China embraces web game depicting family’s fight with
demolition crew

Online game inspired by real-life
cases of violence between residents and wrecking gang becomes huge hit

A ‘nail house’ in Chongqing, China.
Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

It may lack the sophistication and addictive power of
Farmville or World of Warcraft. But an online game in
which a family fights off a demolition crew
with slippers and bullets has
hooked Chinese internet users.

The Big Battle: Nail House Versus Demolition Team has
triumphed not through playability, but by tapping into widespread anger about
forced relocations. “Nail houses” are the last homes left standing in
areas slated for clearance, so called because they stick out when all around
them have been demolished.

Owners resist because they do not want to move at all or
think that compensation is unfairly low, but wrecking crews often retaliate
with tactics ranging from cutting off power and water to physical violence.

Cases such as that of Tang Fuzhen, who died last year after
setting fire to herself as an eviction crew beat her family, have caused
outrage. Amid a growing clamour, the government issued draft
rules designed to curb
the worst abuses.

But the issue remains potent. Only last week, three people
in Fuzhou, eastern China, were rushed to hospital in
serious condition after setting fire to themselves in protest at what they said
was inadequate compensation.

“This is our society. It is tiring. It is not easy to
live. I don't know how many people are like the Ding family in real life. So
sad,” wrote one player.

Another added: “The game is just for entertainment,
but the reality is cruel.”

In the game, Mrs Ding [Nail], still in her curlers, hurls
slippers as the men approach, while Grandpa Ding prefers to fire his shotgun.
It might sound improbable, but one real life farmer in Hubei province fought off workers with a
homemade cannon

Popular online gaming site 17173
said the nail-house game ranked third among last month’s top games and had been played more
than 1.8m times since its launch two weeks ago. The real figure is likely to be
higher since that is based on a tally of popular sites and the game has quickly
been replicated across the web.

Professor Hu Yong, of Peking University’s School of Journalism
and Communications, said forced demolitions had long been a hot topic, with
dramatic and horrifying stories circulating in the media or online.

He added: “Forced demolition is about the conflict
between governmental power and the individual's ownership of property. Although
China has a property ownership law, it has never been implemented well. People
care a lot when governmental power violates an individual's ownership because
it simply can happen to anyone.

“As social conflicts increase, governmental power is
getting stronger and stronger as well and a lot of people are resentful about
it. That's why such a little game can resonate among so many people.”

Players pointed out that it appeared to be impossible to
win the game, because so many thugs swarm the house in the final level – a
realistic touch, they thought.

“I have already got 70,000 [points] in the game but my
house was still demolished. It tells us that the demolition team is not
defeatable … The only thing we can do is to wait and die,” concluded

reporting by Lin Yi