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The Chinese government have opened the Online Games Ethics Committee; which has wasted no time in banning nine games and recommending censorship of eleven others.
During the time Monster Hunter World had been banned in China, it was revealed via The Star and Financial Times that China’s media regulator The State Administration of Radio and Television (SART) had been suffering from “bureaucratic infighting”.
No licenses for video games had been issued since March 28th, and licensing officially stopped in April while they were restructuring. China has had concerns with increased numbers of young people playing video games and using the internet, even to the point of “boot camps” that have resulted in the death of several teens sent to them.
In addition to the reduction of licenses granted, the Ministry of Education recommended reducing the number of games approved to combat myopia to other governmental departments. Both of the above were cited by some as the cause of China’s tech giant Tencent’s whopping loss of $20 billion loss in market value.
Initially the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on December 7th that twenty games had been looked at by the Online Games Ethics Committee. This was also the first time the department’s existence had become public knowledge. Nine games were rejected outright while the remaining eleven requested certain content be adjusted.
At the time, the games titles were not revealed. However users on Chinese gaming forum NGA claimed to know which ones they were, and a thread on Reddit’s Gaming subreddit posted a translation. The twenty games, their outcome, and the reason why can be found below:
|Arena of Valor (Tencent)||Overly revealing female characters, rewards given based on rank, distorted concepts of history and culture.||Corrective action|
|League of Legends (Riot)||Overly revealing female characters, rewards given based on rank, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Blade & Soul (NCSOFT)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Chu Liu Xiang (NetEase)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom, game missions include fraud.||Corrective action|
|Overwatch (Blizzard)||Game visuals promote incorrect values, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Diablo (Blizzard)||Inharmonious chat, game missions include fraud.||Corrective action|
|World of Warcraft (Blizzard)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Westward Journey (NetEase)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom, distorted concepts of history and culture.||Corrective action|
|Code: Eva (Tencent)||Rewards given based on rank, distorted concepts of history and culture.||Corrective action|
|The Legent of Mir 3 (WeMade)||Inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Swords of Legends Online (Aurogon)||Inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (Bluehole)||Blood and gore.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Fortnite (Epic)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|H1Z1 (Daybreak)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Alliance of Valiant Arms (Red Duck)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Ring of Elysium (Tencent)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Paladins (Hi-Rez)||Overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Free Fire Battlegrounds (Garena)||Overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Knives Out (NetEase)||Overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Quantum Matrix (NetEase)||Blood and gore, vulgar content, inharmonious chat||Prohibited/Withdraw|
Several titles are currently still playable in China, such as Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground. An update to the post does claim that Blizzard took to Weibo (effectively China’s equivalent to Twitter) denying they had received notice for any action to be taken. The post was later deleted, possibly not to draw attention to the rumors themselves.
The user who started the thread – ZeroWolfe547 – attempts to explain the reasoning behind some of the causes to the bans and censorship.
They begin by stating how owning, selling, creating, or distributing porn in China is illegal; to the point the government have rolled out financial rewards for whistle-blowing. The user does express confusion how games like Overwatch seemed to have not had that as a reason for changes, considering the designs of characters like Widowmaker.
ZeroWolfe547 continues theorizing:
“I’m guessing the whole “rewarding by rank” is a problem because it suggests class divisions, rather than purely rewarding based on merit? Communist ideology pops up in places even if the country isn’t exactly on that path anymore.
Correct conceptions of history have seen renewed attention recently as well. Nominally it’s supposed to mean Marxist historical materialism, but in colloquial use, it can refer to misrepresentation of history as well.
The official Communist Party version of Chinese history is written into Chinese law as part of the PRC’s constitution. Fantastical depictions of historical figures can be problematic, as is time travel, and unflattering depictions of revolutionary leaders is downright illegal.”
The latter is sure to cause issues for Kingdom Hearts 3, as the Chinese government have banned Winnie the Pooh, after images comparing president Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh surfaced online.
ZeroWolfe547 finishes their theories, but not without some confusion themselves:
“Inharmonious chat” refers to the perceived lack of effort by publishers to combat toxicity, vulgarity, and politically sensitive speech in chats. In China usually games implement lists of censored phrases that are constantly updated to adhere to this requirement, and they are usually very aggressive and would much rather over do it than let anything slip.
I’m not sure what “game visuals promote incorrect values” would refer to, I can’t really think of anything unique to Overwatch that goes in that direction.”
In other news, China has began enforcing the need for an ID when playing games to prevent children for playing too long. Business Insider reports Tencent has used facial recognition technology to compare the user’s face to the country’s national citizen database.
Business Insider also reports that kids are trying to beat facial recognition software with photos of sleeping relatives, or even imitating them on customer support lines.