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Exploring Taiwan’s underground gaming scene



Image: Push square

One of my favorite things about traveling is exploring the gaming culture in other countries. This mindset has led me to discover all kinds of interesting things, such as facts France has its own dedicated RPG magazine Or that there is a The real pinball utopia Halfway through another unassuming Hungarian hides in the street.

Until earlier this year, however, I had never been outside of Europe, and so a trip to Taiwan marked my first trip to Asia. Hundreds of thousands of column inches have been written about Japan’s love affair with video games over the past several decades, so I thought this was a uniquely interesting opportunity for me – after all, Taiwan plays an important role in producing semiconductors for many. is of your owner’s console.

But what are people playing there?

going underground

Once I shook off the haze of the 13-hour flight, the first thing I noticed when I stepped out into Taipei—the country’s capital city, home to about 2.5 million people—is that While video games are everywhere, consoles like the PlayStation are not. Practically every subway station has huge promotional posters, designed to grab the attention of passengers with colorful anime-style characters, but they’re all advertising the latest smartphone fads — often from Japan or South Korea. From Korean developers.

I quickly learned that, like many other countries, Taiwan is obsessed with Japan in a way I didn’t fully expect. Family Mart, a Japanese convenience store chain, occupies at least one retail unit on each street, and many home toy capsule machines outside, with many promising obscure loot, such as small washing machines. Or the campfire scene. At NT$200 (~US$6.63) a pop, these aren’t the kind of tasteless stuff you find in Western supermarkets – and they’re not for kids either.

But when I saw Pikachu’s widespread presence in so many places—there’s actually an entire subway train dedicated to it. pokemon which runs on Taipei’s Blue Line – I really struggled to find any mention of PlayStation anywhere. I couldn’t find a GameStop analog in any major mall, and the marketing was non-existent. I perused the 7-Eleven magazine racks, looking carefully at the items hoping for some kind of gaming mag, but I had no luck. I spent a bit of time in my hotel gym watching a local television station, wondering if I could catch a PS5 commercial.

But it wasn’t until I went underground that I discovered Taiwan’s true gaming scene.

I had done my research before traveling, of course, and I knew Taipei City Mall Considered the center of the capital’s console market. You can reach the plaza by walking down the stairs from the city’s main train station, and it’s laid out like two long corridors that run from general interest to video games and finally to food vendors. Upon exiting the elevator, I immediately saw some promotional banners with SEGA Taiwan branding – I think there was a contest or event earlier in the day – so I knew I was in the right place.

I believe the shops here are independent, but they use PlayStation or Nintendo branding instead of their actual names. God of War Ragnarok PS5 bundles were in plentiful supply – I traveled in mid-January, just as Sony was promising better stock of its new-gen console, and that certainly proved true during my visit – And there were some stores too. Taking pre-orders for the coming time PSVR2.

In terms of inventory, I don’t know what I expected, but naturally many of the games were the same as overseas: Gran Turismo 7, God of War Ragnarok, and Forspoken – which were days from release at the time. Were away – all were getting plenty of shelf space. I saw at least two or three local gamers buy a PS5 during my trip, and even went home with a Thrustmaster steering wheel; He was obviously a big fan of racing games.

Many of these shops all looked and felt the same; They were all bright lights and perfectly organized closets. It’s perhaps little surprise, then, that a single non-sensitive store with a Sony Trinitron CRT caught my eye. Stacked to the ceiling, with dozens of consoles in various states, from the Virtual Boy to Sanyo’s lesser-known model of the 3DO, was a treasure trove.

Many games were imported from Japan, rare Final Fantasy collector’s editions and dozens of boxed Super Nintendo cartridges were safely stored behind glass. As readers will know, I enjoy train simulations, so I picked up a PS1 copy of Tato’s arcade title. Densha D Go – It was cheap, canned and in relatively good condition. And – whisper it – this is a game I’ve been emulating for months.

Dusk diver

My next stop took me to the distinctly trendy Ximen district, which some of you may be familiar with as the setting for two Dusk Diver games. This was the place full of with teenagers; I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination, but I never felt cool enough to be milling around these parts in my Primark t-shirt and Skechers shoes. (Although, actually my Skechers are Limited edition, so maybe they fit in!)

It is here that I really felt the Japanese influence: I have never been to Akihabara, but I imagine it is a little like that. All were commercial outlets filled with eye-catching pink LEDs and claw catcher machines as well as toy capsules as high as the eye could see. I searched for a toy capsule machine dedicated to historic SEGA machines, and despite the high asking price, I just couldn’t resist a punt; I pulled the Mega CD2, a useless piece of plastic without the original Mega Drive 2 with it, but I don’t regret a thing.

Gatcha games are real big In Taiwan, not only mobile titles eg Eversoul And Heaven burns red Those who were being promoted everywhere. Many shops sell tickets for raffles, where you have a small chance of winning great prizes.

I actually looked into one of these for the PlayStation, because I saw a shop advertising some PSP and PS Vita key rings that I really wanted to buy. As it turns out, you can pay NT$500 (US$16.56) for a chance to win any of the PlayStation items listed, with a PS5 Money Box being the top prize. Key rings were apparently the most likely item, and so I took a punt, only to pull the towel off the top tier. It’s nice, but I doubt I’ll ever use it.

The last stop on my Taipei magical video game tour literally took me to an area called Digital Plaza, which hosts a few malls dedicated to PC components and other items of geek interest. It is here, on a fourth floor, in a modest unit, that I discovered tons of imported Japanese games. It was the Nintendo Switch titles that caught my attention, and I’d return to the shop a few days later to pick up two FMV-based train games from developer Sonic Powered. It was appropriate because…

Train games

Taiwan Taipei City Mall Ximen PS5 PS4 PlayStation 27
I had about three seconds to pose for this photo before the train left! – Image: Push square

Earlier in the week, I took a train to Tainan, a city at the bottom of Taiwan, for more cultural reasons. I love trains, you know that by now, and I was really excited to ride THSR 700T – which, if you’re not an idiot, is actually an orange bullet train that serves Taiwan High Speed ​​Rail. It achieves speeds of up to 300km/h, which isn’t quite as fast as some you’ll find in Japan, but it’s still pretty fast.

I finished reading the train Wikipedia page On my return leg, and a small blurb closed the page as if I was destined to see it all: “Railfan: Taiwan High Speed ​​RailA 2007 Train Simulator video game jointly developed by Taiwanese company Actentainment and Japanese company Ongakukan based on the latter’s Train Simulator series, featured original video and was the first Taiwanese game for Sony’s PS3 system. was

I had to buy it!

I immediately started searching eBay for copies of it, but it was fetching upwards of ~US$150 from western sellers. Fortunately, I was traveling with a Taiwanese native who was familiar with the local reseller apps, and they were able to source a boxed copy that was in great condition for a third of the asking price. It was shipped to a local 7-Eleven within days, and the game is now in my possession and on my shelf at home.

I haven’t played it yet, but have been watching the footage YouTube, it is similar to other modern Sonic Powered titles that use FMV footage to create visuals. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of these games because it feels more like you’re controlling the motion of a video than an actual train, but I dust off my PS3 at some point to give it a go. would like to give; Simulations are always a little more entertaining when you’re familiar with the content in them, and I’ve now ridden the Taiwan High Speed ​​Rail in real-life, so this game will be cool to play.

Easy card

One last thing I want to mention is how I was navigating between many of the places mentioned above. Taipei’s subway system is really good: it’s clean and reliable, unlike London’s – although it has the benefit of being built decades later, of course. The main way people access the underground, or the MRT, as it’s known, is by using an easy card – a top-up card that you load with money that allows you to enter and exit each station. gives

These convenient cards can be used to purchase various items outside the MRT, such as convenience stores or even for admission to the local zoo. But, as I understand it, occasionally the company will release special promotional versions of its cards – and one of these was an officially licensed DualShock 4 replica. As I mentioned above, I am lucky enough to know someone in Taiwan, and they bought me one of these a few years ago, knowing I would eventually want to use it.

The DualShock 4 is presented on a keyring, but it’s modeled exceptionally well: every detail is present, from its USB charging point to its headphone socket, and even the buttons click in and out. What I like most about it is that there is an LED light inside, which lights up when the near-field connection is working, meaning the light bar at the top is real when entering and exiting the MRT. shines in

To be honest, it wasn’t exactly convenient to use; Every time I passed a station I had to make a huge effort to get it in and out of my backpack, which was not ideal. But I felt like some people saw it. I’m sure they thought it was unusual that a white guy speaking English was navigating subway stations with a video game controller.

I like to think they thought I was cool.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading this article. I’ve wanted to write something like this for a while, so let me know in the comments section if you’re interested and I’ll try to make it more likeable.


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