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Tencent's new game shows how censorship rules are implemented in China

Screen captures from Game for Peace. The killed character would wave goodbye and blood was replaced with a spark of light. Image from Stand News.

A Chinese language version of this report was published on the Stand News on 8 of May 2019.

On May 8, China internet giant Tencent released a new mobile game entitled “Game for Peace” (和平精英) on Weibo.

On the same day, the original version of the game, “Player Unknown Battlegrounds”(PUBG 絕地求生), a web-based multiplayer battle royale game, was removed from the app store, after it was denied a commercial game license.

In 2017, Tencent had successfully obtained the right to release PUBG which was published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole in China. But the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) criticized the combat game for violating the “socialist core value” and harming youth.

In March 2018, regulators decided to stop issuing commercial operating licenses for all online and mobile games, effectively preventing most games from making a profit in the Chinese market. Some of these games, like PUBG, were released in non-commercial beta versions while waiting for their licenses to be approved.

Regulators began issuing game licenses again last month, and also introduced a new set of rules, which demand that all online and mobile games be aligned with socialist core values. The rules also prohibit the following types of content from all games available to players in mainland China:

  • religious elements
  • blood, whether it is red, blue or green in color
  • gambling elements such as Mahjong and poker
  • references to China’s imperial past
  • dead bodies
  • marriage between minors

The new regulation also compels game publishers to promote Chinese values, culture and images through their games.

The newly released “Game for Peace,” effectively a censored version of PUBG, is obviously in alignment with the new rules. It is a relatively positive game emphasizing peace, it is much less violent than its predecessor, and what would normally be blood now appears as a spark of light. The word “Killed” (擊殺)has been replaced with the word “Out” (淘汰). Once a player has been shot, instead of becoming a corpse covered with blood, the character waves his or her hand, signalling a friendly farewell.

The “Game for Peace” had already obtained its commercial operating license and Tencent stressed that the game's plot would focus on the theme of “anti-terrorist competition”.

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