Over the years, internet cafes have died a slow but ultimately fated death. At least, that’s the case for cafes aimed at the casual internet user looking to trawl facebook or browse some memes during their lunch break. The survivors evolved into something more specific and in-tune with a niche community: gamers.
Scattered around Hong Kong are gaming cafes with computers slightly less powerful than the ones NASA uses to launch rockets. Almost every single game known to man is installed on them, ready to launch at your command. These cafes may have once had a bad rep, but gaming has since grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, giving them a new status. They’re also perfect for people that want to use the top-end equipment without having to fork out to buy their own. These hubs still aren’t easy to come by in the city, but they are well worth taking the effort to seek them out.
Located right outside Tai Po Market station, this internet cafe is very easy to find. There are no dark passages or complex alleyways, only a set of stairs taking you down into the building. As you push open the glass door, you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of stations: more than 150 computers lined in rows glare at you as you make your way to the back of the room where staff are waiting to greet you.
This is also one of the cheapest places you’ll find in the city at only HK$7 per hour. It’s well worth the money, too; the equipment runs well, everything is wiped down after each use, and all the games are already installed on the computers, meaning you can just rock-up and get gaming without wasting any time.
Meanwhile, the cafe serves full meals such as rice with meat or curry rather – a little more filling than the usual pot noodles or packet of crisps for anyone looking to nourish themselves mid-sesh. The atmosphere is darker than most gaming cafes, but this allows you to make yourself comfortable and get into the correct mindset to perform at your best.
Where: Basement level, 4 Wan Tau Kok Lane, Tai Po
Unfortunately, i-One has not been the most welcoming establishment of late, with unmotivated employees, sticky keyboards and mice, rough mouse mats and a general aroma of sweat and grossness. Despite the booming gaming industry, i-One has been taking losses in recent years, forcing it to compromise on space in its now-cramped venues.
However, with several centres both on Hong Kong island and in Kowloon, its convenience may outweigh its user experience for some gamers. For others, though, a trek to the nearest i-One is frankly pointless when there are such good alternatives just a little further afield.
Where: Various locations in Hong Kong
Buried in a building in Mong Kok, MS Arena is slightly harder to find but still only a walk from the train station. It only takes a quick search on google maps (or apple maps – your preference is your own and we won’t judge you for it).
This place looks like somewhere that professional gamers might hang out to practise or simply blow off some steam. The monitors are curved for a more immersive experience and almost too HD for the human eye to handle. There is also a set-up for professional matches, including a seating area for audiences, so be sure to check MS Arena’s events list.
At HK$14 per hour, this cafe is a little more expensive than GNet, but the professional layout and friendly staff definitely make it worth it. It also provides gaming headphones – a luxury not afforded to most people – for more engaging gameplay. The food available is minimal, but its location in the centre of Mong Kok means you have plenty of other restaurants and food stalls to choose from. The only downside at this centre are the toilets, which are slightly grubby, so you might not want to turn up with a full bladder.
Where: 39-55 Sai Yee St, Mong Kok