Grinding in the Bangkok sandbox.
Imagine you’re sperm. Just one. One little spermatozoon. And you have the ambition, drive, and wherewithal to want to become a human being. This is the plot of Asuji: The Legend of You, a Thailand-made 2D platformer-style game from the Bangkok-based indie developers at Somnolent Team.
“In January, I gathered my friends and we hired a junior, and that’s how it started,” says Niphon Prasopphol who began making games when he was 17, with the hope of making the type of games his friends like to play. “I think people come to develop games more and more in the community. People have started sharing more in the past few years."
Not all their games are sperm-based. You can also try their Encoded War, a low graphics morse code-based game, or their upcoming black-and-white sound-based Trust Your Ears, a first-person shooter.
“There are many popular indies like Timelie, that’s a leading game that introduced a lot of people in Thailand to developing,” Niphon Prasopphol says. “Right now there are a lot of universities that are doing game development classes. Before, it was only two. Now I see more and more.”
Somnolent Team is just one of the many indie game developers trying to get a leg up in what has become a more than B50 billion industry in Southeast Asia, and Thailand is right at the center. Kingdoms Reborn from Earthshine, a city builder-type game, is Thailand’s indie game developer success story, with nearly half a million users and worldwide acclaim.
Ever since the first console (Atari 2600) dropped in Bangkok in 1977, this town has loved to game—and game hard.
“So, have you ever even played this game before?” Bangkok native Siraporn asked a BK Magazine reporter at the first ever UFC 4 competition at Bamboo E-sports Center in Ekkamai.
“Then I’m really sorry about this.”
Nineteen seconds later, poor Khabib Abdulmanapovich Nurmagomedov is rolling around on the ground suffering very serious digital injuries to the laughs and groans of spectators.
For a long time, E-sports have been associated with spaces like the AIS E-sports Studio in Samyam Mitrtown, where the PC Master Race competes for followers, live streams, and just to be the best. Things are a little different at Bamboo.
Bamboo E-Sports only opened their doors in April of this year, but they’ve received such a positive response that they’re already opening their second location in Sathorn.
“After just six months to open another branch, we are very happy. We need to expand and develop our business,” co-owner Benjamin tells BK Magazine. “We get a lot of expats and locals here, a lot of Asian expats. I’d say it’s 50/50 foreigner Thai. The community seems to like it.”
This space comes from three avid French gamers—Romain, Ilyes, and Benjamin—where noobs and leet can play in comfort. Here you’ll find some of the most fun and accessible gaming competitions in town, including their wildly popular weekend FIFA tournaments. More than 40 participants can show up to this well-designed, comfy Ekkamai space for their FIFA tourneys. Button mashers need not apply.
E-sports is the thin end of the pro-gaming wedge, and few provide the comfort of PS5s, Switch, and cheap beer in a living room-like atmosphere that Bamboo E-sports brings to the scene.
In October, one of the country’s biggest gaming events, Thailand Game Show 2023, landed at the Queen Sirikit Convention Center, bringing with it the latest in games, gear, and cosplay for the city’s gamers.
The TGS 2023’s Zone Zean Game, which has previously taken on retro games like Mario Maker 2, pits hopefuls against one of the biggest names in Thailand gaming, Book Talon—which is a gamer handle if we’ve ever heard one. Book Talon is a Tekken 7 master, winner of the SEA Game 2019 and Evo Japan 2020 Champion and a local legend.
More than that, Apex Legends, the worldwide free-to-play shooter, hosted a walk-in competition in which noobs take on pro players for a chance at free merch, and at the AIMLAB Challenge from Razor where the top scorer took home B20,000.
Today there are dozens of E-sports stops around the city, all boasting serious crowds and even more serious gamers—all decked out in ergonomic chairs. But, if you like to game buzzed, there’s space for that too.
Bamboo E-sport Center
The space: The ultimate Bangkok stop for the console addict, this chic, neon spot serves snacks and booze to serious gamers who are there to have fun. Competitions take place side by side on comfy sofas or beanbag chairs if that’s your thing. Be a good sport.
The gear: Post up at the state of the art VR facilities or take your pick from the PS5s lining the wall or the Nintendo Switch area. The games are whatever you want. Multiplayers expect the likes of Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, FIFA 23, Fall Guys, PUBG, Genshin Impact, Rocket League, Fortnite, Mortal Kombat 11, and Among Us. But, back in April they said they’ll download whatever game you request. So take a shot.
The price: B200 for an hour on all consoles; B300 for two hours; B400 for 7pm-2am; B500 for a full-day pass; competition entry prices to be announced.
22 Ekkamai, Khlong Tan Nuea., 065-039-3924, Open daily 2pm-2am.
AIS Esports Center
The space: A large modern sleek Esports competition center in the heart of Bangkok with advanced luminous light, color and sound, where the gaming experience is second to none. Giving off a futuristic ambiance. There are multiple spaces, a stage and arena zone, a gaming zone, two studios and a caster and production zone.
The gear: Take a seat at one of their wizard gaming chairs with high performance core i9 computers, private studio with 10 sets of computers and gaming gear offering you the set up to conquer virtual worlds. There is also a high-end battle arena for competitive gamers to prove your skills.
The price: For the gaming zone: B50 for an hour or B40 for AIS eSports Studio Members. B500 for an hour in the studio, B5000 for 1 day (12 hours)
2/F Samyam Mitrtown, 944 Rama IV Rd, Pathum Wan., 062-245-1919, Open daily 24 hours.
Thailand E-Sport Arena
The space: Step into the future of competitive gaming at our grand eSports arena, spanning over 1,000 square meters. It’s not just an area; it’s a digital sport battlefield where your passion for gaming can pave the way to becoming a Thai eSports athlete, taking on regional and global tournaments.
The gear: It can accommodate up to 700 people, complete with state of the art lighting, sound, stage, large LED screen and internet systems, sets the stage for intense competitions. Suitable for all types of competitive games.
5/F, The Street Ratchada Shopping Center.
Bamboo E-sport Center (Sathorn)
The space: After just six months, the French gamers have opened another spot in Sathorn. The neon-lit center is tricked out with numerous stations and is ready for the same type of vibe you get from the Ekkamai location.
The gear: PS5s, Switches, and VR, with promises to have weekly gaming tournaments ranging from sports titles to fighting games with winners earning cash prizes.
67, Sathorn Soi 11, 094-076-8042. Open daily 2pm-late.
Casual drinking—or gaming
In Phra Khanong, Todd Ruiz has the hottest barcade in town at Arcadia Barcade. The arcade machines are unique. They ought to be. He built them himself. No, he didn’t get a kit. He built them with power tools and own-coding stick-to-itiveness.
This is a far cry from the arcades and internet cafes that used to pepper the city. Here you can slam kratom and craft beer while playing one of the 1,236 games offered on these one-of-a-kind machines. Arcadia brings Blade Runner geek chic to Phra Khanong, and every night you’ll find agro fatalities and quick draws on the light guns.
It’s a bright idea done well—and not alone. For three years, the party crowd has been hitting up projector-based combat and co-op along with classic consoles at the 100-Bit Barcade in Charoenkrung.
More is on the way. In fact, it’s coming to you. November will see the start of the city’s first gamer truck, complete with internal gaming and a huge screen on the outside for spectators.
“Initially, we intended to only use it as a gaming truck for children's parties,” says owner David Oxland who started the project with his wife Angela and partner Virachai Boontaveekit. “But are also thinking of locations such as bars, football stadiums, et cetera. We are due to be at the Ploenchit Fair on November 25th running gaming competitions, so we hope to do this in other prominent locations too in the future.”
Not all of today’s gamers are sitting in their house reading up on how to best beat Malenia in Elden Ring. Bangkokians are out there creating, competing, drinking, and making gaming cool again.
Casual Gaming / Altered Reality Venues
Photo: Arcadia Barcade / Neil Shelley
The space: Follow the neon dragon inside for games or climb your way up to the rooftop for movies, DJs, and events. It’s a sci-fi noir dive bar for old school gamers, lovers of craft beer, and the 420-friendly. If you’re off the sauce, try their kratom from OG kratom. Keep checking in for competitive gaming, and events in the rooms and on the rooftop.
The gear: Three handmade arcade machines, two classic stand-up and one tabletop arcade machine. Don’t forget their Switch parties.
1112/24 Soi Sukhumvit Plus, Open Tues-Sun 10am-12am.
The space: Thailand’s first barcade and retro gaming console shop. Look for the pixelated artwork on the outside wall, and you’re there. It’s an 80’s-90’s vibe. The drinks are named after classic games; there’s the Tonic Sonic, Nintendo Tango, and X-Buster, the Mario Sour is a fun one with a mix of strawberry, lime, and whiskey. All cocktails and Suntree beer is B200, and Leo beers are B100.
The gear: Retro gaming consoles from Sega to Nintendo 64 with a few stand up arcade machines. There’s also a projector where you can take the battle to the big screen.
Talat Noi, Samphanthawong., 099-614-9980. Open TuesSun 6pm-12am.
Bangkok Gaming Truck (coming in November)
The space: As of printing time, this rolling gamer den is not yet on the road, but expect to see this truck out and about at big events, and inside you’ll get seven screens along with aircon and wifi. They also plan to have an onsite games coordinator to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The gear: PS5s, a PS4, Nintendo Switches, an Oculus, and an Xbox Series X. The owner also tells BK they might cooperate with certain developers for marketing new games.
Total VR Arcade
The space: Welcome to the first VR arcade in Bangkok. This venue offers you a cutting edge gaming experience where there are no wires or cables to tether you. Choose from a diverse range of adventures, from battling hordes of zombies in post-apocalyptic landscapes to enjoying family-friendly escapades.
The gear: With their high-end VR headsets and precision-designed controllers to complete the immersive gaming experience. With more that 60 games to choose like VR art, top games, multiplayer, horror, kids, beginners, escape rooms, and more.
3/F, Gateway Ekamai., 095-948-8968. Open daily 10am-10pm.
The space: Gamesmiths expansive venue houses a laser tag arena, cutting-edge virtual reality adventures, a variety of console gaming platforms and classic and modern arcade games. Catered to solo players, teams, and families alike. Get ready to level up your gaming experience.
The gear: Laser tag, VR, PS4, Xbox One, Wwitch, arcade games, board games, golf simulator, racing simulator, flight simulator, just dance (Xbox Kinect).
Ratchaphruek Rd., Bang Ramat., 083-074-7760. Open Tues-Fri 2pm-12am, Sat-Sun 2pm-12am.
The space: Zero Latency is one of the world’s greatest free roam virtual reality experiences where there are no wires or cables to tether you. Choose from a diverse range of adventures, from battling hordes of zombies in post apocalyptic landscapes to enjoying family-friendly escapades, competing in thrilling VR eSports, or diving into an exclusive Far Cry experience. With their high-end VR headsets and precision designed controllers to complete the immersive gaming experience.
The gear: VR games (Far Cry VR, Outbreak, Undead Arena, Singularity, Sol Raiders, Engineerium)
4/F, The Emquartier, B The Glass Quartier., 065-526-2420. Open Mon-Fri 11am to 8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm.