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Chinese City Decides LARPers Are Next In Line For Government Censorship


from the let’s-set-some-concrete-rules-for-pretending dept

The Chinese government is being weird again. Most of this weirdness springs naturally(?) from its desire to suppress dissent and control the narrative.

That desire sometimes leads to bizarre outcomes, like the brief banning of the letter “N” on social media platform Weibo. The government’s concerns were related to online displeasure with Xi Jinping’s moves towards becoming president for life. The Communist Party removed the “no more than two consecutive terms” language from the law and the government believed the letter “N” might refer to “n terms in office,” with “n” possibly being a reference to more than two.

Another censorship effort led to the banning of certain English words in Chinese-developed mobile games. Not all English words, mind you. And not even the bad ones (you know the ones I mean). But words like “mission start” and “warning,” which are common gaming terms but also ones the government perceived as somehow threatening.

Speaking of intruding on the gaming world, the Chinese government took its direct regulation of all content up a notch by sending out online tax collectors to collect taxes on virtual goods owned by gamers.

Now, it’s moving from the online world to the real world, again targeting certain gamers for additional restrictions, hassles, and, one presumes, possible jailing. Granted, it’s not the entire government. It’s one city that appears to have had enough of unregulated live action role playing (LARPing) by its residents, as reported by Luo Meihan for Chinese state media outlet, Sixth Tone. (via Polygon)

Chengdu in southwestern China has become one of the first cities nationwide to introduce new rules governing the role-playing mystery gaming sector, as authorities have time and again accused the once-booming industry of promoting unhealthy content among young players.

The new rules for offline games including role-playing “script murder” games — or jubensha — and other interactive gaming venues now require local industry associations to publish “red and black lists” of “good and problematic scripts” involving pornography, violence, and vulgarity, among others. Meanwhile, minors are barred from participating in games deemed unsuitable for their age group and only allowed into gaming venues during weekends, national holidays, and summer and winter vacations.

Extensive rules governing extensive rule sets, all of it mostly affecting one sort of LARPing. It’s pretty difficult to hold a success “script murder” game without any violence. And without the government offering to take direct control of rating game content, it will be difficult for business owners to determine what is or isn’t appropriate for certain age groups. This, of course, might be made simpler by removing everything with the banned content, which will only leave games suitable for everyone (and likely interesting to nearly no one).

As Sixth Tone points out, Chengdu is not the first city to express concern about un-government-supervised role playing. Officials in the Liaoning province and Shanghai have begun to regulate this form of offline gaming, but the Chengdu government is the first to offer this much direct interference in residents’ fantasies.

Bland is the black red. Sixth Tone quotes a June survey that shows minors are far more interested in murder script games than adults, and even more interested when the story includes horror elements. This will basically leave the biggest fan base with nothing to purchase. And it appears to be the result of a government-generated moral panic — one based on unproven claims by two government agencies that these games led to long-term “mental and physical damage” to participants.

And, like various game-related moral panics generated by government officials, this one appears to vastly overstate the youth market for games with murder/horror content.

Li Min, who opened a Chengdu-based script murder business in January, told Sixth Tone that his store has stopped offering several sets with “unsuitable” scripts that are deemed to contain vulgar, horrific, and superstitious elements shortly after the central government’s June notice . He said his customers were largely aged between 20 and 35, with less than 1% under the age of 18.

So, Chengdu is making things worse for adult gamers in order to protect minors that appear to be largely uninterested in LARP murder simulators. And it’s punishing creators for (speculative) damage they’re not even causing because the market for their wares is a much older demographic.

This may be one of the most American things the Chinese government has ever done. The only difference is there’s no First Amendment standing in the way of government officials converting their “games are making kids violent” fantasies into reality.

Filed Under: censorship, chengdu, china, free speech, larp, ​​role playing


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