Back in the PRC

After a 10 day trip to the US I’m now back in Hong Kong. The primary focus of the trip was to meet with potential clients for Vykarian, the Chinese art outsourcing venture. Xin and I visited 5 cities in 10 days, taking an average of 6 meetings per day. I flew from Hong Kong, through Narita, into Los Angeles. From there we visited Austin, Dallas, Seattle, and San Francisco. Xin also visited San Diego.

Hong Kong Ferry American Sky

From a sales perspective the trip was a huge success. The thing that amazed me the most was how much the industry has shifted towards outsourcing in the past two years. At almost every studio we visited we were introduced to someone holding a title such as “Outsourcing Manager” or “Outsourcing Director”. In the company’s previous incarnation Xin spent a lot of time explaining how outsourcing could increase game quality and help scheduling. Now days it seems everyone simply gets it. No longer is it a question of “why” but “how”.

Los Angeles Tired Xin

I also spent time on this trip meeting with potential technology suppliers for the new game studio in Shanghai. We checked out various engine technologies, talked with studios that are working on or have shipped episodic games, and got a general feel for the industry’s tech usage. Man, there a lot of shops using Unreal 3!

Across the board we saw some really cool games being produced. I was impressed by the variety and originality of the titles in production. But I had to laugh at the number of times I heard the line “We’re working on combining 1st person dynamics shooter with RPG elements.” I think everyone’s reading the same market reports.

We saw a lot of familiar faces and visited some pretty awesome companies. My two favorites were probably Valve and Nintendo. The sheer cool-factor at Valve has to be experienced in order to be understood. There is a palpable sense of cutting edge culture in the place – from the organization of the development teams, to the technology, and the team members themselves, i.e., “That guy animated Golem.” !! Nintendo’s culture is a little less visible, but the same sense of dedication to innovation is clear. Walking through their massive on-site museum gave me pause… The time I’ve spent playing the products from this company, yikes.

Valve Office Nintendo Museum

There are a lot of interesting trends emerging across the industry, from episodic games, to in-game advertising, mini-MMOs, console mini-games, and a clear focus on trying to break out of the sequel-me-too rut. All in all, I think gamers have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. I certainly wrapped up the trip feeling inspired and hopeful.

At least I feel that way about the games industry. It seems that while I was away… the US turned into a frikken police state! I had my shaving cream confiscated in LA because my zip-lock bag was the “wrong size”. Was YELLED at about my laptop not being out of the bag in Austin. Had my cleaning liquids (shampoos, body soaps) removed from me in Dallas – more zip-lock malfunction. Never mind that the airport security line now looks like the entrance to a mass orgy – passengers must remove all extraneous items of clothing as well as shoes. The current system adopts the “guilty until proven innocent” mentality – we’re all terrorists now. I’ve never felt more un-American in my life. My tax dollars pay for this?!

id freedom

The irony of this all is that upon returning to Hong Kong (A “Special Administrative Region” of the communist People’s Republic of China) I was issued a customs waiver. This waiver allows me to enter and exit the country through an digital customs channel. Swipe your digital ID card, press your thumb to the scanner, and presto, you’re through customs. The people working the X-ray machines treat you with respect and actually act as if they work for you. Not as if you are their prisoner. Viva la difference.

But then, the Chinese are more interested in the smooth flow of business than they are in false threats used to control their populations. Like I’ve said before, this is probably due to the fact that they already exercise 100% “control” over their population. Let’s just hope that after King George gets all the power he’s after he’ll let us go back to feeling like we’re free… even if we’re not.

Thought: Someone should market bottled water branded “Freedom”. I’d like to see the TSA start confiscating everyone’s “Freedom”… but they’d probably make that sort of commentary illegal before it went too far.


19 responses to “Back in the PRC”

  1. To be fair, there haven’t been too many “1st person dynamics shooter with RPG elements” until quite recently, at least to the best of my knowledge. I remember a few from the 8-bit days, but nothing really fleshed-out.

    Now about the whole American security thing:
    It’s debatable as to how necessary it is for the government to check everything from our laptops to anuses in order to ensure domestic security, but at the very least people should acknowledge that the United States government’s security procedures can be a bit of a hassle (a female friend of mine was strip-searched once by male customs officials for having an expired visa…). And it doesn’t really help when border officials are totally unprofessional themselves, calling an Hispanic man a “fucking dumb-ass Columbian”, as it happened once when I was pulled over on the Canadian-American border for accidentally giving the wrong ID. Not to mention this 20-year-old officer who went into a tizzy when a man cursed in front of her.

    It’s ironic that the administration is just now seeing all these flaws and holes in our security policy after a major attack that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. But personally, I wouldn’t mind not having to bring my own toothpaste on a business trip if it means that civilian deaths can be prevented. When one compares America to all the other nations in the world, it certainly is one of the freer ones in terms of civil liberties, though that’s only in comparison.

    Keep in mind that America may check anal cavities at airports, but China executes political dissidents.

  2. Pretty funny how much you decry fairly unobtrusive security precautions (oh no, you have to take off your shoes!), and in the same breath laud the PRC as some sort of Shangri-la because they don’t hassle the white man. As much as you bitch and moan about the policies of the United States, I don’t see any of our protesters being rolled over by tanks. And unless you left something out, you weren’t arrested when you landed. But yeah, China just sounds delightful! I just can’t wait for the next insightful installment of “Good Day, Taipei.”

    Also, for someone that seems to hold so much contempt for where you come from, I find it fairly unbelievable that you actually pay taxes. I’ve always found it funny how the ones that are always so quick to whine about how their taxes are being spent are the ones that aren’t even paying them.

  3. emokid: people have differing definitions of “unobtrusive”. i’m glad you enjoy unnecessary wastes of time.

    you read a lot into a little. few people consider china to be shangri-la. contrasting china and US airport security proceedures has nothing to do with people being run over by tanks. you’re reaching a bit far to make what point? that you don’t like people with opinions who live outside the US?

    contempt? my name is american. clearly you equate free thinking with treason. all people with opinions evade taxes? nice one.

    for someone who so strongly disagrees with my opinions you sure do spend a lot of time reading them.

  4. Your suggestion of bottles of water labelled “Freedom” is clever, and reminds me of a similar product from a couple of years back, just when airport screening started to get really bad: Someone printed and sold copies of the Bill of Rights on metal, so that when you had to empty your pockets to go through security (at the airport as well as government buildings and the like), you would actually have to surrender the Bill of Rights in order to proceed. I’m all for the Freedom water idea, too, which may be a bit more clever and is certainly more useful.

  5. What you consider unnecessary wastes of time could be preventing people from carrying detonators in their shoes, explosive ingredients in their toiletries, and bombs in their laptops. If you actually find these things “obtrusive” rather than merely inconvenient, then I’d suggest you grow a spine.

    I’m not sure what you believe the average reader is supposed to think. You express things like “Viva la difference” in regards to the PRC, as if the place you’ve cowered off to is some sort of haven of freedom as opposed to the nasty old “police state” that the United States has become because they want you to take off your shoes. I don’t really believe that I’m the one that’s reaching here.

    First off, your name is American?! Thanks for pointing that out again; I’d forgotten. Secondly, what is that supposed to prove? That your name is American, that you couldn’t possibly have complete and utter contempt for where you’re from? It’s okay, man. It’s a pretty common feeling for expats. I don’t see why you want to deny it. Clearly I equate free thinking with treason? Who’s reaching now? I don’t think people that all people with “opinions” don’t pay taxes. I just don’t think YOU specifically do. Feel free to prove me wrong on that one.

    Yes, I’m sure that you find it hard to believe that not only sycophantic yes-men read your blog. It’s the internet. People actually do read things they disagree with. Perhaps you should try it sometime.

  6. When I saw “taking an average of 6 meetings per day”, I can’t help but feel surprise. Tight trip! 🙁 Even though I am not the guy with you on this trip, I can still feel something from the words you written down. And moreover, It also show me a picture of prosperity on the game industry. That makes me more unswerving to my choice, my game career. Valve Office and Nintendo museum, What enviable and exciting places. The “Freedome” water…good idea and sounds good…But maybe not good for TSA. 🙂 BTW, Welcome back American and wish your career in PRC be nice.

  7. Do note that American has not yet threatened to make us his b***h yet. Until that happens, he does not deserve the prestigious title of “The New John Romero.”

    But dang . . . there’s been a lot of harsh words in the comments lately. I guess that’s what happens when your blog gets slashdotted/dugg. All kinds of opinionated weirdos show up. 😉

    Though to be fair, I’ll have to admit that Emokid does express some interesting points, though perhaps a less belligerent tone would help keep the discussion on a polite and friendly track . . .

  8. man…. now I understand why you were smirking at the FPS-meets-RPG comment I made at dinner that night. I think I’ll take the path of cheapest resistance and create one of these ‘FPGs’ on my isle in Second Life.

  9. What my spine (or lack thereof) might have to do with airport security measures eludes me. Are you suggesting that a more spine-ful person accepts the current security situation better than … what? A spineless, non-tax paying, expat, opinion haver? I see. So anyone who disagrees with you is a pussy. Go logic!

    “Viva la difference” is meant to be a little sarcastic, a little ironic, and *gasp* a little funny. Guess it was lost on you. Let me explain: Airport security guards in communist China treat passengers with more civility and respect than security guards in the USA. That’s irony. In order to get it you must presuppose that China is “evil” and that the US is “the land of the free” – from what I gather, not a stretch for you. Why are we having this conversation again?

    When I compare freedom in the US to “freedom” in China as expressed through a comparison of airport security features I don’t expect that my commentary will to have to withstand such pointed examination. I, like you and your buddies over at SA, enjoy a little laugh from time to time. But then, I forget that laughter supports the terrorists. My bad.

    That my name is American is supposed to prove that it’d be more than a little retarded for me to feel contempt towards my namesake. Then again, it’s pretty clear that you already think I’m retarded. Once again, I have to wonder why you’re expending so much effort on a retard. Law of attraction? Long lost brother?? Lost brother! Good to have you back in my life!

    Would it help if I simply told you that I don’t have “complete and utter contempt” towards my country? Probably not.

    Oh, and as for taxes, the funny thing is that I actually DON’T pay US taxes!! Before you piss yourself in excitement and call the IRS… (actually, go ahead and piss yourself) US tax law exempts expats from taxation below a preset level of income. Dastardly, I know. The US government is so anti-American. I hear they have a blog. Perhaps if you bitch at them?

    Still, my company pays taxes in the US, so my tax dollars are paying some guy to rudely confiscate my toiletries because my zip-lock bag is an inch too wide. You know – because that extra inch of zip-lock bag is the difference between a peaceful flight and another 9/11.

    Oh, and you’re in good company here. Lots of non-sycophantic no-men here. It is indeed the Internet. And thank you for pointing that out. Nice to have you here.

  10. Hi kids. I’m amazed that more people aren’t bitching about airport security policies.

    Simply put, the security folks had to come up with an immediate policy erring on better safe than sorry.

    This is the sway it works. The observers (us) don’t realize the realities of those making the policies.

    That said, checking lighters, box cutters, water, toothpaste, etc is idiotic when you can kill someone with a pencil or ball point pen, individual chopsticks and knitting needles.

    Try it some day. Trust me, it works.

    The security policies bear the mark of “knee jerk reactionary” thought.

    Quick! Ban everything! Just in case!

    There are valid concerns with regards to airport security. What is frightening is that many of these concerns seem unaddressed while we are being protected from explosive water and auto detonating shaving cream.

    As for American’s hair… Well, I just don’t know how he keeps it so long and luxurious. And even if American won’t extend the offer to make you his bitch, I’m sure his hair has already done so.

    – Zav
    Protecting the world one bottle of Aquafina at a time.

  11. “For exercising his First Amendment rights, Ryan Bird found himself detained by TSA and local law enforcement for 25 minutes.”

    You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.

    25 minutes can be enough to make you miss your flight if you’re running late.

    ” ‘You can’t write things like this’ he said. ”

    This can’t really be the fault of the administration, but is just another example of how unprofessional those responsible for domestic security can be. But is still nonetheless stupid and moronic.

    Perhaps these idiots were bored and had nothing better to do with their time.

    ” ‘Perhaps your comments made them feel threatened.’ ”

    My goodness, this borders on a police state if we’re not legally allowed to call someone an idiot.

    “I once told a Customs Agent – when he asked what it was – that a baggie of powdered milk was ‘Just some cocaine.’ and watched bug-eyed as he stuck his finger in it and tasted it! He yelled at me ‘This isn’t cocaine!’ and I said ‘What – you mean I got ripped off?’ ”

    T3h funnay.


    In all seriousness however, this doesn’t change my belief that certain security measures should nonetheless be maintained for the sake of national security.

    But government officials should be at the very least more courteous and act in a more professional manner.

  12. ” I mean you’ve got people who are dead on the list. ”

    ” We got a look at the No Fly List from March. And included on that list were 14 of the 19 September 11th hijackers. ”

    ” It also has created enormous frustration and aggravation for thousands of innocent travelers who have the misfortune of sharing a name with someone on the list and some of the names are among the most common in America. Like Gary Smith, John Williams or Robert Johnson. ”

    ” They just have the name, not even a date of birth. ”

    ” Now Dawud Sallahuddin, real name David Belfield, lives in Tehran. He carried out the first assassination in Washington on behalf of Ayatollah Khomeini. Dress up as a mailman and shot somebody. He’s allowed to fly. ”

    ” She says an estimated $144 million has been spent on Secure Flight. Asked what taxpayers got for their money, Berrick says ‘nothing tangible yet.’ ”

    Just another fine example of how efficient and infallible the government that rules the nation that I reside in is…

    Though to be fair, it’s not like I can say that I would’ve been able to do a better job. I don’t exactly know what makes up each employee’s duties and responsibilities. But still, it’s unnverving when those entrusted with national security miss woeful inefficiciencies such as this.

  13. Oh my gosh American I can’t believe you visited Seattle without telling me!
    I live an hour’s driving away from there!
    Hehehe I went to the Nintendo building last year. We went there from the DigiPen Institute of Technology…I wonder if you visited that school?
    I really want to attend that school…it specializes in video game technology and building education…basically if you want a career in video games, you go there. Also for CG-movies, I suppose.

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