A Critical Cultural History of Online Games in China, 1995–2015

Matthew M T CHEW*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This study critically assesses the Chinese online games industry through problematizing the creativity of Chinese games. I find that between 1995 and 2001, Chinese online games were mostly developed by amateurs, noncommercial, and considerably creative. Between 2002 and 2005, industrial growth allowed some room for local creativity despite commercialization and dominance of imported games. Current scholarly, business, and media discourses unfairly ignore creativity in these first two periods and yet praise the Chinese game industry’s commercial success since the late 2000s. I challenge these discourses by illustrating that between 2006 and early 2009, a new, ethically dubious, and uniquely Chinese business model emerged, became domestically dominant, and quietly and profoundly impacted on global online game design. From mid-2009 to 2015, there is ongoing corporatization based on the dubious Chinese business model on the one hand, and a reemphasis on creativity motivated by browser and mobile game formats on the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages21
JournalGames and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction

User-Defined Keywords

  • creativity
  • cultural localization
  • free-to-play
  • game design
  • online games


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