A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the dangers of Chinese censorship and the impact it will have on the gaming community. While I stand by my opinion, I also think that China’s emergence into the global games market will be a positive step forward for all of us.
As most of you know, China recently lifted its 13 year console ban, and Microsoft will launch a Chinese version of the Xbox One in September. After 13 years in relative isolation, Chinese gamers and developers are going to become a part of our global community, and that’s a wonderful thing.
It’s easy to be negative about China, but China is more than its government and it has a lot to offer the world. Here are some of the ways I think that China’s emergence will benefit us all.
Some serious history
Most Chinese can tell you that China has been around for 5000 years, and it can’t be denied that there’s a long history behind the Middle Kingdom. We all know the story of the Three Kingdoms, thanks to the umpteen versions of Dynasty Warriors, but China has way more to offer than just this snippet of history.
Have you ever heard of the Taiping Rebellion? Did you know it was one of the biggest wars in history and over 20 million people died during it. That’s more people that died in either of the World Wars! Do you know why? Because one man claimed to be the living brother of Jesus Christ, and was committed to creating a heavenly kingdom on earth. Tell me that wouldn’t make an awesome game.
What about naval battles; Assasin’s Creed IV and Assasin’s Creed: Black Flag made those cool again, so why not one of those games set in China? Did you know that one of the largest naval battles in history took place on a Poyang Lake in China. Over one hundred ships and 10.000 sailors fighting for one lake; who wouldn’t want to see that in action? In fact our very own Charlie Custer wrote a piece about a plot for a China-based Assasin’s Creed game, check the link below and see how awesome that sounds!
Or how about the Ching Shih, a female pirate who commanded 300 ships with a crew of around 40,000 pirates. She took on the Chinese, French and British navies and was known to the British as the “terror of the South China seas,” let’s see something based on her!
There’s so much here to explore, and let’s face it, we are all suckers for cool, historical heroes!
Legends and folklore
As is to be expected for a country of its size and history, China has some pretty epic myths and legends. Now we all know about the Monkey King, the Jade Emperor and the Chinese immortals, but there’s way more to it that just that. How about the Chinese bouncing zombies? That’s right, bouncing zombies and the only way to stop them is to stick a piece of paper on their heads.
What about Nian, the monster of legend which is the source of Chinese New Yea? Nian is a creature of darkness that emerges at the end of winter to terrorise families and devour a few unprepared peasants. The only way to scare it away is through fireworks and the color red. Know you know why Chinese let off fireworks by the dozen, drape their homes in red and insist on wearing crimson underwear throughout the new year period. Who wouldn’t want to see this terrible beast tamed?
Or finally how about the lady in red. The pissed of betrayed/murdered/suicided women who takes her revenge on the men who betrayed her, or on men in general. These are just a few of the thousands of mythical figures that haunt China; wouldn’t you like to see a few more of them in your games?
Are heroes more your thing? Then how about Hou Yi, the ancient Chinese answer to Hawkeye; he was banished from heaven for killing eight of the nine sun-birds, which is why we only have one sun these days. Hou Yi served the Chinese emperors as a legendary hero and his wife lives on the moon with a white rabbit. Seriously, this dude is way cooler than Kratos. Kratos would look like a porcupine after a run in with Hou Yi!
A challenge to western ideals
One of the most important things that China can do is challenge western ideals. Especially those ideals that have become so ingrained we have internalized them completely. China, for example, will not be endorsing Call of Duty style Americanism the way that Europeans do.
Over the last decade western gamers have gotten used to invading foreign countries in order to hunt terrorists/dictators/anonymous-bad-guys that we don’t really question it anymore. But China’s official policy is not to invade foreign countries (although some of its neighbors might protest it doesn’t always follow that rule). Don’t get me wrong, China has its Glorious Mission game and will always have a nationalistic stance of its own, but I would be intrigued to see how the two cultures clash and co-mingle.
I would love to see more games challenging the interventionist policies of western nations. It would be even better to see one focusing on the negative aspects of that turmoil; the death and carnage of the innocent that accompanies all wars. There’s definitely a good game in there, but it might take someone from outside the Western hemisphere to make it.
Another thing that western media has a habit of doing is whitewashing some of our nastier historical transgressions. For example, where are the games focusing on the horrors of Britain’s conquest of India, or the of the Opium War? They don’t exist because they would make western audiences uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s what we need: a good challenge and some outsider-inspired introspection. Of course, this is a two-way street; we could definitely stand to learn from each other.
These things can’t be accomplished without there being a large non-western game market, and China is on the verge of seizing that market. As China opens up in the next few years, it’s going to have a big impact on what is still a predominantly western-targeted industry. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of positives along with the negatives.