网吧 （ｗǎｎｇ ｂā）： Internet Bar
网咖 （ｗǎｎｇ ｋā）: Internet Café
The last time I met my cousin Fran, we found out that we both played League of Legends, a popular online game in the states and China. We had decided the next time we met, we’d play together.
Originally she had hoped to bring us to an internet café, but the one around her place is closed for renovations. Instead, she takes me and Korina to an internet bar nearby her apartment.
“What’s the difference between an internet café and an internet bar?” I ask.
“Cafes usually have a better environment, they have food there like any other coffee shop or café. They’re typically cleaner, and usually higher class. The bars… Well, probably more just for using the computers. You’ll see what I mean when I take you there.”
We arrive at a black building.
The entrance leads to a stairwell. Up, or down? We decide on down. The sunlight fades away. On the walls are faded red posters showcasing popular video games. A film of grey grime and dirt coat the walls and the scent of cigs fill the air. Fluorescent lights hang over the few men smoking outside of the room.
At the end of the stairwell, glossy brass colored walls greet us. A no smoking sign hangs outside the door. We take a step in. Large caution, instruction, and advertisement signs cover the glossy brass colored walls in the hallway. A few steps in and the ceiling is noticeably low. The room is well lit. I’m feeling a little claustrophobic.
On our right are rows and rows of huge computer screens and well-cushioned seats. It slightly feels like a +1/2 star addition the computer lab section of College Library at the UW, and a lingering scent of cigs.
On the left is the service counter. A stocky man, maybe in his 30s sits there. Behind him are food for sale: bowls of instant noodles, hostess style packaged pastries, bags of chips; and signs advertising fast food delivery services.
In order to purchase time at the internet café, my cousin presents her Chinese residence card. The stocky man places the card over a scanner and hands it back to her in exchange for 50 yuan (about 8 USD). That buys about 5 hours of internet time.
I prepare to repeat the process. I take out 50 yuan. I pretend to dig around for a residence card. Residence card. Passport? I give the stocky man my passport. He raises one of his eyebrows. He looks over his shoulder.
“Hey Boss,” he calls. “Are passports okay?”
“Yeah, just give them a card.”
The stocky man sighs. And digs into the drawer. He pulls out a yellow-orange card with the mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympics on it. He puts his had out. I put in 50 yuan, and he hands me the card. It has the slogan One World One Dream on it.
We look around for seats. Everyone is absorbed into their own activities. A good four out of five people were playing League. There were also some unfamiliar shooter games and a few people streaming reality TV shows.
The computer space became the personal space of the person using it. People comfortably slouch in their seats, some sit with their legs hugged to their chest. A couple of guys were asleep. A few bottles of juice, tea, and water have collected around the computers.
A little unkempt, a little smelly, just like college library at the UW.
We find a pair of open seats next to each other and prepare to log in. I click on the game library icon. There are pages full of games available for play. I click on the familiar “L” icon.
In China, the game severs for League are hosted through a different company. The gamer account is tied with QQ, I’d say it has the fading presence equivalent of AOL/AIM in its glory days. In order to play most of the games hosted at this internet bar, it seems like a QQ account is required. I was able to use the account of Fran’s friend.
We log in. I hear a familiar sound. I feel at home. Meanwhile, Korina is struggling to get onto a game an decides to watch a movie.
Fran and I click through the different characters and items and began the game. As we play, we translate the names and commonly used slang from Chinese to English and back. Things do not translate perfectly. It is interesting to have a common level of vocabulary because of a game.
We struggled through a couple of games. After the third we found a level of communication that worked. We played four games and called it a day.
“Hey Fran, I feel like a cigarette scented air freshener,” I say.
“Yeah, next time we can go to an internet café. Well… once we use up the hours on our card.”
We logged out and headed for dinner.
Bonus: The horrors and the wonders of playing League in China.
Top lane, my cousin is playing Teemo against a Nasus. I’m trying to gank top lane as the little marshmallow Amumu. I see the guy’s low on mana and has no pots. We gotta go in now if we want the kill.
I ping the Nasus to let her know I’m coming. I run into the top lane and initiate the fight. I land the stun and mash the rest of the buttons.
“Go! Go! Oh, wait, I mean, Zhui! Zhui!”
I am running with my pool of tears, attempting to body block the Nasus, only to find that I am there alone.
“Where were you? Why did you go back?”
“I couldn’t understand you!”
“I spoke Chinese!”
“I wasn’t ready to hear you speak Chinese.”
Sadly, the game ended quickly.
I’m running a support Lux, 0-7-2 (that’s zero kills, seven deaths, and 2 assists). I blame the second hand smoke. But, I don’t feel too bad because I can’t confirm that I am getting flamed in the chat. Having selective reading skills is a lot easier when reading the language doesn’t come naturally.