Caught in the Net: A Look at Xi’an’s Glorious Wangbas

Article by Casey Adams

Nestled at the end of secret stairways and flashing signs lies one of China’s hidden gems: the gaming cafés. Having gamed back home in the US before coming to China, I was experiencing some Overwatch withdrawals because I didn’t bring a console or PC with me. While wandering the streets, I passed by a long stairway with flashing steps and decided to make the ascent. Before me lay dozens of intensely concentrated faces and flashing screens (also a lot of League of Legends). What a dream.


If you haven’t seen a gaming cafe in Xi’an before, it’s probably because they’re usually on the upper floors of shopping buildings or restaurants, but you can pick them out by a flashing sign that reads 网吧 (wang ba). If you’re walking on the street and just looking at stores at eye level you probably won’t spot them.

After I finish all my work (or not) and find some time on my hands, I love to just pick up some snacks and head to the wangba. Often times—in the US at least—most people game at home in a secluded environment, but there’s something oddly comforting about being around other people that have also made the decision to game the day away. They typically keep to themselves and focus on their own games, but you can often hear people discussing (or yelling) about strategy to their teammates online. People are also watching movies, TV shows, and even doing work.

When searching for a place to game, you have options—you can go to a smoking or non-smoking one. There’s a variety of different ones around: some are light and airy with the shades up, and some are darker and more intense, for people who like to forget that the outside world exists. Each has a different vibe to it, so you can always find your favorite through a little exploring.



If you live in Xi’an or you’re visiting and find yourself with some time on your hands, you can head to the wangba and play your favorite games! There are hundreds of games preinstalled on the PCs, even the newer ones. Rates per hour range from 3-10RMB depending where you go, but nonetheless super cheap. Even if you’re not much of a gamer, there’s still some advantages of going. A wangba usually operates 24 hours a day, so if you need to kill some time in the wee hours until a train or plane, you can always head there. Also, if you don’t have your own computer and need to get online, it’s is always open but keep in mind they don’t have VPNs so some sites might be unavailable.

Whether you want to play games or go watch your favorite movies and shows, channel your inner and come join the magical wangba world that can turn minutes into hours and day into night!


Casey loves baijiu.