Battlefield 4 Hurts China's Feelings

Electronic Arts' Battlefield 4 has been out for some time now, but now it seems China's got a problem with its portrayal in the game. An opinion piece in China's patriotic military newspaper, Zhongguo Guofangbao, says that games such as BF4 portray China in a bad light and purposely mislead Chinese youth.

Now, here at Kotaku, we like China. We want the best for China, but sometimes China sets itself up for hilarity and it can't be helped that we end up making fun of the country. We wish that would change!

Previously, China's military news outlets have put out articles about the United States creating Spartan armour from Halo, used a deviantArt post as an example of Japanese military expansion, and called Guillermo Del Toro's love letter to giant robots and Kaiju a piece of US propaganda.

In this latest example, the writer seems to be taking the contents of the video game too seriously. The headline of the article basically says that the game is meant to sully China's good name across the world and mislead Chinese youth. Uh...

The latter statement is kind of funny since the game hasn't exactly been released in China and it doesn't seem like it will be any time soon; especially since China has a penchant for banning media that shows the country in a bad light.

Below are a few translated excerpts of the original article.

美军 t攻打中国上海,与解放军激烈交火?!这不是现实,而是游戏《战地4》中的剧情。这是一款第一人称射击游戏,以2020年中国国内局势动荡为背景,美军为了"争取和平,挫败阴谋",在中国闹市、近海以及山脉,和解放军激战。

American soldiers attack Shanghai, exchanging fire with the People's Liberation Army? ! This isn't real, but it's a game BF4. This first person shooter is set in the year 2020 where China's domestic unrest in China is used as the scenario, US soldiers use the values of "fighting for peace and thwarting conspiracies" to cause problems in China and to battle against the PLA.

Well of course it's not real... it's a video game.


《战地4》中描绘了一个妄想夺取政权发动政变的中国将军的反面形象,其中掺杂了不少不文明用语,再加上游戏中墓碑上出现的搞笑文字,使得这款游戏显得不伦不类。曾在中国旅居三年的美国玩家Dauid试玩后表示:"这款游戏让我感受到制作方用老眼光看待中国,这是不真实的。"

BF4 uses the political turmoil caused by a Chinese General as the main villain, and not only does the game have loads of uncivilised words and Chinese that makes zero sense, the game itself doesn't make sense. Dauid (David?), a US gamer who has lived in China for three years, says: "This game makes me feel that the makers still look at China with their old preconceptions, the game is very unrealistic."

I'm not sure if this Dauid person is real or not, but once again, it's a video game.

发出中国声音
中国公共外交协会副会长马振岗指出,面对目前西方舆论声势浩大的被动局面,我们仅办好自己的事、不给世界添麻烦的想法是远远不够的,我们必须学会抢占国际舆论的制高点,发出中国声音,争夺国际话语权。只有我们有能力向世界展现一个真实的中国时,我们才有机会消除外界对中国的误解、疑虑和偏见。前不久,某脱口秀中"杀光中国人"言论并引起美27个城市华人的游行抗议,最终使得电视台及主持人道歉。同时,要对那些涉及丑化中国形象的电脑游戏、影视作品予以抵制。EA公司2003年发行的《命令与征服:将军》就被禁止在中国内地销售。

Let China's voice be heard
China Public Diplomacy Association vice director Ma Zhengang suggests that to deal with western preconceptions of China, China should just continue minding China's own business and not cause trouble for the world. However, just minding our own business isn't enough. We need to rise up and share our China's voice; only we have the right and power to show the world a real China. Only we can dispel the world's misconceptions of China. Not long ago, a talk show said ,"Kill all Chinese People." This caused Chinese in 27 US cities to protest and the host had to apologise. We should also continue to resist video game media that puts China in a bad light like EA's 2003 game, Command & Conquer: Generals. That game was banned in China.

Wait... Command & Conquer: Generals?

The basic premise of the article was to stress the point that video games, while not real, portray China in a terrible light to foreigners and give Chinese youth an unrealistic impression of China. Which is kind of funny, since Chinese youth live in China. The article also goes back to the mainstay that Western media such as video games are tools of propaganda used to influence Chinese youth and give them Western values.

With all this talk hard talk about western propaganda and how Western games are detrimental to China, the most interesting thing seems to be the fact that the military paper is looking to express China's voice and "clear" China's image internationally. However, instead of following the sound advice of a public diplomacy expert to just be good and mind China's own business, the military paper supports the idea of banning content and creating new pro-China-centric games.

New China-centric games might be a good start, but all this jingoistic talk about how games make China look bad, and banning content might not be the best for China as a whole. Banning games creates a lack of competition from grade-A international development companies, which means Chinese game makers are pretty much just making games amongst themselves, which kind of lowers the bar for what passes as a grade-A game.

Making content that portrays China in a good light is positive, I'm all for it, but at the same time all of this rhetoric just makes me believe that the Chinese establishment isn't mature enough to take themselves a little less seriously. This sets up a double standard and a practice of hindering domestic creativity.

Of course, at the time of writing, Battlefield 4 is already available in China via the gray market, and hacked versions of the game are also available in Chinese internet cafes. The purpose of the Zhongguo Guofangbao article is kind of lost since Chinese are already playing the game—the real game at that!

扭曲事实误导青少年 国外游戏抹黑中国形象 [中国国防报 via Tencent]

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Eric is a Beijing based writer and all around FAT man. You can contact him @FatAsianTechie@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @FatAsianTechie.