It was the perfect setting for a sprawling battlefield - open spaces to run around, ruins to duck behind, and guns to eliminate the enemy. Only, the war had to be fun, a game, the guns innocent, and the enemies your friends.
The space was there, up for grabs, for anyone who had the brainwave for a theme park.
The Baoshan Group, a Chinese construction giant, saw the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.
The firm built a 100-mu (6.6-hectare) entertainment park, inspired by the popular military-based video game Counter Strike (CS), in the Huilonggou scenic district, Pengzhou city, situated in the earthquake-ravaged Sichuan province.
Like paintball, participants play simulated tactical games, only with laser guns, in an imagined realm of modern warfare.
It seemed like a great idea, easy to implement with natural ruins already in place, until the rather prolific Chinese netizens voiced that they had a problem with a place of demise and sorrow being used for entertainment.
"How would the Americans react if someone builds an amusement park on Ground Zero?" asked an Internet user.
According to an Internet poll on Sina.com, in which 6,624 netizens participated, 29 percent said they were opposed to the establishment of the theme park, while 64 percent were in favor.
Many remarked that the quake-ravaged area is a "place of sadness and condolence", and an entertainment establishment showed "disrespect for the dead".
But Dai Jun, the general manager of the Baoshan Group, said: "The spirits of the earthquake victims would wish for a happy life for those who survived, and for a prosperous economy for the survivors to live in.
"The theme park is attracting a lot of crowd and a lot of revenue."
The design of the park is inspired by the impact of the earthquake, Dai said.
"The CS park is built on what was once the Peony Garden, where the springs were blocked and pavilion destroyed in the May 12 earthquake. And the natural settings of grass, beach and obstacles are very suitable for field warfare," he said.
Dai, however, maintained the Peony Garden was "not strictly an earthquake ruin".
"This place used to be a plain field with a few pavilions. There were no houses and so no one really died on this spot. The nearest residential area is a few hundred meters away," he said.
(China Daily 02/18/2009 page5)