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E-sports vs. Exams

Competition Ideologies among Student Gamers in Neo-socialist China

Yichen Rao


Many Chinese students dislike hyper-competitive public school exams but find competing in e-sports games enjoyable. Some students are perceived to game ‘too much’ by their parents, who, anxious about gaming's impact on their grades, send their children to treatment camps for ‘Internet addiction’. This article documents parents’ and student-gamers’ experiences of competition in China's formal education system, online gaming, and professional e-sports. As student-gamers move between these competitive arenas, they develop counter-hegemonic understandings of what competition does and reconfigure their sense of self. Their movements reveal that, far from a symptom of neoliberal ideology, the prevalence of competition in China marks dialectical interactions between various ideologies and the lived experience of competitive practices. This finding contradicts simplistic conflations of competition and neoliberal economic models.