SHANGHAI'S biggest and most renowned gaming expo, ChinaJoy, appears like the most popular computer games: outlandish, flashy, titillating and fantastical.
The China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference, or shortened appropriately to ChinaJoy, is like a theme park for mostly teenagers and young men who love the mainly American- and Japanese-inspired video games, anime, card games and especially the models.
It closes tomorrow, but before it does it reveals a lot about the landscape, physical and social.
In terms of the physical layout, the first thing to note is that the Shanghai New International Expo Center - built for the Shanghai World Expo two years ago - is an inconvenient place to hold an event. It seems the venue was designed for the millions who attended the Expo but it's not easily adapted to smaller events that only attract thousands of visitors.
This was apparent at the Strawberry Music Festival in April, where festival-goers complained of lengthy walks across the Expo site in order to reach the different stages.
For ChinaJoy, there's one sizeable walk, but it's a doozey. After getting the 50-yuan (US$7.84) ticket, a 20-minute walk in the scorching Shanghai summer heat is required to get to the main area of the Expo. Very little cover is provided, and people seemed visibly discomforted. Thankfully, when finally getting to the large series of air-conditioned buildings that make the main venue of ChinaJoy, it all seemed cool inside.
Greeting visitors at the door was a young woman dressed in a revealing but by no means scandalous outfit. She was positioned near a table with promotional material for Mandarin-language entertainment website www.70w.com.
Models like this have been getting a lot of attention lately, and not just from young men. Since last year's ChinaJoy, the Chinese government has made clear it expects models to meet certain vague dress standards and avoid outright "vulgarity." Still, that leaves a lot of wiggle room, with the girls still squeezing into themed attire relating to the brand they were representing, or just classic sexy attire.
The model sat with a small semi-circle of guys busily snapping photos of her. She would slowly turn, posing in coy or provocative ways for the cameras. After a group of shutterbugs got their fill, she would inevitably droop, looking exhausted. The dour slump was only highlighted by the submissive basking that preceded it.
There's a certain sadness to vulgar hedonism, and in the 10th annual ChinaJoy, it took the form of exhausted models plucked for a few photos and then passed by for the next one.
For the most part ChinaJoy is a fun event, and it should be noted that there were some people clearly enthused with the video game samples, free gifts, cosplay shows and general spectacle. Spectators who look hard at the game hard enough, however, might see the cracks in the screen.
Date: 28-29 July, 9am-5pm
Venue: Shanghai New International Expo Center, 2345 Longyang Rd, Pudong
Admission: 50 yuan
How to get there: Metro Line 2 Longyang Road Station, Metro Line 7 Lianhua Road Station