Like other media, video games in China are subject to a wide range of political and moral content requirements. These have included mandatory in-game fines for virtual second children; bans on simulated panda-hunting and mechanics intended to encourage excessive gaming and addiction, particularly among children; and the retroactive monogamization of China’s emperors. At the same time, authorities have offered substantial subsidies to developers, particularly those whose games have patriotic or otherwise politically harmonious themes.
Twitter user @DonEvansWm posted a description of a recent experience of the pre-publication inspection process:
— Don Evans (@DonEvansWm) November 28, 2016
DonEvansWm: #China A game submitted for approval was sent back 13 times. The reasons for rejection included: male characters cannot have bare nipples; the characters for “robbery” or “death” may not appear; please make the health advisory screen look a bit better, etc. 9, 10, 11 … China’s repressive regulatory #FreedomofSpeech
My game has been under inspection since the middle of May. Right at the beginning, we removed all female nudity, reduced the amount of English, revised the vocabulary, and made all the usual superficial preparations. Then we beat down each of their required fixes, one by one:
- Revision 1: “Your male characters can’t expose the upper halves of their bodies”
- Revision 2: “Your male characters can’t have bare chests either”
- Revision 3: “Your game can’t include the character qiăng (抢, “to rob”)
- Revision 4: “Your game can’t include the character sĭ (死, “death”), and your female characters can’t wear tight clothing”
- Revision 5: “There’s a problem with the way banned keyboards are dealt with.” Also our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 6: “Please make the health advisory screen look a bit better.” Also our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 7: “Please put the health advisory screen on an individual page.” Also our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 8: “Please put the health advisory screen at the very start of the game.” Also our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 9: Our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 10: Our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 11: Our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
- Revision 12: “We have yet again expanded your list of forbidden vocabulary. We also hope you can change your method for dealing with them: we hope you can not only screen and remove whole words, but also the characters in them. With moúshā (谋杀, “murder”), for example, it’s not just moúshā that can’t be used, but also the two individual characters moú and shā ….” Of course, in the end we rejected this requirement, but only after analyzing it at great length.
- Revision 13: …… Our list of forbidden vocabulary has expanded
Shizisang (@十字桑): I can’t believe it, our company’s game didn’t pass inspection because it uses English in a few places. Like “mission start/complete”; when the “boss” appears, it says “warning” … Fucking State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, [if you hate English that much] why don’t you go after the fucking Ministry of Education? … and on top of that, we submitted the game in March, so it took them four damned months to give us the results ………
Shizisang (@十字桑): After changing the resources that should have been in English into Chinese, I felt kind of bewildered. For example, where it should have said “GO,” it said “前进” [“advance”] … it was really kind of funny. Although my strong suggestion to replace “YOU LOSE” with “你完蛋了” [“You’re Done”] was vetoed by the others. Hmmmph. [Chinese]
CDT Chinese editors compiled some variously sympathetic responses to Shizisang’s posts from Sina Weibo:
tinyfool (@tinyfool): Even IT professionals must face the idiotic SAPPRFT now
Shasila (@傻斯拉): Hahaha, I guess this is your first time submitting a game for inspection? I remember doing it, it was like eating dogshit
WojiuxianganqingdegaigemingziQwQ (@我就想安静的改个名字QwQ): Hahahahaha, I’ve already changed all the English UI elements in our game 😂
firemeV (@firemeV): Time for braindead talking points like “this is the best of times, this is the worst of times,” “we’ve already made so much progress from the past,” “if there were no inspections, more and more young people would be destroyed by gaming,” “the government department does these strict inspections for your own good”
TechnoCore (@TechnoCore): I don’t understand your country. The IT sector is a bright spot in a general economic slump, and you’re still trying to choke it. With all these lay-offs, video games are the cheapest entertainment option [for the unemployed]: objectively speaking, how big an effect does this have in maintaining stability? And you’re still trying to kill it？I don’t understand your country.
Yingge (@硬哥): This reminds me of when we had to call the NBA the “American National Basketball Association Male Professional League” ….
Jingshangongyuan51qu (@景山公园51区): Creative industries are to be strictly examined without question—there’s no need for a game to be published unless it reflects the Party’s greatness, glory, and correctness
MulailuntaiwangAMADEUS (@牧濑伦太郎AMADEUS): SAPPRFT is like: “‘Warning’? I don’t understand this, is it a swear word? ‘Mission Complete’? I guess this means opposing the Party and society? Anyway, foreign things are bad”
WuliGenos (@WuliGenos): Hahaha, our game has an “X”
_Tianqu (@_天驱): One month to make a game and three months in inspection is crazy [Chinese]