New video game app offers opponents — for a price

World Today

New video game app offers opponents -- for a price

Video games provide hours of entertainment, and in the digital age, gamers can play someone from anywhere in the world. But some new apps allow gamers to search user profiles and pick their opponents, paying others to play against them.

That practice is raising questions about the morality and motivation of the app developers.

CGTN’s Yang Chengxi takes a closer look.

Many Chinese born after 1990 grew up with video games. They play with classmates, friends and colleagues, as well as strangers in other parts of the world. However, some are now using apps that allow them to pick a partner they can then pay to play against them. Open one of these apps and you’ll see a skill-sharing market place. An e-sports industry veteran shows us how it works.

“So you open one of their profiles and you can see their ranking, their score,” explains Wang Hongcheng of Shidatui Studio. He pointed out a trainer on one such platform called Bixin. We spent about $6 U.S. for an hour of his time.

“A friend introduced me to this app,” said trainer Xiao Rui. “He thought I was witty and have a good voice and said I should join the business. Some customers have a really short temper, but I try to keep a good attitude. I make 5,000 or 6000 yuan a month if business is good.”

The money was well spent: the trainer helped us win our match.

“The industry is big enough to have many peoples’ job’s relying on it,” Wang said. “I think the kind of people who use this service want to be great at this game, and to do that, there has to be someone tutoring you. Another reason is that people are looking for companionship because you don’t have anyone you know who can play with you. That sucks. Having someone with you in this journey is great, even if you have to pay for it. It’s like, modern problems require modern solutions.”

While the camaraderie is surely great, there is one more important thing:  many trainers here are attractive, at least from the photos. There’s absolutely no shortage of good-looking female trainers. So we placed a new order.

“Most of the pictures you see are fake,” said Qi Dian. “Girl trainers who are performers or good singers are usually very popular. If a customer really likes someone, he will place many orders so she would only play with him. He could easily spend over 10 thousand yuan on one trainer a month.”

The app employs a sharing economy model, but unlike Uber, where people pay for others’ car rides, in the game app, people are paying for companionship, often between opposite genders. This opens up a whole new world of ethical controversy.

“You know if you cross the line, it becomes a dating app basically,” said Wang. “Right now there is a lot of negative publicity  about this service because someone can get scammed or catfished. Platforms need to be more cautious.”

So are these apps about video games or are they something more? It’s a subject that will likely be up for discussion for quite some time.

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