Zombies Versus Chinese propagandists! Which is the more braindead group of implacable Progress progs? This could be the greatest challenge ever for GamerGaters.
China’s New Video Game Rules Officially Ban Blood, Corpses, Mahjong, and Poker
By Andrew Liszewski, 22 April 2019
For the first time in my life, I want to play Mahjong.
In late-December, the Chinese government ended a nine-month freeze on approving new video games after a major government re-organization shifted the approval process to the propaganda-focused State Administration of Press and Publication. We now have official details on the new restrictions and requirements for games entering that lucrative market, and it doesn’t look good for Mortal Kombat 11.
Because China has a population of over 1.4 billion people, making a game available in the country can be an obvious boost to a developer’s bottom line. But three genres of games will no longer be allowed, including gambling titles such as Mahjong and Poker, games that deal with the country’s imperial history, and games featuring corpses and blood—of any color. Simply changing the color of blood to green and calling it slime or sweat isn’t going to cut it anymore. These new rules come into play alongside existing regulations that ban pornography.
Heehee. Will feminists be banned as pornography or as corpses? They can’t win! And out of curiosity, how many genders are available to Socially Responsible Citizens? I bet it’s fewer than fifteen.
This reminds me of a story I got from the counter monkey at a game shop: A man and his son went in to buy a video game. The father asked what games were popular.
“No, those are too violent.”
Some fantasy titles.
“Those teach witchcraft.”
Some sports titles.
“Still too violent.”
Some puzzle games.
The kid: “NOOOO not more Tetris!”
Other initiatives include requesting publishers to change how their titles promote Chinese values and culture so that if they become popular around the world, they’ll portray the country in a favorable light.
Curious how America’s socialists have no trouble with Chinese nationalism. Now THAT would be an interesting addition to Woke games!
The new regulations also require developers and publishers to divulge more information about a given title including detailed scripts, screenshots, as well as what features are being included to help curb gameplay addiction and over-spending by the country’s younger population. Gaming addiction has long been an issue in China; it was first addressed in 2007 with regulations put in place for PC games, which have now been officially expanded for mobile gaming as well.
No more lootboxes? So this isn’t all totalitarian mind control.
With Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company, recently receiving approval to start selling the Nintendo Switch in China and the new approval guidelines, the country’s gaming market is starting to open up to the rest of the world. Having access to what Bloomberg describes as “the world’s largest gaming market” is undoubtedly good for developers and publishers. But they’ll either have to create alternate versions of certain games to meet approval guidelines or tone down titles altogether so that they comply.
And unfortunately, bad for us. I’ve never understood the appeal of AAA titles. Mass Effect was more like a movie than a game of any skill. There are games from the ’90s that I still play and they’re at least as much fun as current multi-gigabyte-sized games.
Regardless, the industry pushes top-budget AAA titles and therefore, has little fortitude to resist kissing Yellow Paper Pusher Ass in return for $$$. Just remember, game executives, sex isn’t the only way to be a prostitute.
Bowing to censorship is never an ideal outcome. But that’s not likely to stop many developers who want a piece of China’s estimated $30 billion in annual video game sales…
It didn’t stop Gamasutra, either:
So what should developers do? You could delete all the bloody assets from your game but that would leave you with a pretty bland user experience.
A better way to approach the blood ban is to rethink how your players can experience combat. With the right strategy, your redesign can be compliant with the new rules and well-received by players.
By all means, try to alter the way I experience combat in order to placate China-centric totalitarian censers. Just don’t be surprised if my response is not “tame, loyal citizen”.
Here are a few examples of how you can rethink animated violence and combat feedback in your game:
1. Animate death differently. Some Chinese games with combat action show characters slowly disintegrating when they die. This has been compliant with the new rules and accepted by players. Another example from a different genre is how characters die in Clash of Clans: they either become smoke and vanish or they return to their “original state” as an elixir—one of the game’s resources. You could also convey death by giving a character a fitting facial expression and showing them clutch their chest as they fall.
What’s the point of a game? If it’s just arcade playing or storytelling then the developers are probably already doing this. If the point is realistic combat, however, then this is a non-starter.
Pozzed game developers may soon be forced to tell China “no, we will not cooperate with your Social Responsibility demands”. While we know what they’ll choose to do, we also know that their inevitably derp choice will open up the market for more independent companies.
2. Go old school and use comic-book style combat feedback. You can illustrate and animate what happens when a player engages in combat with written text in cards or bubbles the way the old Batman tv series does.
Video game developers prefer to not be reminded of their primary competitor, Magic the Gathering.
3. Use surrogate special effects for blood. Instead of liquid oozing or squirting out of a character’s body when they are wounded, you can design alternative special effects. For example, you could have white “puffs” appear around a body part that gets shot or stabbed.
Did not listen to instructions. That’s what developers were already doing.
4. Toggle visual violence on/off. Some game developers might remember a time when this was done to meet age restrictions. Considering China’s trend toward increasingly strict game regulation, the option to turn your gore or violence visual SFX on or off is certainly a handy function to start building into your game now.
Considering China’s trend toward mandatory compliance, developers would have to make two entirely separate versions of a game. This is the most likely option and guess who they’ll stick with the bill?
5. Get inspiration from kid-friendly games. Games that are built for a general audience, such as Clash of Clans, tend to use “kid-friendly violence”. They can be a great source of ideas on how to rethink and redesign your animated violence.
Memo, we aren’t kids anymore and the obvious market for high-realism military operations shall not be ignored.
Let me add a few:
6. Make a hyper-realistic, violent video game of Chinese Party officials spreading a zombie plague as a way to correct for their post-One Child-Policy demographics while simultaneously producing Socially Responsible, if brain-dead, Citizens. Use the names of actual top CP officials so they know they’re being mocked. Working title: Metal Gear Chuck Norris!
7. Flip the script. “You play the role of Chang, a young hero of the people as you defend the borders of your ancestral homeland from endless waves of greedy terrorists seeking to destroy the country you love!” Chicomm censor: Approved! Western gamers: *mod China to America/England/France/Germany.* Google: *bans all game mods from the Internet forever*
8. Just say no to censorship. Remember, liberals? Remember those long, Cold War decades during which you hated censorship of your ideas and beliefs? Of course you don’t. Remembering would be inconvenient.
9. Bribe the censor. More in a minute.
Even if your game was already fully licensed in China, you now run the risk of having that license withdrawn—until you change the game in compliance with the new rules.
Memo to government leaders, this is NOT what rule of law look like. It does not look like mandatory compliance to ever-shifting, poorly-defined standards. Rule of law looks like predictable infrastructure that changes only in response to severe life changes after the crisis has passed.
It’s hard to say when the Chinese gaming authority will get around to checking your game but you should count on them doing so at some point. If your game is high on China’s charts, expect them to get to you faster.
While we’re on the topic of rule-of-law, let’s talk about the primary issue with its alternative, the rule of men: things can change VERY quickly.
China gaming approval ‘green channel’ halted after one Communist Party official’s promotion
Inside the Chinese bureaucracy, one unfilled job may be putting a US$38 billion industry on edge.
Chinese regulators have shut down the last known official path for releasing new games amid a broader licensing freeze, publications including Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reported this week.
This so-called green channel is a workaround for a few big firms to make money off their new titles after Beijing suspended approval of new games since the end of March.
Its existence was first revealed publicly by Tencent president Martin Lau during a conference call in August. Lau said the special process allowed publishers to apply for games to be distributed and monetised for a month-long testing, acting as a “relief for the entire industry.”
Industry speculation was rife that his comments angered the authorities, who promptly shut down the channel, closing off the last avenue for profit for the burgeoning gaming industry.
The first rule of Loophole Club: you do NOT talk about your loopholes.
But a more mundane reason might be behind the halt in approvals. Niko Partners, a research firm that specialises in the gaming industry, suggested the suspension might be related to a top gaming regulator being promoted and leaving his position in August, the same month that Lau made his comment on the green channel. In the report, the analysts cited games publisher sources for the information.
“Game publishers are now in the same position they were in before the temporary approval process was introduced. [They] will not be able to have new games approved until the SAPP carries out reforms and begins issuing licences again,” Niko wrote in a blog post published on Wednesday, referring to the newly minted State Administration of Press and Publication, which is in charge of game licensing among other things.
Yep, the $38b Chinese game industry was shut down because Frankie got promoted. Left unmentioned is the month-long, covert, bureaucratic war for the little throne he left behind. Hmm, that could make a good video game.
The SAPP was formed in April amid a massive government shake-up and falls under the Communist Party’s propaganda department. It was headed by Zhuang Rongwen, who left the post in August after being named as the new chief of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet censor.
Zhuang, 57, who earlier worked under Chinese president Xi Jinping in the southern province of Fujian, is rising quickly in the official hierarchy. The CAC’s former chief, Lu Wei, was widely seen as the public face of China’s draconian control over the internet during his term until 2016, and pleaded guilty to taking bribes of 32 million yuan (US$4.6 million), according to provincial court authorities.
Huh, that was when I stopped getting spam from Nigerian princes.