Childhood online games of Vietnamese millennials
The 2000s was the golden era where the Internet just started becoming popular in Vietnam, and with it came the rise of online games, which then became an integral part of our childhood. For the first time, we Vietnamese millennials could begin playing in lively virtual worlds with thousands of others who shared the same passion.
I remember saving up every penny of my breakfast money just so I could spend an hour or two at an Internet café playing Gunbound or TS Online with my childhood friends. If you’re anything like me, you probably have your own share of fond memories with these 8 childhood online games as well.
So, for a trip down memory lane, let’s take a look at these online games and see how they are now.
1. MU Online – one of the first MMORPGs to hit Vietnam
Games of the old days often had colorful effects that covered the entire screen
Image credit: @mugrindoficial
Initially released in 2003, MU Online was the game that introduced many 90s kids to the concept of online games.
As the game arrived at a time when online games were still a novelty for most Vietnamese people, it’s not hard to understand why MU Online was such a hit at the time. With its Western fantasy setting, the game allowed us to play as knights, wizards, and elves to fight off dragons and monsters with our flashy abilities – and we got to do it with dozens of other players in dungeon instances or against them in intense Player-vs-Player battles.
Video credit: Cộng Đồng Mu Việt Nam
The gameplay mostly revolved around using mouse clicks to move our character to defeat monsters and collect loot. Zoomers today would probably find MU outdated and unappealing, but for those who grew up playing the game, it contains memories of all the fun they had with friends in those dusty yet endearing Internet cafes.
In early 2020, Korean game development company Webzen – creator of MU Online – officially resurrected the classic title in the SEA region under the name PlayPark MU, much to the joy of veteran Vietnamese gamers who were eager to relive the good ol’ days.
Unfortunately, only a couple of weeks after PlayPark MU’s release, Webzen made the questionable decision to ban all Vietnamese IPs from logging into the game’s server, with the only explanation being that “the official serviceable regions for PlayPark MU only covers Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.”
2. Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ – wuxia-themed MMORPG that became massively popular
Image adapted from Wikipedia
While MU Online was the game that got Vietnamese gamer into massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), it was Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ that arguably went on to become the biggest MMORPG of the 2000s decade.
This was the game that allowed us to play as martial art practitioners of the likes of Shaolin Monastery or Wudang Mountain, and become a part of the fascinating wuxia world that previously we could only see on TV. Forming bonds of brotherhood and honor with strangers online and feeling like the heroes of Jinyong’s novels was now within our grasp – and those bonds extended far beyond the virtual world of the game.
A player-vs-player battle
Video credit: Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ VNG
Just do a quick search on the Internet today, and you can still find touching stories of veteran Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ gamers reminiscing about how they found their lifelong partners via the game, or made real friends out of online guild mates who still support one another through thick and thin.
To call Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ a smashing success in Vietnam would still be an understatement. At the game’s prime period between 2005 and 2008, you could see it being played by practically everyone at internet cafes. It was not uncommon for real-life public gatherings of Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ players to attract thousands of participants, or rare in-game items to be sold for hundreds of millions of VND.
Of course, all that was a long time ago. Today, we rarely hear or see much about Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ anymore, but the game is still being played by many veteran gamers who’ve been with it since day one.
3. Gunbound – a colorful turn-based shooter
Image credit: Gunbound
Being MMORPGs, MU Online and Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ are grindy by nature – you’d have to dedicate hundreds of hours to them to develop your character. Gunbound, on the other hand, was a more casual player-friendly game with its turn-based shooting gameplay and cute 2D chibi graphics. We could hop in and play a few games whenever we had a bit of free time and not pay much thought to it after.
Video credit: Gunbound
That said, since there were many vehicles we could choose from to blast others with, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as environmental elements we had to take into account while lining up our shots, Gunbound’s gameplay was actually surprisingly challenging. This, in turn, meant each match was a lot of fun.
Following Gunbound’s withdrawal from the Vietnamese market in 2007, many other games in the same genre have stepped up to try and fill the void it left behind. To this day, however, none has managed to achieve the same success that Gunbound did, or the same special place it has in our hearts.
4. Boom Online – cute competitive game that’s accessible to everyone
Image credit: Boom Online
90s kids would probably remember the classic singleplayer game Bomberman, where you move around and place bombs to destroy obstacles and enemies in order to reach the exit to the next level. I remember spending countless hours of my childhood trying to beat the game – the problem was, after a while, it got pretty repetitive as the AI-programed movements of the enemies were predictable.
That’s where Boom Online came in. Still with the same easy-to-pick-up gameplay but with brighter, cuter graphics, Boom Online understandably drew in players of all ages and backgrounds.
Image credit: Boom Online
Of course, the best part was, since it was an online game, we got to compete against other players in intense matches featuring several power-ups and items you could use to give yourself an advantage. To keep it kid-friendly, the game replaced explosives with water balloons that trapped you in a bubble if you got hit.
For a couple of years following its 2007 release, Boom Online was a casual game that anyone could enjoy. After the hype died down, however, it gradually fell into obscurity and was no longer available in Vietnam in 2017.
5. Audition Online – dance to the beat of popular songs
Audition Online probably spelled the doom of many a keyboard with its simple yet intense gameplay where you pressed arrow keys according to what was displayed on the screen to have your character dance to the beat of music. The more accurate your keypresses were, the more points you’d rack up, which at the end of the match would be compared against other players to see who got the highest score.
Where boys were occupied with Võ Lâm Truyền Kỳ or the like, Audition Online was the game that drew girls to internet cafes to dance to the latest trendy songs or dress up their characters with fancy clothes and hairstyles.
Image credit: @cincai_club
Even today, 14 years after its debut in Vietnam, Audition Online still has a loyal player base. Even though publisher VTC Game announced that it was pulling the plug on the popular dance game back in early October 2020, the strong reaction from the community has prompted the publisher to continue supporting the game.
6. Crossfire – online first-person shooter
Image credit: Tứ Ca
Introduced in 2008 when wuxia–themed MMORPGs were dominating the market, Crossfire was a breath of fresh air that instantly captured the attention of fans of the first-person shooter (FPS) genre.
Prior to Crossfire, our multiplayer FPS experience was mostly limited to Counter-Strike matches that could only be played by people who shared the same local area network (LAN). It’s no wonder that an FPS game that allowed us to play with and against players from all over Vietnam instantly became popular.
Image credit: Sáu Ngón
Granted, Crossfire might have lost its dominant place in the Vietnamese FPS market now with many competitors such as Call of Duty or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but it is still the go-to game for many veterans. Despite rumors that the game would be discontinued earlier this year, it is still going strong.
7. TS Online – explore China’s Three Kingdoms Period
Explore a fantasized version of ancient China in TS Online
Image credit:Nhi Nguyễnn
The premise of TS Online immediately intrigued us: our character, a regular modern-day kid, is transported back through time to China’s Three Kingdoms period, where they are destined to bring peace to the land.
Needless to say, we all jumped at the chance to explore ancient China and meet the likes of Guan Yu or Zhuge Liang – popular figures that we knew from stories and TV series, who were now portrayed as cute chibi characters. Better still, we could actually recruit them to fight alongside us in strategic turn-based battles.
Image credit:Lương Triều Vỹ
Released in 2005, TS Online was one of the first games to grace the Vietnamese online gaming scene. It attracted thousands of players until 2009, when publisher Asiasoft decided to pull the plug on the game.
A decade later, fans of the original TS Online finally got the chance to jump back onto the battlefield again when the game was resurrected as a mobile game in September 2019. Published by the same company, which has now been renamed into Dzogame, TS Online Mobile delivers pretty much the same experience as the original version, and now we can carry it in our pockets and play it whenever, wherever we want.
8. GetAmped – a quirky fighting game
Image credit: GetAmped
More commonly known by Vietnamese players under its Vietnamese name Tiểu Bá Vương, GetAmped was a quirky 3D fighting game that allowed us to pick from several character classes with different attributes and abilities before jumping into fist bouts against other players across a multitude of maps.
Video credit: Cường Phạm
While GetAmped did not achieve the same mainstream success as some of the other titles on this list, it was still the childhood game of thousands of players thanks to its intense skill-based combat. As with many other online games of the 2000s, however, its player base gradually dwindled over the years, and it was eventually shut down in 2015.
Online games that Vietnamese millennials grew up playing
As technology develops, we are now spoiled for choice with hundreds of games featuring stunning graphics and deep gameplay. Yet every now and then, we still find ourselves going back to these rough-edged yet endearing childhood online games.
After all, they contain fond memories of all the fun we had with friends in our younger days – something no modern game can recreate.
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