Video game world trapped in Cold War mindset

By Chen Chenchen Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-31 0:18:01

China's ban on Battlefield 4: China Rising, a recent war simulation game designed by US company Electronic Arts, has stirred up interesting reactions back in the US.

While industry sources in the US generally point out the ban won't hurt the company much since they haven't yet targeted the Chinese audience primarily, game players and commentators complain that "modern military shooters have sort of run out of enemies these days," and that the rising China has become an easy alternative for Russia in filling the position of "villain."

Putting the official ban aside, the storyline of Battlefield 4 apparently did not mean to flatter the Chinese audience. It features a Chinese admiral plotting to overturn the government who then provokes a war with the US. The shiny American hero manages to end the chaos and slaughter lots of Chinese soldiers. A recent Forbes article says that Americans would be irate if the roles were reversed.

While the Chinese talk about improving the narratives about the nation abroad, their task is apparently very challenging. The stereotype of depicting China as an unstable and belligerent kingdom is far from fading away. But on the other hand, will repeatedly resorting to the tactic of stereotyping China benefit America's soft power in the long run?

It is interesting to compare the Chinese elements in US video games and Hollywood blockbusters. There is an argument that while the US gaming industry, which has not switched focus to the China market, risks offending the Chinese without much hesitance, Hollywood movies like Iron Man 3 already kowtow to Beijing's stupendous box office returns by squeezing in China-related plots. Nonetheless, as China will reportedly lift the ban on sales of video game consoles, along with the launching of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone earlier this year, the US gaming industry will likely follow suit.

Whether avoiding making China look bad or not, the deep-rooted mentality of American-style heroism - after all the messy battles between different political camps across this world, the US is always the one who saves the planet - mirrors the haunting Cold War legacy. It is hard to assess to what extent this Cold War trick can be sold to the general public, especially the younger generations who grow up under the offensive of Hollywood films and warmongering games. But there has to be negative side effects.

In 2007, the Association of Islamic Unions of Students released a video game named Special Operation 85: Hostage Rescue, in response to American game Assault on Iran.

Some Chinese thus suggest crafting China's own military online games, to deliver positive image of the nation. This is feasible, but not necessarily in response to US games using Chinese as the bogeymen, because Cold War-style tactics, no matter in reality or the virtual world, are not sustainable.

Posted in: Observer

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