Hooked on Wangba 网吧

While studying abroad in Madrid, a nearby internet café offered my only connection to family and friends back west. Although it provided brief (it closed at 9:00, my senora finished dinner at 8:30) and hazy (it was the sketchiest internet connection) interactions, I frequented the dingy room consistently enough that by the time I left, I may as well have had a reserved sign on my corner cubicle. There I was introduced to Madrid’s teeming adolescent boys, or at least those obsessed with video chatting. Many a time I wished I hadn’t peered over to one of their screens, but how could my eyes resist checking out what was making this group of fourteen year olds squeal?

In Beijing, internet cafes are a bit different. Three years separated my Spanish café experiences from last weekend, and I had assumed they had gone out of style. Oh how wrong I was.

Please note their literacolas

This is a picture of a basement internet café, or wangba (网巴), at midnight on a Saturday night. My roommates and I stumbled upon it while looking for the connecting pool hall, which was empty, aside from a few foreign stragglers. Empty, and as we promptly discovered, beerless. Funnily enough, the waitresses directed us to the wangba for the beer. Thoroughly surprised and kinda creeped out by our discovery, I decided to do a little research on such facilities in China.

Possibly indicated by the presence of beer, the Chinese government has implemented an 18 and up policy for internet bars (the translation for wangba). They’re also combating a large presence of gaming addicts, whose existence was recently made apparent by the death of a 30-year-old Beijinger after a three day gaming binge.

Boot camp style centers designed to battle internet addiction with discipline and physical training are just some of the creative ways the country is trying to manage the unforeseen consequences of 450 million internet users. One such “creative” method in treating internet addiction, up until two years ago, was electro-shock therapy. Luckily, the government banned its use in such cases following the discovery of a Linyi psychiatrist’s obscene overuse of the treatment on his patients.

At this point I’m thinking, “Whaaaaa…?” and don’t really want to set foot in the neighborhood wangba again.

Ps- What do you think of the new design?

One Response to “Hooked on Wangba 网吧”
  1. dicksonjohn says:

    I like the new design too

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