to the children in Western developed countries, the children and teens in China had their environment for receiving constructive feedback relatively suppressed, and therefore had their room for self-cultivation greatly shrunk.
In the course of modern civilization development, the entertainment form with the most positive constructive feedback for children and teenagers at present is probably videogames. Like all useful tools, they can provide great benefits if used properly, but also cause harm if misused. Video games may now play a more serious role in the influence on the next generation of China.
This is a product of modernization, and a diverse form of entertainment. For children and teenagers, they are a guiding tool for self-inspiration and balanced growth outside of school, and a means to vent their stress. Good video games have strong agitational and inspirational effects on a child's potential, and serve as a natural bridge for parents and children of modern families to communicate with each other, relax, and have fun. For teenagers, video games can develop their independent thinking and creative skills, provide a room for personal growth, and a channel for them to let off their energy and stress normally. Like adults, children and teens also need to relax, adjust, and change their surroundings under tight pace and depressing environments. Adults make flower bouquets or do some gardening to cultivate the mind and body. This is a static form of self-improvement. Children and teens, in a warm family environment, learn to play some video games under moderation. This is a dynamic form of self-improvement. Mature and happy personalities come from balanced growth; outstanding creativity comes from self and heartfelt interest and love. If a child does not have relative balance development or proper catharsis, they could encounter an unfortunate and troublesome situation at puberty from the burst of stress and lack of self-shaping.
iQue's ideas are very simple: to carefully select all our games with a gradual approach and responsibility for the society (we can guarantee our parents that all our games are good), to provide all Chinese with this modern form of entertainment at world-class quality and local pricing, and to contribute to the flames of China's development of its own video game industry.
However, it is not simple to carry out these ideas. It requires careful consideration, a lot of brain power, and the hard work and efforts of many people. iQue's original game platform must have some form of compatibility with foreign game platforms. This would give us the possibility to develop higher-end software, so we would keep this compatibility. However, regardless of the platform, I had some very important considerations. First, what are the consequences of pirated software?
There are three aspects to this consideration: First, whether pirated software is legal or needs to be cracked down. This was the concern of the government, not mine. Second, whether game companies gain or lose money from pirated software. This should have been my concern, but was not my primary concern at the time. Third, if a game platform already has many harmful and extreme software overseas, and we selected this platform for compatibility in China, the pirated copies of these software could enter China with our game platform, (under the assumption that piracy will always happen piracy happens everywhere on this planet, with only difference in severity) and such social responsibilities would be something I could not afford to take. To put it more directly, I believe that piracy will always exist, and if our platform is directly compatible with a large number of harmful, extreme game software overseas, these software will enter the video game market through our platforms and pirated software, which is equivalent to me bearing responsibilities I could not shoulder. This was my primary concern in the choice of a compatible game platform.
My other consideration at the time was how to aid parents in developing their children and teenagers' self-control and moderation habits during the process of family gaming. Eventually, I designed the iQue platform–a console merged with a controller that plugs into the TV. This small, handy design would be easy to stow away and manage at home. If the child couldn't control themself, the parents could easily restrain them, helping them gradually develop their own self-control habits.
When the parents are free, the whole family could come together for a family fun in the living room playing on TV. With the Multiplayer Box of the iQue platform, a couple of friends could play social games together. A social game is one played with the acquainted, such as families and friends. The value of such games is providing social feedback. For instance, at birthday parties for children in foreign countries, parents or teenagers will always invite their neighbour's kids or friends to their place and game together. I am very certain of the positive effects of such gaming experiences. iQue games allowing 2 to 4 players are in fact the core of social network games(although these types of games do not make use of the internet).
A non-social network game is one played in an unfamiliar and unreal world, and players interact in an unfamiliar environment, with the unacquainted, using fictitious identities. I have my own reservations whether frequently playing such games leads to the disconnection between individuals and society. The real society is important not because it's the reality, but because it's the fact. Socialization is important: It helps one to understand oneself. One can understand one's taste, one's confidence, and one's development through socialization and constructive feedback given by acquainted people in a familiar environment. If you grew up without ever experiencing such feedback, you may not be able to cope with extreme issues in a joyful, open minded way.
iQue must guarantee to the Chinese parents that all of its games are the best, virtuous, and could help their children and teens transcend wisdom. As a game company with social responsibility, we should lead the people who have yet to grasp the nature of video games, help them to get to know video games with an objective and positive mindset, and reach the true understanding of video games, so that they could experience enjoyment and elevation of transcend wisdom in the process. All humans have some degree of rebelliousness, and love to do what they want to. However, before one takes action, one must first be able to make judgments of themself. The video game market overseas has gone through some process, so the children and teens, under the guidance of their parents, could make their own judgments and exert self-control when it comes to video games (also because the personal growth of children and teenagers in other countries come much, much earlier than in China). In China, this process is either incomplete or nonexistent. Under this situation, my standard of consideration must be high, because I need to help China gradually go over this necessary process. I chose Nintendo as iQue's partner primarily because their ideas and the qualities of their software can best aid us in the process of changing our perception, where we combine video games with family values.
At the same time, iQue has independently developed its own most advanced software and hardware logistics and e-commerce system, and adopted a pipeline operation from development, production, distribution, and sales, so that we could reach our idea of products with world-class quality and local pricing. We have chosen to situate our headquarters in Suzhou, China, where we will develop skilled professionals, and take root in technology productization and product marketization. From here, we hope to radiate our businesses to China, Asia, and the far reaches of the world. We hope to achieve the goal of reaching the overseas market next year. Video games are an integration of technology and art, and both the developers and creators need a tranquil environment. It is not possible to master kung-fu without first doing the martial arts squat. There's a reason why masters of martial arts like to train in deep mountains. If I could move the HQ to Mount Huangshan, I would, but it's not a feasible option at present. It was a sort of compromise in setting up HQ in Suzhou, as the first-tier cities are too hustling, and the second-tier cities are better in comparison. If iQue were just here to do business, we would have set our HQ in Shanghai or Beijing. But she's doing an artistic and creative career, a struggle against the current, and something that will not bear fruit in only one or two years' time. There will definitely be ups and downs, or even a lot of downs, and it takes some kind of effort to overcome these trials. Situated in Suzhou, iQue could on one hand enjoy the convenience of business contact from being close to a first-tier city, and also enjoy the tranquil environment of a second-tier city, providing a good condition for development and basic operations.
We have been in development for almost two years, with our main development team having a strong international background and led by Americans. Our work on market expansion has just begun, and is currently in a test selling phase, and it's hard to say how the market will change in the future. iQue should develop games that are easy to enjoy and could help people transcend and elevate wisdom. Which type of games are the best for the Chinese people? I think, like music and film, some would like one type of games, and some would love another. The taste will definitely be diverse.
As mentioned above, Human civilization has used many ways to go through processes, but the most efficient way is to seek progress from stability. The current development of China is stable, positive, and thriving. Under this environment, iQue expects to, one step at a time, bring the current, rather monotonous Chinese video game industry into a deep and healthy diversity, and like any other form of artistic expression, help children and teens relax from their heavy school work and parents relieve from the busy family life, and come to have fun together. At the same time, iQue shall agitate their potential, transcend their wisdom, develop their creativity, provide a room for their personal growth, and a joyous attitude towards worldly affairs.