Outdoor Gamers: Beijing Style


Our apartment complex just experienced a minor face-lift. A new courtyard recreation area was built this past fall equipped with a covered “game-playing” zone for adults, an essential to all residential blocks. Yet, each time I bring my son outdoors to play, the tables are empty.

That’s because around the corner, nestled up next to a stack of recyclable cardboard, huddled around a make-shift table (a piece of plywood on top of some stacked cinder blocks), and surrounded by old folks perched on their own versions of chairs, is the official and long-standing chess/poker playing zone.


This particular building’s entrance is right next to what used to be a small variety store long before I moved in eight years ago. I’ve often wondered if it will ever re-open. (How convenient would that be?)

During the mornings, it’s populated by the old ladies who play poker with loud-slapping cards as their butts are perched on cushions they’ve carried from their personal apartments under their arms for the occasion. When they’re finished, they’ll take them back home with them until the next day.


In the afternoon, the men are huddled, serious and scowling over their chess pieces. Even though I hovered there for several minutes, my toddler son curious and staring, they paid us no mind. “They are not easily distracted,” I thought.

The newly built game center so obviously not in use is likely to forever be part of the “kid zone” rather than made use of by these old-timer gamers. Clearly they’re loathe to re-locate. They’re cozy in their corner and, to them, the face-lift was and is irrelevant.

I envy their carefree, cardboard-cornered life of leisure.


* This post first appeared on Beijing Kids Magazine online blog in March, 2016




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