Taiwan, Tibet, Tiananmen: how to get your video game banned in China for political reasons

28-Feb-2019 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

When it comes to politics, Chinese censors will not appreciate even the slightest out-of-the box thinking by content creators. A Taiwanese games maker just learned that lesson the hard way.

Indie studio Red Candle saw its hit horror game Devotion disappear from China’s internet over the past weekend, after players reported a hidden in-game message linking Chinese president Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh. The comparison originated from internet memes that are banned in China.

Red Candle issued an apology and removed the reference in an updated version of Devotion. But that didn’t help bring the title back to the world’s biggest gaming market, where players bombed it with bad reviews on PC games distribution platform Steam.

Aside from Winnie the Pooh, there are more obvious political minefields games developers should definitely avoid if they want to cash in on China. Here are some cautionary tales.

Football manager 2005

2005 is one of the best editions of the Football manager series, where as an armchair coach you get to create your dream squad with top players like Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho at their peak.

The game, however, was banned in China after it was found to list Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet as independent countries.

Although 2005 was never officially released in China, pirated versions have flourished in the country through the internet and CD shops.

In December 2004, about a month after the game’s release, China’s ministry of culture ordered enforcement units across the country to “investigate, confiscate and punish websites, computer software markets and internet cafes, who disseminate or sell ‘Football manager 2005,’” according to its circular cited by state news agency Xinhua.

Hearts of Iron

Hearts of Iron is a war strategy game developed by Swedish studio Paradox Development, initially released in 2002. Set during World War II, the game lets players control any country in the world to build its military and economy. The end goal is to conquer as many nations as possible for you and your alliance: the Allies, the Axis, and the Communist International.

In the game, Tibet, West Xinjiang, and Manchuria the northeastern Chinese region where Japan controlled the puppet state of Manchukuo from 1932 to 1945 were represented as independent countries. Taiwan also appeared as the territory of Japan at the beginning of the game.

Hearts of Iron was accused of “distorting history and damaging China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In 2004, China’s ministry of culture ordered a crackdown to root out the game on the internet, CD shops and cybercafes. Like Football manager 2005, the game was not publicly released in China.

Project IGI 2: Covert Strike

Released in 2003, Covert Strike is the sequel to the stealth-based first-person-shooter game where players star as an Ethan Hunt-esque agent to save the world.

Having passed censors, Covert Strike was sold in China for six months until regulators realised that the latter part of the game featured the Chinese army as the main antagonist.

In the game, a rogue Chinese general took control of a space rocket, plotting to use it to start World War III. Players had to sneak into China’s military bases and shoot at Chinese soldiers.

Authorities banned the title on the grounds that it “hurt China’s national dignity and interests,” according to Xinhua.

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 is a well-received first-person-shooter game published by US-based Electronic Arts in October 2013.

In December 2013, the game launched a new “China Rising” storyline, which contained new maps and assignments on Chinese territory from Shanghai to Hong Kong to the South China Sea. In the game’s plot line, 2020s China is on the brink of a civil war, thanks to a Russia-backed admiral who wants to overthrow the sitting government. As a US special forces soldier, the player needs to fight both the Chinese army and those behind the coup.

Despite no official launch, the game was banned in China on grounds of national security and alleged aggression against the Chinese culture, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Command & Conquer: generals

Generals is the seventh instalment in the Command & Conquer real-time strategy franchise, published by EA in 2003. The game was not officially sold in China.

Set in the mid-21st century, the game depicts the US and China as the world’s two superpowers and occasional allies who are the targets of a global terrorist group.

In the game, landmarks including the Tiananmen Square, the Three Gorges Dam, and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre were destroyed in numerous battles.

A month into its release, Chinese regulators ordered a ban on generals because it played up terrorism and hurt China’s image, local media reported.



Category: Taiwan

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