Guys paying girls to play video games with them isn’t a totally new idea (see: GameCrush). The idea is, you pay a girl or an intermediary company a certain amount and in return you get a girl to play video games with you (usually an online game), including full text/voice chat. In China, this service that provides so-called “battle partners” to male gamers has come under fire following a blog post by one of the girls detailing her experience of providing additional sexual services to her clients.
A 22-year-old third year University student who had been working as a battle partner for 6 months wrote online that she had been playing online video games 5 to 6 hours daily at net cafes, getting mostly student customers and earning a few thousand dollars. She writes, “[That was] until I met a social (non-student) customer, who spent money pretty liberally. We would play games at the cafe and he would accidentally touch my hand, but not like normal physical contact, while asking me with heavy innuendo if there were any other services I could offer him. Then he pulled out a stack of money and put it in my hand, and, looking at him, I thought he wasn’t so bad, so I agreed.” She slowly began to accept this way of “playing”, choosing to give “special services” only to customers that she felt attracted to and had money, and saying that it couldn’t be looked down upon because the original point was to simply accompany guys playing games (it’s not prostitution if you’re picky, is her gist). She said that in the past six months she’s played 15 games and earned twenty-thousand RMB ($3,219 USD).
Obviously, this woman’s story has sparked a discussion on the safety and pornographic nature of these services. According to Hong Kong’s Mingpao Daily News, most men who pay for these services are male students or factory workers who don’t have an opportunity to get out much and are struggling in a country with a high gender population imbalance. Twenty-six-year-old Zhang is the owner of an intermediary business in Wuhan that connect clients to girls, and says that they have more than 20 girls charging 20-50 RMB per hour ($3-$8 USD), with his company receiving 10-15% of those profits. A girl can expect to make about 6,000 RMB per month, or a little under $1,000 USD. Zhang states that very little is required of battle partners– as long as they can play video games and have free time, they can do it. However, a sweet voice and an ability to carry a conversation are important skills. Experienced girls can make thousands a month, and girls who become popular can make over ten thousand a month.
Zhang says the price of 20-50 RMB is reasonable, and prices that are too high or too low might indicate that the battle partner service is a front for prostitution. He says his own company is not involved in prostitution, but almost every week a girl asks if she should be providing sexual services. “The market for battle partner services has great potential, but there is a lack of effective supervision.” He worries that a link to sexual services would disrupt the market for online video games entirely.