China: Gamers hire 'online escorts' to beat loneliness

Gamers in a Chinese internet cafe Image copyright AFP
Image caption Online gaming is hugely popular in China but it can be a solitary pastime

Gamers in China are hiring female "online escorts" to keep them company while they play, it's reported.

Men who are fed up with spending long hours alone in a virtual world can now buy time with a woman, known as a gamecaster, who will join in, the Want China Times website reports. It costs between 20 and 100 yuan (£3-$16; £2-£10) per hour, and some women also demonstrate games and give advice via a face-to-face online chat, the report says. But the women don't have to be particularly skilled gamers themselves - one escort company says having a "sweet voice" is a more popular feature. Men vastly outnumber women in China, partly due to years of a one-child policy which led to a preference for male babies. That has left many single men looking for female company.

The growing online escort business can be lucrative for the women involved. Zhang Jun, a 26-year-old gamecaster, says she makes about 6000 yuan ($970; £650) per month, a respectable Chinese wage. And while many of the escort companies stress that the women do not offer sexual services, she says men do regularly ask. "The online gamecaster market is potentially very big, but it lacks effective regulation," she says.

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