If you are already angry reading the title and shout racist slurs or “get the fuck out 50cent army” then this post is not for you. I trust I should have some faith in the gaming community.
After seeing and hearing so much I think I have a say in this.
I am a Chinese British citizen, born and raised in China later immigrated to the UK, have spent over 15 years in both countries, well versed in social and political issues and themes in both cultures. And above all, a hardcore gamer. PC and console (PS2 in the past now Xbox), lost count of games I have played, probably well over 500 by now.
And of course I was a die-hard Blizzard fan. Started with Warcraft 3, Starcraft (fun memories of Chinese Internet cafes lol), Diablo 1,2, then WoW, then Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 in the last few years etc…
Blizzard in the West
I said “was”, because I have seen the downfall of blizzard. Let me get this straight first, I really hate the Chinese influence of gaming in the West. Here, I mean gaming in general: micro-transactions, artistic direction (apparently some of the Hearthstone tuning of gore etc as of late). I, too, enjoyed the early days of PS2 story-driven, free unlockables, and limitless replayability without extra cost, no “early access”, “surprise mechanics”. It is absolutely disgraceful to see the likes of EA and Activation scamming young children and getting people addicted.
China has a lot to blame for this, because of its monetary influence in these Western publishers.
To me, and a lot of my gamer friends here in the UK, Blizzard have gone down hill since Diablo 3. They have become more money driven and egregious with their practices. With the merger of Activation and their public listing, I don’t need to say much more, I think we all know how to feel about the whole entity as a whole at present.
Blizzard in China
If you grew up in China in the 90’s like me, you will know how much influence Blizzard games had on our generation. Briefly mentioned above, Internet cafes used to be absolutely rampant in the country. If you know anything about China, in the 90s’, it was very poor (many are still today as well), even in big cities where Internet cafes were present. So IP wasn’t a thing. Millions of pirate copies of Starcraft and Warcraft 3 (among many other popular RTS and first person shooters) were what the owners depended their livelihood of. Now IP is much more strongly protected in entertainment industry as a whole, my generation feel the guilt towards Blizzard. Blizzard made their childhood memories but we all stole from them. So microtransactions in something like Hearthstone could make money off people so easily (as someone who never spends a penny on these I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear a Chinese friend of mine dropping the equivalent of $300 into Hearthstone to just to get in).
Mobile gaming is so popular in China because of a number of reasons. To keep a simple: 1. They are not exposed to the “real gaming” we have the privilege to be. Like many in this community know, media control is ridiculous. Most of what you hear on the Internet about “Great Wall of China” is true, so I don’t need to elaborate; 2. Mobile cellular technology is more advanced in China, arguably more than the UK and US, even in the country side; 3. Lifestyle of people in cities are much more fast paced; 4. Most important, combined with number 1, no developer/publisher have the political or monetary power to compete with the giants such as Tencent and Netease. The likes of these most probably have a lot of say along with the official governmental bodies which give entertainment production the “go-ahead” to the marketplace. Yes, corruption can be involved. But maybe as a whole, the country may not be as corrupt as many may think (especially having seen how some gamers describe China since the incident).
Hong Kong is No Laughing Matter
If you are Chinese, AND British like me, you wouldn’t be very rushed to making a conclusion on making a stance.
But I think, we, in the gaming community can sometimes be slightly naïve about geo-politics. After all, we game to escape from the reality, I get it. But hear me out.
Many seem to be unaware, how HK was a colony of the British Empire in the first place. Put it simply, two Opium Wars. What are the Opium Wars? Quick links here: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_Wars)
Basically the arrogant Qing Dynasty wouldn’t trade with any Western powers, so the empires sold the Chinese opium in order to open its gates. The Qing government tried to fight against them, but failed, signed the treaty and gave up Hong Kong. In the late Qing Dynasty, opium problem was epidemic in the country. All men smoked it and it fucked up the country. Government was corrupt, Chinese citizens were hopeless, if you are interested, just google “Century of Humiliation”.
The Brits ruled it for 156 years, introduced rule of law, capitalism. All good things of course, especially when China was controlled by the Communist Mao in the 20th century. But make no mistake, its prosperity is not because of its freedom, it’s because China was closed up (internal political turmoil etc.. more on this, search “Cultural Revolution”).
Since 1997 the handover, China joined the WTO, cities like Shen Zhen and Guang Zhou gradually took the economic position of HK. Why would a Western company go to HK when it could directly reach over 1 billion consumers, so HK gradually became less relevant.
For those of us that think HK was “free” under the UK rule, allow me to say you might be misled. A quick comparison: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_1967_leftist_riots, the HK police killed 51 people in the 1967 extreme leftist riot (or I could call “patriotic demonstration” if I was biased). And, most importantly, HK citizens never had universal suffrage under the British rule. The UK government thought they were “democratic”, because it was democratic in the British parliament, which directly appointed the Chief Executive of HK.
China has been gradually extending its “claws” into HK’s political and legislative system, I agree, hence I am supportive of the initial march by millions of citizens. But at the same time China is not as totalitarian as many make it out to be. I wish HK’s rule of law and relative freedom of speech never goes away, but I am also aware, Hong Kong (and especially Hong Kong) is and should always be China’s Hong Kong.
I am over simplifying here, it’s a gaming community after all. But more on this, feel free to challenge/provide your thoughts.
Western Reaction on the Matter
What happened, is a clash to cultures.
After watching the most vocal gaming YouTubers’ reaction on the matter, YongYea, The Quertering, AngryJoe, Jimquisition, Layman Gaming, HeelvsBabyface etc., it made me realise that the Western gaming community at large can be quite politically unaware.
All of these guys I absolute admire, I subscribe to them, voice of the community, absolutely. But I don’t agree with some of their direct/indirect encouragement of protesting for “freedom of HK”.
For some reason, the US and UK reaction of the HK matter has been the most one-sided story I have seen since my day one in UK. So to this degree, I don’t blame anyone’s responsive stance to stand for HK. But if you are really curious, I suggest you to google around, try to see the other side of the story on YouTube, see how other democratic Chinese spoken societies (Taiwan, Singapore) react to the whole thing, and what extreme violence has been committed lately, and also think, if the same thing happened here in the UK or US, what would the police do.
I think making fun of Blizzard and China’s Pooh can be fun, but I think this advocacy can be “cheap”, we have very little to lose, but if people get really misled politically, many could die (need I say more).
Note earlier I said “clash of cultures”. Believe me, a lot of reaction coming from mainland China towards NBA, South Park, Blizzard are not made by the government. Much of it is very negative, extreme even. I don’t agree the kind of rhetoric, but I can understand the rationale.
To most of Chinese people, family is the upmost political correctness, like the Freedom of Speech, or Race Equality. To many, the unity of the country and the culture is the bigger “family”. So separate a part from its land is a fantasy, just like genocide is unimaginable now in today’s UK or USA. China has been relatively “homogenous”. The Chinese don’t value the latter two as much, because it didn’t have race relation troubles in its history, at least in the last 200 years. But if Race Relations cannot be kept in the USA, the country would break apart. If you don’t believe me, ask a Singaporean Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, Taiwanese Chinese, or even a British/American born Chinese, how important the unity of culture and the unity of family is to them.
So for a foreign entity (like NBA or potentially Blizzard), who do not understand anything I have said above, to say stand with HK, is the greatest insult to the Chinese people. Hence the reaction or likely reaction in Blizzard’s case.
I agree, that Chinese people are more sensitive on some issues than they should be, and not just boycott everything that touches their feelings. But again, you have to understand what it has been through in the last 200 years. And just a thought, how many countries have China invaded ever?
This is why the Chinese think we the West are the bully and downright ignorant, and why we in the West think the Chinese commies are the bully.
Blizzard’s Weibo Post
From the wording of the original post, in Chinese, I can see that it was probably written by a Chinese official. Mark Kern highlighted this in his live stream with The Quartering, and I think he might be right. The tone is very much a communist official’s tone, just like the kind you see on everyday media in China. But I think this is Blizzard using its “China knowledge”, because it understands the market (as per above), so doing the pre-damage controlling. I also think they should have just pulled him off behind the scene and warn him like many YouTubers suggested, instead of all guns-blazing using Weibo to please the Chinese gamers. Blizzard underestimated the power of internet and people’s willingness to research in general.
How We Should Move On
Finally, if you have been with me this far, I hope this gives you some insight. I am not telling you to not stand with HK, at the end of day that is your freedom. I am simply providing some insight and background to the whole story. I just think if you do, be aware of what you stand for, and why. Personally, both democracy and Freedom of Speech are relative. I enjoy voting for my government here in the UK, and I enjoy writing this post here on Reddit (probably not possible in China), but I also believe in reason, as well as the “overall positive attitude and hopefulness of the majority Chinese people under the regime”. Ask any foreign person who has been or lived in China.
As for the Western game developer/publishers, including Blizzard, I think they should focus on the games first, not country. This is why Blizzard got so big in the first place in China, because it made good games. The “Cyberpunks” of today are probably being pirated somewhere in the even less developed world (this is also why gaming studios go online more and more, the potential player base is unimaginably massive), but just know: if you make good games, they will be your loyal paying players one day.
China is no longer pirating games, but the gamers know when a good game is a good game. The mobile gamers of China, too, want the quality of games that we get to play. I think censoring is ok, and every country has its own censorship (even here in the West), but don’t forget, make a good game first. Make the Lich Kings, the Deckerd Cains of today first.
If you are from China over the wall reading this, I want you to know: just be more confident in the culture, have some faith in its gaming community in the long term. Don’t boycott everything, the general public of the West don’t want China to be demolished all the time!
And if you are Tencent or NetEase, instead of bribing the officials in letting your shitty mobile version of everything through the Chinese internet, why not grow some balls. Put money in the long term gaming industry in the country, let the work do the talk. Sell the country and the culture through good games.
I know all of this is a fantasy, but this is how I feel.
Source: Original link
© Post "A Chinese take on this…" for game HearthStone.
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