China and the Statist Infiltration of Video-Gaming

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“Banned from China”

Now this is a phrase that you’ve likely seen more and more in recent times. It’s become much more common, almost as common as the “made in China” that is pressed or threaded into the clothing that most of us wear or the products that most of us use. It’s not a new phrase, but it’s what the phrase had been associated with that has raised the ire of many people in the Western hemisphere. The Chinese government has made the news for a few bannings that have affected businesses outside of their borders in a way that undermines the principles of liberty as we know them.

We’ll start off in familiar territory.

“Band In China”

That is the name of the episode that not only got the show South Park literally banned in China, but any mention of the show on the internet in China erased. Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have long been the kings of the kind of “shots fired” moments on TV, whether it be their run-ins with devout Muslims over their portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed or their recent takes on modern politically-correct culture.

The episode in the Overton lens this time took aim at not only the censorship that’s commonplace in China, but also the American entertainment companies that bend the knee to that same censorship to have their films and shows released in China. It’s nasty what people out here are doing for a dollar. When the show was banned in China, South Park’s Twitter page put out a pretty tongue in cheek “apology” to China, and especially to its President, who “totally doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh.” Winnie the Pooh memes in China are, for those unfamiliar, banned due to President Xi Jinping not being a fan of the aesthetic comparison.

This, again, is nothing new.

Foreign movies have been censored for decades. What’s happening now, though, is that the censorship is seemingly more focused on trying to cover up specifically what the Chinese state has been doing recently. This will eventually lead to what they’ve been able to get American companies change and sell get to that shortly.

International news has constantly been reporting on the anti-China protests that have been going on since 30 March 2019. Since Chinese entertainment companies like Tencent have forced American companies to make changes to their games in order to be sold in China’s massive market, these choices have all had consequences outside of China. Out of quite a few examples, I’ll mention three.

Popular multiplayer military combat game War Thunder has recently changed the Taiwanese flag to the flag of the People’s Republic of China. This change isn’t exclusive to just China’s servers, but are in all of War Thunder’s servers. Shortly before this, a stream for the ever-popular Dota 2 on Twitch was found removing comments referring to the Tiananmen Square protests, killings, as well as “Winnie the Pooh” being deleted by moderators. This is due to Dota 2’s creator, Valve, wanting to solidify a relationship with China to operate their digital storefront in that country. After quite a bit of pushback, the bans ceased.

This next example is the most interesting.

A professional Hearthstone player, Ng “Blitzching” Wai Chung, was banned from playing in an upcoming tournament. His crime? Vocally supporting the Hong Kong protests during an interview. The ire of China is so feared, that the two commentators conducting the interview literally hid under the news desk as Wai Chung shouted in support of the protestors.

The game, Hearthstone, an online card game, is made by Activision-Blizzard, of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty fame. Like the twp previously-mentioned games, it’s American-made. The decision to ban Wai Chung was made by Blizzard, resulting in massive backlash from its customers and gamers around the world. What’s even weirder is the two commentators who hid under their desks during the anti-China tirade were both fired as well.

Much like the movie industry, the video game industry has shown that it will bend the knee in a lot of cases to tap into that 2 billion person-sized market. It’s nasty out here; especially knowing how deep the Chinese state’s presence is within its international business dealings. Currently, it’s just video games. But the fact that removing criticism of a state’s decision on the liberties of its people is a requirement to do business in China or with Chinese companies is a trend I don’t think will remain exclusive to the entertainment industry.