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As a lifelong gamer, I’ve often wondered how those who share their nationality with video game bad guys feel when they are confronted with their on-screen countrymen’s antics. Being a native Brit, more often than not I’m able to sit back and have my ego massaged when I play my games as my countrymen are usually portrayed as, or are at least in league with, the heroes and champions of justice. (Although I consent that U.S. directors’ penchant for nefarious villains with English accents sometimes provides us with exceptions to the rule.) But what of all the German gamers who are tasked with mowing down their fellow nationals in literally dozens of World War II shooters? How many times have Russians had to sit through lazy depictions of vodka-swilling madmen in leather coats holding the detonators to nuclear weapons? As Disney’s latest movie Wreck it Ralph taught us in its own cutesy way, it’s not much fun being the designated bad guy all the time.

During his recent trip to Myanmar, our reporter Go decided to scratch his game itch by calling into a video game arcade and seeing what kind of electronic distractions the locals were spending their change on. Little did he know, however, that he was about to come face to face with an arcade cabinet decorated with cartoon images of deranged Japanese soldiers, just begging to be shot in the head.

Going by the name of PK918, the arcade machine Go discovered pits players against a ragtag Japanese army featuring soldiers in fatigues and men with samurai-style top knot hairstyles, red sun emblem headbands and even fundoshi underwear. Players rack up points by using the plastic light gun to land headshots as the villains move back and forth, dodging digital bullets.

▼ The cabinet that took our reporter’s breath away.

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“Why on earth is there a game like this here?” our reporter thought to himself as he snapped away with his camera. “I know Japan invaded Myanmar (Burma) during the Pacific War, but I can’ t believe they’d have a game like this sitting around for little kids to play on.” The reality of being the bad guy hit our man hard as he surveyed the machine.

After doing a little research, Go discovered that the cabinet actually originated from a company called Dragonwin Animation in Guangzhou, China. The game’s obscure title of PK918, meanwhile, is believed to be a reference to the Mukden Incident, which took place on September 18, 1931 in Manchuria, leading to the Japanese invasion of the country. For a place where people are normally encouraged to play whimsical drumming games and speed around simulated racetracks with their pals, this was some unexpectedly heavy stuff.

Despite costing just 200 Myanmar Kyat (US$0.20) per play, our reporter Go noted that he did not witness a single customer at the arcade using the game. Whether Myanmar’s game centre fans found the cabinet distasteful or whether they simply had better games to spend their money on is unclear, but the entire experience definitely left our reporter with a bad taste in his mouth. Perhaps Space Invaders might have been a better, less politically charged choice for this arcade…

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[ Read in Japanese ]