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Taiwanese studio Red Candle Games are in hot water over an alleged easter egg found in their horror game Devotion.
The hidden message, shown below, allegedly mocks current President of China, Xi Jinping. The game takes place in a 1980s Taiwan apartment-complex, where signs point to a cult being involved.
One area of the game features a Fulu talisman. Daoist practitioners used these to communicate or exorcise spirits. The talisman here however, appears to be more akin to a curse. In traditional Chinese culture, it is considered especially evil.
The issue comes from the red seal in the middle (image via Kouki on Youtube). The characters read “Xi Jinping” on the right, and “Winnie the Pooh” on the left. The characters in the four corners of the talisman spell out “moron” in Taiwanese.
For those unfamiliar, some depictions of Winnie the Pooh are banned in China. This is due to some comparing Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh. Other world leaders have been roped into the joke when meeting with Xi Jinping. Including former US President Barack Obama being compared to Tigger, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Eeyore.
As the talisman is from a cult within the game, some took it to mean the developers were mocking those who supported Xi Jinping as cult-like worshipers. The cult leader within the game is called Lu Gongmin. “Lu” can also be read as “mainland”, while Gongmin can also mean “citizen” or “population”. In addition, the cult sacrifices people on October 1st. Chinese Independence Day is on October 1st, 1949.
There is a political divide between Taiwan and mainland China. Some Taiwanese feel their nation should be wholly independent from China, and those who live in mainland China blindly support Xi Jinping. There are several other alleged references, though some feel this is more from people attempting to find something of that nature and reaching.
Another reference was found at a later date. A newspaper within the game had the headline stated someone called Baozi had been given the death penalty for attacking a child. Baozi is also a form of Chinese dumpling, and used as a mocking nickname for Xi Jinping. Later Red Candle Games would insist Baozi was the nickname for the studio’s co-founder Wang Wei.
When knowledge of these alleged references became more wide-spread on Chinese social media platforms, it lead to review bombing on Steam from many seemingly Chinese accounts. Several English reviews were also present. Many reviews also had 0.1 hours played on record.
Taiwanese Game f**k around with mainland ==> DEAD”
“Hate speech hidden in a poster. THIS IS DISGUSTING. I want my money back.”
“Political metaphor in this game, Red Candle NM$L.”
Allegedly, much of the hatred comes from mainland Chinese players feeling like they had been tricked into picking up a game that curses them- figuratively and literally in the case of the talisman.
The game has fallen to a “Mixed” overall review score (allegedly from “Very Positive” according to screenshots from other outlets), though recent reviews are pushing back from the outrage.
In addition, Detention (another game by Red Candle Games) is also being review bombed. While the game’s overall review score is Mostly Positive, all recent review scores are “Mostly Negative”- over two thousand of them.
Two of the Devotion’s publishers (Indievent and Winking Skywalker) have vanished from the game’s steam listing. So far only Indievent has issued an official statement.
The aftermath of this has lead to several photoshopped apology statements and other misinformation (image via Spiel Times). This has been made worse by Red Candle Games’ Weibo account (a Chinese social media account) being shut down, and the game no longer being available in mainland China.
Red Candle Games offered an official statement via Steam.
“The theme of Devotion is about how cult does harm to people, leading to the tragedy caused by pure parental love. For the earlier sensitive art material incident, the whole team of Red Candle Games bears the responsibility of this awfully unprofessional mistake. It is not Red Candle’s vision to secretly project extensive ideology, nor is it to attack any person in the real world. Even if the sensitive art element was wrongfully placed before, we kindly ask you not to over interpret other game material.”
The statement goes on, asking user not to blame their partners, and to focus on the game’s real core message. The game has also updated, modifying the talisman’s red seal.
Devotion is out now in Windows PC (via Steam).