With Chinese government censors guarding the gates of the world’s largest video game market, video game companies increasingly wanting to sell there must navigate harsh — and oftentimes confusing — rules to access the country’s estimated 560 million gamers, The Guardian reported.
The rules, both written and unwritten, can be punishingly difficult to navigate, according to The Guardian. While rules of thumb that include avoiding references to cults, superstition, and politically contentious topics might be easy to follow, other guidelines are fuzzy, such as one saying that video games mus not “endanger social morality or national cultural traditions,” the report reveals.
The fuzziness of the guidance is the point, according to The Guardian, and gives Chinese censors a wider berth on what they can restrict. Censors are also reportedly puritanical about games that include gambling, violence and nudity. A designer at Riot Games told The Guardian that exposed bones, skeletons, and realistic-looking blood need to be avoided, and to appease censors, video game companies will add flesh to bones and change the color of blood from red to black.
Many of these rules are learned through trial and error, since censorship restriction rules are often tacit, vague, and ever-changing.
In 2018, China’s State Administration of Press and Publication released new guidelines for video games after an eight-month ban on new game releases and has become harsher in regulating video game consumption, not just content.
In early July, Tencent — the world’s biggest video game publisher — began using facial-recognition technology to prevent minors from playing video games between 10 pm and 8 am The rule was born out of increasing concern over video game addiction and excessive video game consumption among Chinese youth.
Lokman Tsui, an expert on Chinese censorship, told the Guardian that the censorship rules are based in the central government’s sense of “moral paternalism.”
“They really see themselves as moral authorities – not just the authority on the truth, but also the authority on morality,” Tsui said to the Guardian.