EastSouthWestNorth covers some in-game political controversy going on massively popular online Chinese RPG "The Fantasy of the Journey West." Apparently a high-level player was placed in a virtual lockdown (in "The Great Tang Permanent Incarceration Prison") by the game's company Netease because of the name he gave his character and guild. The player's character was called "Kill the Little Japs", and his guild "The Alliance to Resist Japan."
Has Netease ever done something like this before? Yes, there is an online post from a Netease manager (at xyq.netease.com) about some historical precedents:
A guild known as "Triad Society" was dissolved. The manager does not remember the alias of the leader.
A guild known as "Al Qaeda" was dissolved. The leader had the alias of "I am bin Laden."
EastSouthWestNorth also points to an earlier story: "The Alliance to Resist Japan" apparently fomented in-game protests over what it perceived to be the graphic of the Japanese Empire's Rising Sun flag on the walls of a government building. Over 10,000 players gathered their characters in an area known as The Summer Palace in collective fury.
"To raise a 'Rising Sun flag' in a Great Tang government office is obviously a challenge and an insult!" said local game player Mr. Zeng angrily. Another game player Ms. Lu could not conceal her disappointment: "Even although everything in the game is virtual, our feelings are still genuine. This incident has seriously hurt our feelings. We find this unacceptable." According to game player Mr. Gu, many game players contacted the customer service line after the incident broke upon, but the other side only repeated: "No comment." Mr. Guo said that the word among the game players is that the "Rising Sun flag" is present in a Tang dynasty government office because some of the stock shares in this online game have been purchased by a foreign company.
Netease, however, claims the offending image was based not on the Japanese flag, but a Chinese painting called "Green Mountain Ocean Water Morning Sunrise," found historically in government offices, which was meant to remind officials to "always maintain a clear mind, never mistreat the people, never betray the nation."
Says Andrew Leonard at Salon on the whole matter: "Ponder how there is no escape from the crimes of history, no matter how immersive the virtual medium."
Japanese war atrocities in China during WWII have left a lasting impression, and in recent times have served as a rallying point for Chinese nationalism. In 2005, for example, China saw a wave of real-world anti-Japanese demonstrations in response to news that Japanese textbooks were whitewashing Japan's military history.
This isn't the first meeting of Chinese games and anti-Japanese patriotism. The China Communist Youth League developed a WWII-themed game called Anti-Japan War Online, which, according to a spokesperson, "will allow players, especially younger players, to learn from history. They will get a patriotic feeling when fighting invaders to safeguard their motherland."
Anti-Japanese sentiment is never far from erupting here. And it may be good for business. According to this article on 17173.com, a server group that normally sees 20,000 concurrent users was almost overwhelmed with 80,000 users during the protest.
News wires report that Radwan Kasmiya's Dar El-Fikr, maker of Arab games Under Ash and UnderSeige, plan a Civilization-style game that focuses on the history of the Muslim world:
Set to be released in September, "Al-Quraysh" is a strategy game that tells the story of the first 100 years of Islam's history from the viewpoint of four different nations - Bedouins, Arabs, Persians, and Romans.
One can choose to command any of the armies of the four nations or lead the army of the main character, Khaled Ibn Waleed, a Muslim warrior who defeated the Roman and Persian empires and never lost a battle. Or one can play the role of the Bedouin sheikh, who must earn the respect of his tribe. The player has the task of building and protecting trade routes and water sources, building armies, conducting battles, and freeing slaves.
"I get very embarrassed by the way we are showing our civilization," says Kasmiya. "There were rational laws that were governing Muslims at that time. This allowed this civilization to last for a long time and to accept the other civilizations that they came in touch with. It was not a conservative or sectarian civilization. But people have stopped taking the ideas behind the laws, and are taking the laws themselves. They do not understand the essence of the laws."
The game is set in New York City, where the Tribulation Force clashes with the Antichrist's Global Community Peacekeepers in a tale that makes the United Nations a tool for Satan. Each side attempts to recruit lost souls in the battle for the city. "Eternal Forces" is a so-called real-time strategy game — players act as battlefield generals for their virtual armies, deciding where to place units and when to order attacks or retreats.
In the game, Tribulation squads unleash the usual arsenal against the Antichrist: guns, tanks, helicopters. But soldiers lose some of their spirituality every time they kill an opponent and must be bolstered through prayer. The failure to nurture good guys causes their spirit points to drop, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment by the other side.
The player's choices prompt intervention by angelic forces or unleash demons who feast on the faithful. As players progress through the increasingly difficult levels, they see Scripture passages presented as secret scrolls and hear inspirational music.
In multiplayer games, participants can choose to command the Antichrist.
The LA Times also includes a mini history of Christian games (though how could they leave out the pioneering titles of Wisdom Tree?)
Even creepier, from Talk to Action:
If you happen to blow away a neutral party - and collateral damage is inevitable in the End of Days - then you will lose "Spirit Points". But you can power back up with merely a brief timeout for prayer, or by converting one of New York's terror-stricken citizens.
As I note in the book (pages 290-291 for those of you reading along at home), video games as they exist today do lend themselves well towards simplistic us-versus-them scenarios, and therefore propagandistic, nationalist and sectarian variants seem inevitable—white power games, anti-Israel Islamist games, go-USA military games, etc.
This is not only because the military model is so deeply ingrained in modern games' FPS roots: unlike cinema or literature, the format has not yet found ways to create advanced forms of sympathy, empathy or complex moral shading for its characters. Video game characters--including their protagonists--don't have convincing interior lives (Max Payne notwithstanding), even if they have ever-more convincing exterior appearances.
"Video games are quickly becoming the medium of choice for a new generation of consumers and Chrysler Group has been at the forefront of this exciting revolution," said Jay Kuhnie, Director - Jeep Communications, Chrysler Group. "By teaming with Electronic Arts and Medal of Honor Airborne, Jeep is celebrating its history while helping to take this medium to its next level."
“The Medal of Honor Airborne experience begins with unprecedented freedom of approach from the air. With the addition of the Willys Jeep, that freedom continues on the ground, on road and off, and in combat scenarios of all types." explained Patrick Gilmore, VP and Executive Producer at EALA. “This is the first time in any Medal of Honor game that a player will have the ability to drive a Willys Jeep, and we’re very excited to see this new addition increase the fun and intensity of the gameplay.”
"Perhaps I'm missing something," writes the Guardian's Keith Stuart, "but during my countless hours of playing
Battlefield,Medal of Honor and Call of Duty I have never at any single moment thought that the experience would be in anyway improved by the addition of licensed motor vehicles."