Understanding a stereotype: Why do Asians love video games so much?

Hopefully this will be minimally offensive: What is it about their culture, genetics, etc. that leads to the idea that Asians really like video games? Video games were, if I’m not mistaken, an American invention. Yet the South Koreans now worship them, and have celebrities, the way we worship football players. Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. do as well, to perhaps a lesser degree. Asianness is associated with video gaming the way blackness is associated with athleticism.

What in their histories or lifestyles led to this becoming the case? I mean, why aren’t they associated with… gambling, or card games, or checkers, or Go, etc.? Why video games in particular?

Asians are also associated with baseball, gambling, Go, and checkers, I suppose, since there’s chinese checkers.

A big part of Japan’s association with video games is that Nintendo, Sony, and Sega all hail from there, surely. Personally, I really don’t think that Japan itself is that super into video games. Certainly, of the Japanese expats I’ve met many of them find the fact that adults openly play and discuss non-Wii-Fit-type video games in the US fairly strange.

With Korea, I’m fairly confident that it’s just a fluke. By whatever confluence of events, Starcraft got popular there. Once the first eSport becomes established, it’s a much lower barrier of entry for other ones to follow.

This blog seems to suggest that the long-standing popularity of Go (Baduk in Korean) made it easier for a video game to be accepted as a televised sport, which seems as good an explanation as any.

Maybe for the same reason that there is a stereotype (among Americans, at least) of Asian males as largely being nerdy, math and computer-geek types. (I make no claims as to where the stereotype comes from, or how justified it might be.)

Polynesians, Australian Aboriginals, and Native Americans all hail from the same genetic pool at East Asianers, so I think you can put the idea of genetic compatibility out of your head.

I’d venture to argue (as someone relatively knowledgeable of East Asian history) that it really comes down to the state of civilization already prevalent in those regions, before the introduction of modern technology.

If you introduced modern technologies to the Europe of 900 AD, I think you’d end up with a clusterfuck - like the modern day Middle East. But if you go back to 100 BC, with the Roman empire in full swing, you’d have a lot more careful investigation of the new technologies and ideas, and a better ability to adapt to some form of stable government. (Not to say that there won’t be war and revolution but traditional boundaries are more likely to stay in place, if they were already reasonably settled before).

Because the regions were already pretty politically stable, at least in China and Japan, there was already a fair amount of tinkerdom going on. Japanese automata were pretty impressive.

This lead to a region that’s attempting to modernize, has a fairly stable government, and cheap labor. It makes sense that a lot of manufacturing would be offshored to East Asia. You also have a tradition of tinkers that’s not too old. Overall, you end up where we are today, with Japan and Korea being powerhouses of technological innovation and manufacturing.

The US has a lot of farmland, coal mining, textiles, and other industries. But if you just took Silicon Valley and split it off as its own country, you’d probably see Starcraft on TV. The schools would all focus on teaching about engineering and electrics and all the employers would be seeking engineers. The elite and the local culture would all be focused on technical gizmos. It’s only because Silicon Valley is not its own country and is surrounded by places with no border control and which all speak the same language, that you see the children of Valleyers go on to do other things and enjoy what the rest of America likes.

While there may be factual answers to the OP, it’s better suited to IMHO rather than General Questions.


samclem, modertor

As an Asian man, I think it has to do partly with the crowded urban nature of a lot of Asia - which lends itself well to computer and video games as recreation instead of soccer, etc.

I have lived in China for the past 6 years, and I think one of the reasons for the popularity of video games is due to shyness or social awkwardness.
Many of the men and boys that I see everyday seem to be more comfortable interacting on the computer than interacting in person.

I have observed the same situation in the girls here, but it does seem to be more common among the boys and men.

Japan was the birthplace of the videogame rebirth that occurred after the tanking of Atari.

That is a bit part of it right there, I can’t have been the only kid in the US buying imported games that wouldn’t be released for a year or two in the USA right?

(I think I still have my katakana and hiragana guide, kanji is a whole nother kettle of complicated fish)

My suspected reason:

We Asians are physically smaller than people in the West, and cannot compete equally in games of athletics, therefore we get better at other things

As a useless, American couch potato who rocked some major Basketball ass in Japan, in college, I’ll have to admit that this probably is a factor. Add it to my previous post.


Japanese kids like video games a lot, but I’d say it’s about as much as any kids do in a developed economy. And, just like in the West, there are tons of other kids who would much rather play sports or go fishing or whatever. The only real difference I notice is that the PSP and the Vita have enjoyed a lot more success here and kids play really terrible, grindy games like Monster Hunter.

Adults are likewise comparable to those in the West. They might play casual games on their phone, or even own a DS or Wii. But they generally would not consider themselves gamers and many of those who do probably wouldn’t admit to it freely for fear of being considered a nerd.

Thais are crazy about video games. This is not a reading culture, and used to you’d be in a bus or on the Skytrain and everyone just sat and stared straight ahead with a bored expression. Then handheld video games came along and everyone had their face buried in a video game to while away the time. Nowadays I guess it’s more social media though, but video-game shops are still popular with children and some young adults.

Missed edit window to add:

I think many people mistake the prevalence of video game character-themed merchandise and advertising throughout Japan for an obsession with video games. But I think this has less to do with a worship of video games and more with Japan’s obsession with “mascot characters”.

My friend (who lives in Japan) has had this said to him multiple times:

“Oh, you still like video games? No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend…”

Yeah, in mainstream society in Japan, video games are for children and nerds.

The Wii and the DS had pretty much the same effect here as they did in the US by introducing a wider audience to casual gaming, but “hardcore” gaming is not considered a respectable hobby. And PC gaming is solely the domain of fat, lonely nerds (so again not that different from the West ;))

With the competitive scene I esports it’s a cultural thing, mostly in china. In chinese culture dedication is a huge factor for success in anything. They don’t just play video games like that; anything they invest time in they dedicate themselves completely. (for most things) if it’s not video games, it’s some other sport. It’s a very competitive culture. It has to be. There’s a lot of people there, and they are are really good at certain things. You have to be the best if the best to get anywhere.

So naturally if they are I. The competitive video game scene, they will dedicate everything they can.

I believe it’s more that it is well known sub-culture in Asian culture.

Similarly, someone from an Asian culture might ask why Americans love Cowboy Boots and Harley Davidson motorcycles so much. Not all Americans love them of course but those sub-cultures who do are well known worldwide.

Bah, got sucked into a necro.

But all this is true of North America, too.

Japanese kids play sports against other Japanese kids, not against bigger kids from Texas.

Japan is rather first rate at a lot of sports. Someone there is getting out of the house and to the baseball diamonds and soccer pitches.