Explaining the bizarre video game censorship rules in China

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China’s relationship with video games has often been strained, especially when it comes to censorship. This is somewhat surprising considering that the number of gamers in China exceeds the US population and some incredibly popular games like Genshin Impact come from Chinese developers. Companies like Tencent also have stakes in huge swathes of the Western gaming market, including stakes in Fortnite developer Epic Games. The country’s treatment of the entertainment industry has come under a lot of scrutiny, especially lately with some limitations on online play time for children and censorship of character types.

It wouldn’t be the first time the country has maintained a controversial relationship with the game. Foreign consoles were previously banned entirely in China, with the country’s crackdown on some sites and storefronts changing frequently. Some companies, like Valve, have built new storefronts tailored to fit China’s entertainment laws, and developers often talk at length about the difficulty of releasing games in China. Not surprisingly, this has become even more difficult following the protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan that erupted in 2019. The entertainment arm of the Chinese government has taken steps to censor “unsavory” and “vulgar” portrayals of characters in entertainment, which could have a bigger effect. on game development.

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Who controls gambling censorship in China?

Several government branches have an impact on the games that can be released in China. The most important of these is by far the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA). The NRTA (formerly the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television) is responsible for managing the content of most media products in China. Aspiring developers wishing to release games in the country must pass their games through strict NRTA regulations and may be rejected for a variety of reasons.

In general, content aimed at a Chinese release should not undermine “Chinese unity” or set “a bad example” for its audience. For example, it is rumored that the latest MCU blockbuster Shang-Chi will not be released in China due to previous comments by star Simi Liu. Liu described his parents’ life in China as living “in the third world.”

There often seem to be inconsistencies with China’s censorship policies and the interests of its citizens. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 drew great criticism in China for his remarks on Taiwan, with many calling for a boycott of the title. The game still does not have an official release date in the country, possibly in part because of Xi Jinping’s Winnie the Pooh jokes leaked in Cyberpunk 2077the data files of. Despite this, Cyberpunk is a bestseller in the Chinese gray market, showing how some unapproved content can still slip through the loopholes. This means that even when the NRTA makes a clear edict, it is not always certain which games will or will not receive penalties.

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China ban on “effeminate” characters

Boyfriends Dungeon datable weapon characters

One of China’s most recent restrictions could impact a bevy of different titles. Games like Friends dungeon would be unlikely to get through the new rules, which aim to combat an effeminate style that does not promote “traditional culture”. The progression described here is apparently “from” tender “to” beauty “and then to” mother “,” according to an article in Xinhuanet, a media outlet run by CCCP member He Ping.

The NRTA’s approval process for games has apparently slowed down recently as part of an effort to avoid games that promote “false values” in the country. He is part of this movement against “unhealthy cultures”. League of Legends champions like Taric have been heavily modified in Chinese appearances. Taric is described as less flamboyant in the Chinese version of the game, a change presumably made to court the enormous League of Legends fan base in the country.

Xinhaunet’s views also seem to be reflected in recent NTRA conferences. A meeting on September 7 discussed a move towards clear requirements for “public morals” to encourage “family virtues”. This includes a firmly entrenched stance against “the vulgar and the kitsch”. Against the background of a larger representation of various body types in God of the war and other games, this appears to be a potentially regressive movement in terms of encouraging gender expression in the media.

Recent controversies over Chinese games

league of legends mobile china

China also recently decided to limit play times for its teenagers. In practice, this means that Chinese teenagers cannot play online games for more than three hours a week (and just between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). This is aimed at combating “game addiction” in young children, particularly with the predatory monetization strategies used by some online games. To some extent, this decision makes sense when the risk of kids spending thousands of dollars on microtransactions is a real concern for some parents.

While this isn’t necessarily a controversy, Steam China launched with a sparse collection of just 53 approved games. It was Valve’s first official release in the country, but not technically its only presence there. Steam has been around for some time in a gray space of Chinese legality and has given some players access to otherwise censored titles. The launch of Steam China was initially hotly contested by Chinese game developers, who feared the showcase would negatively impact its burgeoning indie game scene.

MORE: Why Fallout 5 Could Be Set In China

Sources: Xinhuanet, NRTA


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