Gaming: Looky what we have here …

I’ve been rifling through Dada Joel’s files again. With the fiesta of our barangay, Baras in Palo, Leyte, in full swing, I’m finding more time to do stuff I don’t usually do when Mama Joyce is looking. 😛

I found another gem in the mound that is my dad’s thoughts. It’s an opinion piece he wrote for Cebu Daily News about, let’s see, three years ago. Although my post title indicates that the article is about gaming, it’s not entirely correct. It actually deals with the local gaming industry and how government is neglecting its potential.

A tale of two industries

The local computer gaming industry is up in arms against what is sees as government’s apparent disregard for its potential as a major player in growth of the country.

In an interview with INQ7’s newly launched “hackenslash” section, Digital Paradise Inc. president Raymond Ricafort lamented what he claimed was government’s continued disregard for the computer gaming industry as a formal, legitimate business sector rather than as a purveyor of an “evil” form of entertainment.

“Sadly, computer gaming is not considered a formal industry in the country. It is viewed as an addictive and evil form of pastime,” he told reporters at a forum for local information and communications technology journalists.

The name Digital Paradise is virtually unknown to those outside the industry. But mention Netopia, one of the most successful chains of cybercafes and a subsidiary of telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, and one instantly sees the argument as valid.

But what is the local computer gaming industry really asking for?

Ricafort put it plainly: Government should lend its support to the emerging computer gaming industry in the country instead of regulating it.

What kind of support? The kind that government extends to the Philippine movie industry.
“Government has been protecting the movie industry, but why not the emerging gaming industry?” Ricarfort asked. “Are we going to turn our backs on this opportunity?”

I agree that the gaming industry’s potential is virtually unlimited considering these figures:

  • Around 500,000 local gamers spend an average of two hours each day playing a variety of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG);
  • Market research firm International Data Corporation says the number of online gamers in the country is expected to reach 6.3 million by 2008;
  • Unofficial reports from last year pegs Ragnarok Online (the most successful MMORPG to date) and its local publisher Level Up! revenues at almost P500 million;
  • Netopia reaps 20 percent of its P2-million monthly revenue from Ragnarok Online alone.

For the mis- or uninformed, MMORPGs “take place in sprawling virtual worlds and players interact with fellow players by controlling one or more characters. Game publishers earn revenue by selling prepaid cards that give players access to the game for a given period of time. However, not all local game publishers have begun charging players.”

It is interesting to note that majority, if not all, MMORPGs are imported from South Korea, which is touted to be the world’s online gaming Mecca. I have played a few of these MMORPGs, starting with Ragnarok Online, which I still keep in my list of most playable games.

Then I took a liking to Tantra, an MMORPG imported by ABS-CBN Interactive. Sadly, my interest for the game waned after a few days, when I began feeling a slowdown in the growth of my characters.

When’s PristonTale came out on January 19, I was at the forefront, making my character hack and slash to her (yes, I played a female character in this game world) virtual heart’s content. But like other MMORPGs launched after Ragnarok Online, I found it lacking.

There was one other MMORPG that captured my attention—Space Federation: Galactic Conquest. Text- and turn-based (meaning it is nearly deprived of graphics and you can only move if you have turns left to play), the game, which can be downloaded or played through, is simple yet as addictive as any MMORPGs.

Sadly, though, there are no locally developed MMORPGs—all are imports. Perhaps it is not the local computer gaming industry but local computer game developers that need help or attention.

Anito, a computer game developed and launched by Anino Entertainment and loosely based on the history of the Philippines, is a prime example of the industry’s potential to dip its hands in the multibillion-dollar market.

Both industries have to work hand-in-hand before government can begin addressing their concerns.


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