Last year Shao Ping and I visited some friends in China. We stayed with the family of Crystal, one of our friends in Shanghai. Crystal’s mum is quite adept at the computer. Her name is Xiang Ying. I will not divulge her age but she shared with me her vivid memories of the changes that China experienced before the Second World War.
One morning I grabbed my camera and captured some stills and video of Crystal’s mum playing Zhēng Tú online. This is a virtual world known as a MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role playing game). It is very popular in China.
Now, you may think, well that is interesting but if you look again at the photographs you will notice that Crystal’s mother is managing three screens and multiple windows. She had at least ten browser windows open and was managing nine different characters in the game. I was not able to obtain screen captures just then so I took still photographs of some of the characters she manages as well as two of the individuals with whom Xiang Ying converses.
I was curious about her interest in Zhēng Tú and Xiang Ying replied that her grand-daughter Ting Qu was a keen player of the game and that when Ting Qu had to focus on her entrance examinations she asked her if Xiang Ying could manage her role in the game while she studied. Ting Qu taught her grand-mother how to play and Xiang Ying took over her role. In the meantime Ting Qu studied for her examinations.
Xiang Ying became quite intrigued with the game and realised she could use the platform to share her thoughts, interest and ideas with other like-minded individuals online. For Xiang Ying the game is more of an opportunity to converse with others online in addition to maintaining Ting Qu’s level in the game.
Xiang Ying has created eight different characters within Zheng Tu of varying genders. During our conversation she laughed, adding that another female player “likes” one of her male personas. Xiang Ying thought that the game was a waste of time but it have her something to do when she was free and she enjoyed conversing with others online. The game play was not her focus but the conversations.
I have uploaded the video to Vimeo and embedded it above. Zhēng Tú seems to be a rich environment. I was not able to fully explore the world yet the interface seemingly afforded a wide variety of possibilities for the end user.