You might have heard about the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the big “election with Chinese characteristics” that took place November 8-15th and sealed Xi Jinping’s fate as the leader of China. For weeks before the Congress, the Chinese government cracked down on potentially dangerous items like kitchen knives, remote control helicopters, and ping pong balls. They didn’t even allow you to roll down windows in taxis, and tripled the number of security guards and police officers in subway stations; gmail and Google were unusable, and VPNs were being shut down across the board.
Video games weren’t immune either, but probably not for the reasons you think. I went to Gulou Dajie one night for dinner, and there are a number of game shops down that strip that I wanted to check out. Too bad these “game shops” didn’t have any games. At the first store I stopped at, I said I wanted to look at their games and the clerk asked, “What game?” I just wanted to browse so I said, “Any game.” He explained that they had to keep all of their games in the back, and people needed to know what game they were looking for and then they’d go back and fetch it for them. They didn’t have permission from customs to sell games, and since security everywhere was much tighter due to the Party Congress, so they had to hide everything in the back.
Fine, let’s try the next store. They don’t have any games either. I ask why and they say they just don’t sell games. I point out the shelf labeled “Games” that is empty, and ask where they all are and he just says there aren’t any games.
The third store finally does have some 3DS games, from the United States and Japan. My 3DS is from the US so I can’t play Japanese 3DS games on it, and the only DS game they are carrying is the Japanese Pokemon White 2. The English version of Black and White 2 is already out, so I’m not going to pay $50 (they are priced the same here) to play a game I won’t be able to understand.
Now that the Party Congress is over, I suspect those sneaky vendors have put their hidden stashes back on the shelf. If you wanted to buy a handheld console or periphery, though, they were still available. Too bad for any kid who had their birthday in late October/early November; no remote control toys, no video games, no knives.