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Many of my expatriate friends call Taiwan "China-lite", and to me, that really makes sense. Taiwan, unlike the Chinese mainland, is run by a democratically elected government, it doesn't censor its internets like the mainland does, and most importantly for a gamer like myself, you can legally buy video game consoles.

In Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, there are many places that sell video games and video game accessorie.s but one place has become kind of like a pilgrimage site for gamers and tourists alike: the Taipei City Mall.

Unlike a traditional mall, the TCM is built underground and serves as a underground walkway to Taipei's main train station and subway hub Taipei Main Station. The main section that is called TCM stretches close to a full kilometer (0.62 miles) and connects to various other underground markets that spread all over the city like ant tunnels.

What makes TCM particularly special is the fact that nearly half of the mall is made up of video game and anime toy stores. TCM also holds regular events relating to video games and japanese animation culture, and in the summer it serves as a hang out for Taiwan's street danced obsessed youth.

Even with the "China-lite" comparisons, Taiwan is a different place from the Chinese mainland, politics and governments aside. Taiwan enjoys one thing that the mainland doesn't: legal video game console sales. Back in the year 2000, the Chinese mainland banned the sale of video games leading to the creation of vast gray markets which cater to hungry gamers eager to play console games. The ban in the mainland however had no effect in Taiwan. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft all enjoy a healthy presence in Taiwan.


Taipei Mall [Official Site]

A man checks out one of the many stores that sells model kits in the TCM.


Two boys check out the latest games on display.

This hobby shop caters to motor heads.


Gashopan is big in Taipei. It's also very expensive.

A young boy tries out a Kinect demo, on a busy day its possible to see lines of people form to play free demos.


Guns are becoming quite popular in Taiwan, however like Hong Kong owning a gun is technically illegal so enthusiasts resort to model guns.


A poster of an current Taiwanese online FPS.


Yu-gi-Oh cards are still popular in Taipei!

Can you guess what this stores name alludes to?


A male servant cafe. Its kind of like a maid cafe except the maids are men. It's so popular now that you have to book in advance.

A regular maid cafe.