American McGee Sets the Record Straight on China's Game Policy

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tzimize:
I find it scary to read all the negative comments about the Chinese government on here. Sure, they are no saints (please point out a government that is...), but its pretty telling that so many just cannot see that a lot of the comparisons he makes to the US is quite spot on.

That's why there are so many negative comments. By comparing something people cherish (whether they're aware of it or not) to something they're told is scary and evil, especially if said comparisons are valid, is a surefire way to elicit kneejerk responses of "No way, we're the good guys, we'd never do anything like that!"

I'm English, and fully aware that my country is in many ways pretty messed up, and that we've done some terribly, terribly fucked up things over the years. However, there's still a reactionary, jingoistic part of my brain that will see a comparison to a country like China or the USA as an insult and start screaming at me "Don't listen, don't listen! Your country isn't as fucked up as those places!"

My best hope is that this little voice will die if I refuse to exercise it by, for example, going on forum threads to argue that my country is superior to other countries :-P

Double post, fucking captcha

American McGee:
The original article was sensationalist and factually incorrect. Or does that not matter to you because it's more fun to make jokes about me "working for China" and read stuff that reinforces your preset expectations about the world outside your borders? How dare someone ask you to stretch a bit!

What we see of China is what is reported in the news. That news is not always negative, but more often than not. Even things which aren't inherently bad - the recent handover of political power, for instance - are portrayed negatively on the basis that the values clash with the values we claim to have; keeping women out of power, retaining power within an old-boys network, and so on.

The fact that our own socieities tend to fail these values almost as badly as China does is an uncomfortable reminder that we don't practice what we preach on any meaningful level, so it's easier to point out someone else's flaws than confront our own. We can claim that anyone can potentially be President/Prime Minister, and on paper at least this is true, but in reality the barriers of entry tend to be so high that the average person could never achieve it. Campaign funding in the US, top-class schooling in the UK, our systems of succession are evolving to a point where they're as rigid as China's are.

Anyway, back on topic: interesting piece. I enjoyed the perspective. However, I note you didn't really address the idea of censorship of your own output - you say that if there are minor changes the Ministry requires, you make them, but what about major changes? How at-risk would you feel about producing a game which is openly critical of the government? Does it bother you that if you did want to make a statement about some aspect of your life in China which was less-than-rosy, it could land you in trouble?

Here's my thoughts on this...

Mister McGee appears either dismissive or ignorant of the existence of the criminal charge in china of "inciting subversion of state power".

In the US, sure, Games can be censored by the industry associations who aren't actually part of government. In China, make a game that suggests the Chinese Government has to change? Up to Five years prison. Five years and longer if the authorities deem your "subversion" was "monstrous". "You game might not be sold in stores" is miles away from "Your game might make you a political prisoner". Could something with a story line like "Spec Ops: The Line" ever have been made by a Chinese developer?

Additionally, Mister McGee is either dismissive or ignorant that foreign media producers who have had their products banned in China can and have had personal travel bans placed on them as well.

Further, I also note that a substantial amount of the "thriving Chinese Games Industry" is actually the South Korean games industry producing games specifically tailored for Chinese government approval. WeMade Entertainment, maker of China's biggest MMOs? Based in Seoul.

Please Mr McGee, your rebuttal?

So Homefront was available on PC as well.

Also; McGee says that western console games aren't available for sale in China then only a paragraph later talks about how his games are available in China. How does that work? In what universe is American McGee's Alice: The Madness Returns NOT a Western Game; Made in China or not, just like the iPhone it's not a Chinese product.

One final point though:

"That those regulations don't align with our expectations shouldn't invite words like "intolerant". This is just bad reporting. Who are we to dictate what's acceptable when it comes to content guidelines in countries other than our own? "

While that example is a logical extreme its irrelevant, your blanket statement invites such obvious criticism. Especially when you consider China's SUPER FANTASTIC AWESOME FUN TIME HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD. Now with 27% less free speech.

I know I'm not exactly popular in this thread, but after reading everyone's responses I'm pretty surprised to find it seems to be quite the even split on the people who believe negativity about China's policies (especially in regards to censorship) is justified and those who believe it's knee-jerk reaction and nothing more.

I still believe that it's wrong for a Western game developer to give an interview in which he does nothing but sing the praises of a section of the industry which we all know has it's problems. Mr. McGee, we here at the Escapist are not blind to the goings on around the world, we know about the issues in China, the only real news here was your own view on those situations, which frankly, sounded very apologetic. As I originally stated in my first post in this thread.

Don't misunderstand my argument though, I am not simply shouting "CHINA BAD!" I believe that it's our responsibility as free people on a free forum to discuss openly the issues of censorship in China and not to push them under a rug and shrug it off as "it's just the way they do things."

"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."
-Robert M. Hutchins

Let's talk about China's policies, let's not point fingers at each other because of differing opinions.

American McGee:
Seriously? We're talking about video game censorship and you guys take it to something horrible and unrelated like that little girl getting run over? You equate my article with defending *that*?!

This is exactly why I started off by saying that my initial reaction was to not respond at all... because people are largely unable to see past their preconceived notations and prejudices.

YES there are *bad things* about China. Guess what? There are *bad things* about all countries. Little girls getting run over - better or worse than little girl being blown up by drones? We could do this all day.

The original article was sensationalist and factually incorrect. Or does that not matter to you because it's more fun to make jokes about me "working for China" and read stuff that reinforces your preset expectations about the world outside your borders? How dare someone ask you to stretch a bit!

Welcome To The Escapist.
In all honesty, my comment was a joke. I too believe that i can't go past my own preconceptions of things without sitting down and actually being self criticial for a while , and all in all, i don't want to change my preconception about a country that is so Censorship happy.
Or rather is known as such. Besides, America censoring games with sex in them really doesn't bother me that much, because videogame sex has never proven to improve my immersion, rather it destroys it, so that's that.
But i'll still give China the benefit of the doubt. Nothing. Else.

Also, if you REALLY REALLY ARE AMERICAN MCGEE...I'm a huuuge fan of pretty much all your games, even the worst ones like Bad Day L.A. *Tries really hard to not sound like a creepy stalker fan*...Can i touch you?...Oh damnit!

ohnoitsabear:
I must say, this was an excellent read. Even though I don't have strong opinions on China (I simply don't know enough about the topic), it is still always nice to get a perspective that's different from what I normally see.

100% agree with this. I don't have enough knowledge on the subject, I am always appreciative of being presented with both sides of the arguments. No one tells the 100% truth, but there is always a little truth to both sides.

I can see that I am not the only one who detected deflections here.

China is not perfect but neither is country (x).

The tone of this interview seemed very wishy-washy to me. I'm not convinced that China is any less ruthless with their censorship based on what I have read here. This seems like something to take a face-value and move on.

I get the impression that day-to-day life in China is for many people quite similar to ours in the west. Yes, there is political corruption and a significant amount of censorship, but the "do work, get food, spend time with family, hang out with friends, etc" routine I imagine is largely unaffected.

Now, would I rather live there than Canada? No, and not just because I don't speak the language(s), but imagining the place as some kind of dreary hellhole of people getting whipped for slowing down on their 23-hour workday seems rather unfounded to me.

dangoball:
More like "welcome to the internet". Still, the Escapist ain't as bad as 4-chan, right?
...
Right?

We're working on it. Wait til the mods go to sleep for more.

American McGee:

Despite all the "bad" about China, one of the things I'm fascinated by is this interplay between a government that has to balance a desire for absolute control against a population it absolutely could NOT control if things got really out of hand. That drives a constant "negotiation" between people and power.

This isn't meant to be a defense of China's policies towards its minorities or the way it monitors and controls its internal communication. But I think it's important to keep in mind that information and freedom do find a way - and that things are constantly changing here - usually for the better (not hard to move towards better when things start our relatively bad).

I'm not sure about all the posters in this thread, but I am not under the impression that China, the country, is a bad place/thing. The government does however seem more repressive than many other countries, including the US/Euros.

Yes people will find a way. Even without the internet someone would have burned DVDs of games shipped in like cocaine from South America on 2 man sailboats. The point is that the government is actively trying to stop them. These Chinese folks on the internet are having to fight for their freedom to information. Until something big like this UN dominated Internet or SOPA go through, we here in the west don't have to worry about visiting whatever website we want, accessing nearly any content.

MikeWehner:

aceman67:
This just entire interview reeks of being coached by the Chinese government (based on McGee's responses).

If the Chinese government is spending resources to coach a game developer on how to respond to a list of questions that a game journalist sent via email... I think the country has bigger problems than anything discussed here. (Read: I think you've been watching too much Conspiracy Theory with host Jesse Ventura)

No, I just have an understanding on how China likes to control how the world perceives it when it can.

Ever hear of the Great Firewall of China?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfUOG0EA9w

China actively monitors and intercepts virtually all internet traffic that comes and goes from its shores. Emails included. This is a known fact.

So its not that hard to put two and two together and conclude that A) American was coached by a government official, or B) Self-Censored himself.

All in response to an email asking for his opinion on a article that condemned Chinese business practices when it relates to gaming.

Interesting interview. Thanks to McGee and Ryan Hughes (first page of this thread) for talking about their experiences in China. It is always interesting to hear about such things... just like reading the article this interview was a response to. When informing yourself about such things, actually listening to several sides and the experiences of different people is a good thing and helps actually thinking about the topics instead of being instantly persuaded by just one source.
Most other posters here? Really, go outside and cool off. You're way overreacting.

Sticking to the topic at hand, the issue of China attempting to alter games made in the US, I can see why Westerners might feel eager to jump to the conclusion that they are just a bunch of Orwellian villains that want to censor American media. I think it must be said that these conclusions tend to put blame entirely on China, when in fact it is the American publishers that are choosing to change their villains. I suspect this is not so much because they're afraid of China, but because they might want to do deals with China eventually and don't want that kind of venomous nonsense like Homefront or the new Red Dawn in the case of movies on their record.

As a baseball fan of the Baltimore Orioles, a small storyline this year was our star pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, a pitcher who was born in Taiwan and played in Japan before being signed on in Baltimore. Many of the announcers, baseball buffs who don't give two licks about international politics, called him Chinese and apparently the Chinese government cares so much about what regional baseball announcers say on air that they requested that Chen be called Taiwanese. Now keep in mind they weren't constantly talking about how Chinese Chen was, it was just mainly odd mentions at the beginning of the season, the same way announcers might talk about which parts of the US an American player comes from or with South American players. I believe this was the case with other Taiwanese players on other teams, as well. Eventually through the season they basically told the Chinese government where they could stick it, not that it was a big deal by that time, but they still called him Chinese whenever the issue came up.

So while on one hand it's easy to see why people might overreact to publishers making decisions that fit possible future and present business interests, it's also not hard to believe that China would try to influence our media in a direct way. If they want to change this perception, they have to work on changing their image like in the example above. Why should it be surprising that the government would tell game companies in the US what to do when it comes to their villains when they're trying to change what announcers say on regional sports television networks in the US?

hentropy:
Many of the announcers, baseball buffs who don't give two licks about international politics, called him Chinese and apparently the Chinese government cares so much about what regional baseball announcers say on air that they requested that Chen be called Taiwanese.

Just want to point out, that most Chinese people do not actually call Taiwan, Taiwan. They call the country and it's people, "Chinese Taipei."

Just as they refuse to acknowledge North and South Korea and refer to the country simply as Korea. (Due in part to China's continuous support of North Korea.)

Chinese people also refer to Tibet as 'Xizang' and consider the entire country a mere off-shoot of China. And they call China itself 'Zhonggou' which pretty much means "the center of the universe." Most Chinese people believe they have a God-given right to rule the world and I am NOT making that up. (Kinda wish I were.)

1.) Homefront was also released on PC and isn't just a 360/PS3 title. PC games have been released in the Chinese market place for some time now unless World of Warcraft made the jump to plug and play games.

2.) There was never any actual pressure from the Chinese government on Homefront. If American McGee had actually read the article and what Rob had said it was something the development team worried about and thus changes were made.

3.) The idea that other governments control certain markets doesn't excuse the great lengths the Chinese government goes to protect it's own image. This is like saying "Well my neighbor beats his kids so there's nothing wrong if I smack my wife around some right?" Wrong, both are wrong and neither should be accepted.

Also censorship should NEVER come from the government. Even if you can't enter the US market without an ESRB rating they don't have the right to outright ban a game, they can simply give it an AO (Adult Only) rating. Most retail outlets choose not to carry these products thus most developers avoid it to keep from limiting their market.

4.) Pixel sex isn't banned in the US, see the above talking about the AO rating and why developers choose to not go that route. This is a choice of the developer, not the government. In China there is no choice, it's simply the law.

5.) Funny how Alice: Madness Returns made it to retail despite being on the 360/PS3 yet for some reason Homefront couldn't even though it had a PC release as well. I think American McGee needs to do his homework next time before talking down to others.

Also again the difference between the ESRB and the Chinese government is that the ESRB simply ups the rating of your game if content exceeds certain standards while the Chinese government will flat out deny a game being released for content they deem too much for their population.

Again censorship should NEVER come from a government body.

6.) In the US I've never seen the ESRB threaten to pull business licenses from game developers, tell them how they have to market their games, what they can and can't charge for, and other things like that which can and do happen in China. It may not be as evil or harsh as Rob's article makes it out to be but that certainly doesn't mean that it is okay the lengths the Chinese government has gone when it comes to censorship.

7.) Again the difference between the US market and the Chinese market when it comes to development and releasing a title is that there are always other routes. No one is going to stop an Indie developer from working on a game and then using the internet as a means to distribute their game. In China on the other hand this small collection of companies have complete control over the market. With consoles banned outright in China that means even the PC falls under censorship making it impossible for small Indie developers to get their product out there by whatever means they can.

Comparing this to the entry cost of developing for the PS3 or 360 is utterly ridiculous because there are other options. In China there are no other options.

8.) The ESRB doesn't outright tell companies they can't release games at retail and also doesn't control the digital space like I mentioned earlier with Indie developers. If I felt like developing a game in my spare time I could release it from my own personal website or through other sources without having to go through the ESRB. Flash games aren't rated online but in China these types of games will be reviewed and if they are deemed "unsafe" for the masses they get the boot until they conform.

What's wrong with superstitions and cults in video games and media? They are often portrayed as the villain and you don't exactly see games releasing encouraging people to join cults. Something like Slenderman would never be released in China due to the superstition fears despite it being a very effective horror game.

Personal opinions don't make something bad for people.

9.) How are Chinese gamers going to know about a title that can't be released in their country? Who is American McGee to speak on behalf of Chinese gamers? Also stop comparing a government run body to the ESRB because the ESRB has no government affiliation so stop comparing the two.

Also what does revenue streams have to do with this? I couldn't tell you how much any game out there has made but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in those titles. You're comparing apples to drywall here Mr. McGee.

Oh yea and I love the little insults directed at the Homefront developers, Rob, and even the average American gamer when it comes to our attention span. People might not agree with the US being portrayed as the bad guys but I can assure you the US government isn't going to step in to stop it from releasing nor with the ESRB. Instead the product would be released to market and the people could then decide for themselves what they think about it instead of a small group of individuals deciding what is right and wrong for EVERYONE.

10.) No not all of our skeletons will have to put on flesh because there is still the ability to release games in the US and in other regions without having to go through a rating process thanks to the internet and it being uncensored. Regardless of how big the Chinese market gets their censorship laws only apply there which doesn't allow consoles so I doubt those will see much censoring no matter how much China wishes those skeletons had flesh.

Art Salmons:
Hey American McGee: I've got a brilliant idea. Let's take a bunch of fairy tale characters.... but make them CORRUPT AND EVIL! Wow, nobody ever thought of that before. We'll make billions.

Shh, dude, shut up, Tim Burton will hear you aaaaand it's too late.

aceman67:

MikeWehner:

aceman67:
This just entire interview reeks of being coached by the Chinese government (based on McGee's responses).

If the Chinese government is spending resources to coach a game developer on how to respond to a list of questions that a game journalist sent via email... I think the country has bigger problems than anything discussed here. (Read: I think you've been watching too much Conspiracy Theory with host Jesse Ventura)

No, I just have an understanding on how China likes to control how the world perceives it when it can.

Ever hear of the Great Firewall of China?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfUOG0EA9w

China actively monitors and intercepts virtually all internet traffic that comes and goes from its shores. Emails included. This is a known fact.

So its not that hard to put two and two together and conclude that A) American was coached by a government official, or B) Self-Censored himself.

All in response to an email asking for his opinion on a article that condemned Chinese business practices when it relates to gaming.

If you actually think the Great Firewall does anything, you clearly don't have an understanding on how China likes to control how the world perceives it. I'm guessing you learned about it through Wikipedia?

Anyone with half an education / brain in China bypasses it through a VPN. I interned at a major English-language Chinese paper two summers ago (one might say, the major English-language Chinese paper), and at the time I exchanged plenty of emails making fun of Chinese policies with friends back at home (in the US). No one in China cared.

Honestly, China's ability to actually control information is pretty poor. They mostly just use state-controlled papers to publish subtly pro-government - or more commonly, anti-US - articles, but to think they're actually organized enough to pick up an email asking for someone for comment (which journalists send all the time, to everyone. I doubt American McGee was even the only developer who was asked for comment, unless Mike happens to know him as a contact), and then coach a response, is just absurd. Like, FOX news conspiracy theory absurd.

AldUK:

hentropy:
Many of the announcers, baseball buffs who don't give two licks about international politics, called him Chinese and apparently the Chinese government cares so much about what regional baseball announcers say on air that they requested that Chen be called Taiwanese.

Just want to point out, that most Chinese people do not actually call Taiwan, Taiwan. They call the country and it's people, "Chinese Taipei."

Just as they refuse to acknowledge North and South Korea and refer to the country simply as Korea. (Due in part to China's continuous support of North Korea.)

Chinese people also refer to Tibet as 'Xizang' and consider the entire country a mere off-shoot of China. And they call China itself 'Zhonggou' which pretty much means "the center of the universe." Most Chinese people believe they have a God-given right to rule the world and I am NOT making that up. (Kinda wish I were.)

Actually, no. The term "Chinese Taipei" is mainly only used during international sporting events when they want to differentiate themselves from the PRC, as there was pressure to ditch the name "Republic of China" because it was considered to uppity and presumptive. China was a little peeved over the baseball issue because they didn't consider Chen Chinese because he wasn't part of what they saw as the legitimate Chinese government because he was from Taiwan.

And 中国, "Zhongguo", does not mean "the center of the universe", it simply means central (中) kingdom, or country (国). This is because at one time they really were the central kingdom in the known world, with Korea and Japan off to the east, various water and islands off to the south, India and Persia to the southwest and west, and Mongolia to the north. Just as Japan is sometimes dubbed the "land of the rising sun" because they are to the east of China and the sun rises in the east. Most Chinese people don't believe they are the rightful rulers of the world, they are just people trying to live from day to day like most people in the world.

AldUK:

hentropy:
Many of the announcers, baseball buffs who don't give two licks about international politics, called him Chinese and apparently the Chinese government cares so much about what regional baseball announcers say on air that they requested that Chen be called Taiwanese.

Just want to point out, that most Chinese people do not actually call Taiwan, Taiwan. They call the country and it's people, "Chinese Taipei."

Just as they refuse to acknowledge North and South Korea and refer to the country simply as Korea. (Due in part to China's continuous support of North Korea.)

Chinese people also refer to Tibet as 'Xizang' and consider the entire country a mere off-shoot of China. And they call China itself 'Zhonggou' which pretty much means "the center of the universe." Most Chinese people believe they have a God-given right to rule the world and I am NOT making that up. (Kinda wish I were.)

Jeez, what part of China do you live in? Zhonggou literally means middle-country, but China hasn't had any territorial ambitions outside regional hegemony since...ever. The Chinese don't give a shit about taking over the world; that's just an absurd notion likely propagated by hawkish elements of American media. You know, kind of like everyone thought the USSR wanted to take over the world back in the Cold War. In reality, both nations actually had/have no ambitions for world domination; rather, they accuse Western nations of having that ambition, and construct an "our nation is under siege from foreign powers" narrative to keep their citizens from challenging the domestic government.

Chinese people don't refuse to call Taiwan "Taiwan" or refuse to acknowledge South Korea, what a ridiculous notion. This might come as a surprise to you, but most people (outside the military and some members of government) don't care enough about politics to even bother doing anything like that. Most people I've talked to in Shanghai and Nanjing are pretty apathetic about politics; they really just want to get rich.

AldUK:

Thyunda:
You, however, don't appear to have any primary sources to back yourself up. From your words I haven't been able to identify any role in the industry or in China in any way. What I see is a person whose knowledge of China comes from reading other second and third sources. You've been told that China doesn't censor videogames any worse than the ESRB does, and your reply was "China censors all media to control its people." You were told that China's cultural office was ridiculously demonised in terms of the videogame industry. You replied "They run little girls over." Before you accuse my arguments of being provocation and mockery, re-read your own posts. At least mine were ironic.

Girlfriend of 3 years is Chinese, I've been over there with her 4 times. Her family are great people, most people I met over there were, but we were far away from the cities and everyone I talked to told me stories about how the 'city people' have no morals and don't care about anything but the next paycheck.

Don't make baseless assumptions about me. I'll do you the same courtesy.

Hmm, now that I've read this comment, that could be why there's a tremendous difference in our apparent perception of China. I too have been to China four times (over the past eight years. Fascinating how different it is each time, in terms of urban development), but only to major cities. Your negative stereotype of China may stem from the fact that you only associated with, ahem, ignorant peasants, while I was able to speak with the more educated, enlightened denizens of Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing. Maybe in the countryside, such backwards notions like being in the "center of the universe" or "South Korea doesn't exist" are more common. Comes with being uneducated, you know.

Obviously I'm half joking, but it really could be due to differences in education standards and exposure to Western culture, both of which counter the effect of government propaganda.

And yeah, people in cities care about becoming financially successful, and they have an inordinate desire to acquire fashion goods (like Apple products), but I fail to see how that makes them immoral.

hentropy:
Actually, no. The term "Chinese Taipei" is mainly only used during international sporting events when they want to differentiate themselves from the PRC, as there was pressure to ditch the name "Republic of China" because it was considered to uppity and presumptive. China was a little peeved over the baseball issue because they didn't consider Chen Chinese because he wasn't part of what they saw as the legitimate Chinese government because he was from Taiwan.

And 中国, "Zhongguo", does not mean "the center of the universe", it simply means central (中) kingdom, or country (国). This is because at one time they really were the central kingdom in the known world, with Korea and Japan off to the east, various water and islands off to the south, India and Persia to the southwest and west, and Mongolia to the north. Just as Japan is sometimes dubbed the "land of the rising sun" because they are to the east of China and the sun rises in the east. Most Chinese people don't believe they are the rightful rulers of the world, they are just people trying to live from day to day like most people in the world.

dyre:
Jeez, what part of China do you live in? Zhonggou literally means middle-country, but China hasn't had any territorial ambitions outside regional hegemony since...ever. The Chinese don't give a shit about taking over the world; that's just an absurd notion likely propagated by hawkish elements of American media. You know, kind of like everyone thought the USSR wanted to take over the world back in the Cold War. In reality, both nations actually had/have no ambitions for world domination; rather, they accuse Western nations of having that ambition, and construct an "our nation is under siege from foreign powers" narrative to keep their citizens from challenging the domestic government.

Chinese people don't refuse to call Taiwan "Taiwan" or refuse to acknowledge South Korea, what a ridiculous notion. This might come as a surprise to you, but most people (outside the military and some members of government) don't care enough about politics to even bother doing anything like that. Most people I've talked to in Shanghai and Nanjing are pretty apathetic about politics; they really just want to get rich.

I've already said that I don't live in China, nor do I get my information from Wikipedia or 'American' news. My statements are based on my own research and experiences, not to mention international news and accepted education.

I know full well that your average Chinese person does not care about boundaries or has delusions of grandeur in terms of vaulted national opinion. I know this because I've met a lot of normal Chinese people and got on very well with them. However, the official governmental stance in China both on China itself and surrounding countries is, I can assure you, accurate. Chinese officials do not accept Taiwan, Tibet or a divided Korea. These are facts, not fiction, not overblown propaganda.

And as for the word Zhonggou, yes it means 'central kingdom' but not in the way you describe. Zhonggou is not just a word, it's a philosophy, one that preaches a national identity as the sole most important nation on this world. Take your own advice and don't just read Wikipedia for this, I know I am not wrong, because I've witnessed this attitude first hand.

DemonCrim:
Why anyone would want to defend China's policies is beyond me. Maybe I'm just spoiled living in the US but China in my mind is a dirty underdeveloped prison forcing their people to work in terrible condition for little to no pay. Forcing women to either to have an abortion or pay a massive fine meaning having more than two children in that country is the luxury of the rich. Lets not forget the great firewall of China, and yet companies flock to China to have all their stuff made and politicians try to buddy up with China. But hey I guess you don't really need a moral compass in either of those jobs...

Manufacturers flocks to China because it's pretty hard to compete with Chinese peasant slave labor. One might wonder why their people put up with it but then again, Police State. The lucky ones are sent to "Political Reeducation" camps. The less fortunate are prone to kidnapping and torture by the local authorities or "Disappear" entirely.

As Yan Sun put it, "If the Party executes every official for corruption, it will overdo a little; but if the Party executes every other official for corruption, it cannot go wrong."

AldUK:

I've already said that I don't live in China, nor do I get my information from Wikipedia or 'American' news. My statements are based on my own research and experiences, not to mention international news and accepted education.

I know full well that your average Chinese person does not care about boundaries or has delusions of grandeur in terms of vaulted national opinion. I know this because I've met a lot of normal Chinese people and got on very well with them. However, the official governmental stance in China both on China itself and surrounding countries is, I can assure you, accurate. Chinese officials do not accept Taiwan, Tibet or a divided Korea. These are facts, not fiction, not overblown propaganda.

And as for the word Zhonggou, yes it means 'central kingdom' but not in the way you describe. Zhonggou is not just a word, it's a philosophy, one that preaches a national identity as the sole most important nation on this world. Take your own advice and don't just read Wikipedia for this, I know I am not wrong, because I've witnessed this attitude first hand.

Yeah, but you probably witnessed it in some backwards uneducated area of China, or from some official spouting what he thought was the party line (which incidentally is more about economic growth and stability than world domination). I can tell you for a fact that attitude simply does not exist in Shanghai. As someone who worked with a Chinese "propaganda" paper, I can tell you that the government wants to convey a few main points...

- China is developing quickly in terms of economic growth, technology, and standard of living
- The US / its puppets want to interfere with China's growth in those regards, as well as China's territorial sovereignty
- Basically, you (the regular citizen) must continue to support the Chinese government in order to keep promoting growth, and because we must stay united in the face of American imperialist ambitions.

I like how you changed your argument subtly from "most Chinese people" to "official government stance" though. We're making progress, at least.

dyre:
*snip*

No, I didn't learn about it from Wikipedia, or anywhere on the internet. I learned it in my Network Admin class in College (I have my Cisco certification) when were covering the history of network infrastructure, and China is a prime example.

Has for how China operates, I learned that from my father whose retired Canadian Military (who's trade was Digital Communications and Encryption).

So, kindly as possible, don't jump to conclusions, I do know what I'm talking about.

aceman67:

dyre:
*snip*

No, I didn't learn about it from Wikipedia, or anywhere on the internet. I learned it in my Network Admin class in College (I have my Cisco certification) when were covering the history of network infrastructure, and China is a prime example.

Has for how China operates, I learned that from my father whose retired Canadian Military (who's trade was Digital Communications and Encryption).

So, kindly as possible, don't jump to conclusions, I do know what I'm talking about.

Very well, I apologize. But while you may have a good knowledge of the technical aspect of the Great Firewall, I don't think you're completely aware that its practical implementation is only half-successful.

I've worked in China, with plenty of Chinese journalists, and the government there is just not organized or dedicated enough to censor things to a personal level (like, intercept an email to some game developer from The Escapist and then dictate his response). I know China has an aura of a Cold War, Stalin-era government where the party is in complete control, but in reality, pretty much none of the officials really give a shit about the government; they're just part of the bureaucracy and likely profiting greatly from it thanks to corruption. As a result, while something like the Firewall could potentially be used to truly control all inflow and outflow of information, in practice, it's pretty damn ineffective because no one cares enough to put in the effort to make it effective.

Plus, I'm not sure the Chinese really have a proper grasp of American media anyway.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20518929
Either that, or it's a result of the journalists at People's Daily just being too lazy because they don't really value their work at a state-sponsored propaganda paper.

aceman67:

MikeWehner:

aceman67:
This just entire interview reeks of being coached by the Chinese government (based on McGee's responses).

If the Chinese government is spending resources to coach a game developer on how to respond to a list of questions that a game journalist sent via email... I think the country has bigger problems than anything discussed here. (Read: I think you've been watching too much Conspiracy Theory with host Jesse Ventura)

No, I just have an understanding on how China likes to control how the world perceives it when it can.

Ever hear of the Great Firewall of China?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWfUOG0EA9w

China actively monitors and intercepts virtually all internet traffic that comes and goes from its shores. Emails included. This is a known fact.

So its not that hard to put two and two together and conclude that A) American was coached by a government official, or B) Self-Censored himself. And
All in response to an email asking for his opinion on a article that condemned Chinese business practices when it relates to gaming.

The Chinese government certainly restricts its citizens access to the web, but do you honestly believe the government has the manpower to monitor every email sent in a country with about 400 million Internet users?

And keeping a population of 1.3+ billion happy is no mean feat, they are not going to give a shit about one Western game developer talking about life there.

dyre:
I like how you changed your argument subtly from "most Chinese people" to "official government stance" though. We're making progress, at least.

I did no such thing. When I said 'most Chinese people' I was refering to the cultural attitudes and national identity, tied in with the philosophy of 'Zhonggou.'

As for the official Chinese government, that was in regards to the way China views it's neighbours.

Stop attempting to discredit my argument in such a petty way. The 'backwards uneducated peasants' I have met included a retired university professor, a manager at a local power plant and a political commentator. (Chinese, but living in England, for obvious reasons, which funnily enough, actually pertain to this thread.)

AldUK:

dyre:
I like how you changed your argument subtly from "most Chinese people" to "official government stance" though. We're making progress, at least.

I did no such thing. When I said 'most Chinese people' I was refering to the cultural attitudes and national identity, tied in with the philosophy of 'Zhonggou.'

As for the official Chinese government, that was in regards to the way China views it's neighbours.

Stop attempting to discredit my argument in such a petty way. The 'backwards uneducated peasants' I have met included a retired university professor, a manager at a local power plant and a political commentator. (Chinese, but living in England, for obvious reasons, which funnily enough, actually pertain to this thread.)

Um, I don't think you can really blame me for reading this quote

AldUK:

Just want to point out, that most Chinese people do not actually call Taiwan, Taiwan. They call the country and it's people, "Chinese Taipei."

Just as they refuse to acknowledge North and South Korea and refer to the country simply as Korea. (Due in part to China's continuous support of North Korea.)

the way I read it. I'll give you the benefit of doubt and assume from now on you meant a cultural phenomena, but rest assured, even if China's "national identity" involves claiming to own Taiwan, it's not a national identity that anyone cares about. The Chinese public will never demand that the government act on that national identity; for the most part they're just not particularly patriotic.

I have never come across that Zhonggou attitude you claim to exist. Maybe it's a movement of a minority of outspoken idiots, like the Tea Party? The people I've spoken to include journalists at Xinhua and China Daily, a retired general, several mid to high ranking business executives, and a Ministry of Culture official in Nanjing, all living in China. I'm pretty sure if that philosophy was at all popular among the educated class, I would have picked up on it.

On the government stance regarding its neighbors, the Chinese government is interested in regional hegemony, but no further. They're pretty similar to the USSR in that regard, except they've dropped the pretense of supporting "revolutions around the world." I guess the other thing that makes China's desire for regional hegemony a little different from the Soviet Union's is that the Chinese claim to have some historical right to some lands.

Is it so hard to separate China's game policy stances from China's government and China's good and bad decisions? Name me a perfect country that has never made hasty and ill-planned decisions or had knee-jerk overreactions to sections of their own populace.

We're living in an age where information and knowledge and views are so widely available, yet we get so narrow-minded when confronted with something strange, foreign, and different than our own ways of thinking. We wish for all things to conform to our illustrious standards and damn those who disagree with our views, as if we're saints and they're pure evil.

Ultimately, government is merely people, and people are inherently flawed. It does bother me that people in America put their foot down and refuse to see anything but the bad in other countries that aren't themselves. We have all the means to engage each peoples and cultures and develop insight and understanding towards each other, yet we choose to be ignorant and unilaterally condemn any government that fails to align with our belief system.

Hi Mr. McGee, I'm Robert Rath, the author of "The China Syndrome." I'm glad that you took the time out of your schedule to respond to my column--part of the reason I started writing Critical Intel in the first place was to foster more discussion about how games interact with the world, especially internationally. This is why I've written on everything from the depiction of the Mexican Cartel War, to Ubisoft's use of history in Assassin's Creed, to conflict minerals in console manufacturing, and it's why I wrote about companies altering their products to access the Chinese market.

While I disagree with your assessment of that particular column, I'm very glad that international game development is being discussed in any context, even if it's at my expense. As an industry figure, it's important that someone of your stature speaks about your experiences as a Chinese-based game developer, since it's a valuable part of the discussion of international game policies and localization.

In fact, I wish you had contacted me directly, since I would've gladly featured your opinions on "The China Syndrome," unedited and in full, in a follow-up Critical Intel column. I've never claimed to be the final authority on any issue, and I hope to revisit topics covered in Critical Intel months or even years down the road as those topics change and evolve. I fundamentally believe that more information is better than less--and even more crucially--that several perspectives are better than one.

That said, I would like to point out a few things in your interview that misstated or misrepresented what I said in my column. I feel confident that these misrepresentations were accidental on your part, and probably stem from your personal passion for the topic and the fact that there was likely a period of time between you reading the column and discussing it here.

For example, you characterized my example of Homefront as a "straw man" argument I based on a Kotaku article, and claim that my column said the Chinese government "pressured" THQ. Consider the quote:

American McGee:
AM: Before getting to your questions I need to first knock down the Homefront straw man. It appears the writer used this piece from Kotaku as his source. First off, Homefront was never intended to sell to a Chinese audience. There was no "pressure" from the Chinese government. And being a 360/PS3 game, it isn't allowed for sale in China, regardless of content - just as all 360/PS3 games are banned from sale in China and have been for 10+ years.

Next, the suggestion that the "exec team will be banned from entering into China" is ridiculous. As if some Chinese government department spends time researching which Western videogame (which only sell in the West) might offend and then links publisher executives to the title and bans those executives from entering the country? This would be akin to the ESRB (yes, I know it's not a government agency, but you can't go to retail in the US without it) maintaining a list of which Japanese developers participated in the creation of Japanese-only "Schoolgirl Up-Skirt Mosquito Adventure" and ask the TSA to ban them from entering the US.

You are indeed correct that I used the Kotaku article as a source for a quote about the development of Homefront. However, I never asserted that the Chinese government exerted pressure on THQ. In fact the whole point of the article is that western companies (both in the game and film industries) make voluntary changes to their material early in the development process in order to excise material they perceive will get their content banned by the Ministry of Culture. That's very different from claiming the Chinese government pressures them.

Likely, this concern on the part of THQ executives came from a period in the 1990s when China broke off business ties for several years with major film companies over movies critical of the Chinese government such as Red Corner, Seven Years in Tibet, and Kundun. In the last two examples, members of the cast and crew including Brad Pitt and Martin Scorsese were, in fact, banned from entering China for their participation in these films. Now I'm not claiming the Chinese government would've banned THQ executives from entering China--I found that a little farfetched myself, and probably could've contextualized that quote better--but that assertion was not mine, and came from a quote from an employee at THQ's now-defunct subsidiary Kaos Studios. Therefore, even if their executives wouldn't get banned in actuality, THQ at least had a perception that they might based on past behavior by the Chinese government. Now we can have a discussion about whether this fear was realistic or not, and discuss whether or not western companies are making business decisions based on a dated view of Chinese government policies (Seven Years in Tibet and Kundun were fifteen years ago, after all) but that's different than saying the incident doesn't merit discussion.

In addition, I'd like to challenge your assertion that my piece was not well researched. While I sourced a single quote from Kotaku, I also linked articles and text from the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, China Daily, Variety, Forbes, Reuters, the Chinese Ministry of Culture website, and the Chinese General Administration of Press and Publications website. These links were only a fraction of my research, which also included material from the BBC, NPR, South China Morning Post, Amnesty International, CBS News, and a report on North Korea's military capabilities prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency. By only engaging with the Kotaku example, you've unintentionally created a perception that I don't thoroughly research my articles. Part of my founding mission with Critical Intel has been to source good information from reputable outlets both inside and outside the game industry, and I stand by my work in that regard.

Separately from the discussion about research, I'd also like to address your claim that I called Chinese regulations "intolerant." See the quote below:

American McGee:
The Chinese have regulations - same as most places in the world. That those regulations don't align with our expectations shouldn't invite words like "intolerant". This is just bad reporting. Who are we to dictate what's acceptable when it comes to content guidelines in countries other than our own? [My emphasis.]

I confess I'm a little puzzled by this statement, since after re-reading "The China Syndrome," and performing several searches on both the published text and drafts, I have not found any use of the word "intolerant." My suspicion is that you misremembered or misread this detail, or misspoke and meant to claim that the general tone of the article cast the Ministry of Culture as intolerant. That's an understandable mistake, but I admit a certain frustration at having a word attributed to me when it's easy to verify that I never used it.

As for the tone of the column, I can only request that you read it again. While allowing that I don't know everything about bringing western games to the Chinese market, I stand by it and believe it holds up to scrutiny. In my view the tone is fair, and I made every effort to shy away from sensationalism. While I realize the text does not reflect your personal experiences in dealing with the Ministry of Culture, I would like to suggest that the type of games Spicy Horse makes are generally set in fantasy worlds, apolitical in nature, and are unlikely to confront the same issues as Homefront or even Football Manager 2005, which was banned for depicting Tibetan and Hong Kong national teams.

Again, I value your perspective on this topic and I'm glad you freely expressed your opinion, but I suggest that what's happening here isn't me pushing an agenda or being ill-informed, but that the two of us have a difference of opinion. I believe, based on the evidence I collected, that game developers and filmmakers alter their content to avoid the MoC bans that have affected other games and movies in the past. You believe this is not a concern based on your experiences dealing with the MoC. Basically, we hold differing positions that aren't even necessarily incompatible, since it's entirely possible that game developers change their games based on fears that, as you suggest, may be unfounded. Does the MoC engage in trade protection to help Chinese products? Absolutely. However, it's also undeniable that the MoC reacts with hostility toward games and movies that blacken the image of China or contradict territorial claims to Tibet and Taiwan. I still assert that banning games with political content is not trade protection, it's censorship, and that this has led to instances of self-correction by western game developers who wish to access the Chinese market. Whether that's a bad thing or not is up to the readers to debate and decide--I see some positives, the curbing of anti-China xenophobia for instance--and my only agenda in writing "The China Syndrome" was to point out that this self-correction occurs.

Despite our difference of opinion, I really want to thank you for reading Critical Intel, Mr. McGee. Nothing could make me happier than seeing my column provoke discussion on international issues, especially when it comes from someone with a different perspective. As I mentioned before, part of Critical Intel's mission is to showcase different points of view on a topic. I fundamentally believe that more information is better than less--and even more crucially--that several perspectives are better than one.

Best regards,
Robert Rath

PS: Loved Alice.

Robert,
Thank you for the personal response on the topic. Truth is I'm not certain we have a difference of opinion since most of what we're talking about is based on facts about Chinese regulation and censoring of media. No denying those things exist and should be labeled "bad". Where we differ is in how we choose to portray that reality to the outside world. You obviously know quite a bit about the issues surrounding censored Western media (games or film) in China - but you used that information to write what is, in my opinion, a sensationalist article which appeals to your audience's fear about a place they know only as "the next USSR" (if they listen to the mainstream news in the US.)

If your article, my response and these forum posts have done anything, it's remind me that most people aren't willing to let go their fear and prejudice - that they feel more comfortable with reinforcing their ideas about the world as opposed to reshaping them based on new information or input. Even when that new information points towards a better world. That might be one reason why writing in this tone is so effective.

You say your only agenda in writing "The China Syndrome" was to point out that self-correction occurs. One of my main points in responding was to say that things here simply aren't as dark as they are made out to be in your article. And that's because another form of self-correction is also occurring. It's POSITIVE self-correction that I wish we'd all pay more attention to - not just in China, but in the world at large. Then again, there's a reason the nightly news doesn't feature stories about things getting better. Bad news sells.

Regarding 'intolerant' - that word was in the questions sent to me from the writer (editor?) at The Escapist. He asked questions, quoted your material and I responded. His word, not yours. But the fact that he used the word in the first place is partly what's at issue here - what YOU write matters because it drives people's perceptions and might result in someone saying "intolerant" (uncertain if that's the case here.)

You are splitting hairs on "pressure" vs. "perceive".

Your research is solid - apologies for making it sound otherwise. I guess my main issue isn't the quality of the research but the tone of the article in general. Two very different things.

And I did read it again for tone, and I still think it's more negative than is warranted. But who am I do censor you!?

Happy we could all dive into this discussion. And I'm more than happy to continue contributing what I can to the topic of game development in China and the politics surrounding such. I think Western gamers owe it to themselves to know more about the topic since such a HUGE % of the gaming content they consume actually comes from China (all the major publishers outsource AAA console content to China.)

Not sure how much more time I can spend on this particular thread as we have several major product launches happening these days. Thank you, everyone, for the interesting discussion - especially Robert for getting it started. Any follow up questions, insult flinging or burning issues, feel free to email me: american (at) spicyhorse.com

I am living in China now. These are some of the gamer culture habits I have noticed.

It is impossible to talk about gaming in China without mentioning Tencent, a company that controls the largest chat program "QQ". Everyone, I mean EVERYONE in China uses it. Through this program and it's addons - many of which are games that encourage micro-transactions, Tencent has strengthened it's oligopoly on the chat/gaming scene.

Many young people (below 18) do NOT game very much at all. This is because study IS the most important part of a young persons life here. You must study hard ALL the time. Youth here live and breathe study, gaming detracts from test scores so is actively discouraged.

Casual gaming is the norm, phone apps and games are by far the most common, and are generally paid for. IF you want to talk about 'Gamer' games, most are bought fake on the street for $1, even the 'real' copies are usually fake. So this means western companies don't make much money from the 'shop' sales. Again, revenue needs to be generated from in-game content/micro-transactions, (should you want to break into the Chinese market).

Console games are indeed banned in China, however there is a grey market where you can buy/sell games and PS3's etc from shops.

I think a big obstacle is the corporate attitudes towards IP theft, I do not refer to using things unpaid for, but taking them and passing them off as their own. This occurs in all industries, making an environment where companies do not bother spending money on R&D, new IP because as soon as you sell it others z will copy and make it as their own.
The governments attitude (towards all things, not just games) is the same, especially when it comes to foreign companies. ALL of the large internet companies are tied in with "The party" This is a fact, you cannot gain power without having friends, it's the culture. In a similar manner as the US has legalized bribery.

Which brings us back to micro-transactions. You cannot make money on a new release every year, but rather develop a product that can generate moderate amounts, but you have to crack yourself into the dominated market. Chinese games do not do well overseas because they are NOT made for overseas customers. Most websites/chat programs are Chinese only - or have extremely limited English support. They are not made for 'foreigners' like other countries that try to reach as many markets as possible.

I do not like either, how is that? Both the States and China have their pros and cons, subjective and objective (and no, Canada is far from a shining beacon as well. You! Yes you! I know you were thinking about disputing my statement because I live in neither country). China has social and political issues that it hides behind a mask while the States share several similar issues but has an almost apathetic acknowledgement of them.

This ranges from censorship, wealth disparity, internet strangleholds/censorship/surveillance, the well being of the workforce, corporate and government corruption, freedom of press, government transparency, medical, and environmental. Both nations share all of these issues but neither of their method's for acknowledging and dealing with them is desirable from my point of view. As far as I can tell no nation is but some do a better job than others.

Lastly AM-MC came off very strange (not bad) with all of his replies. I cannot put my finger on it but somehow I was not finding closure for better or for worse or even satisfaction in any of his replies, can anyone figure this out?

Spartan212:

Moosejaw:

Spartan212:
So, what I've gathered from this story/thread:

China isn't bad because America does bad things

The Chinese government forces their own people to buy crap products to promote local business. How are people just glazing over this? It's completely anti-consumer and is just another way their government screws over its people

You are pretty damned naive if you believe every other country, including the U.S., doesn't do this. It's protectionism, and we've got a lot of it.

Do you know why most products used High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of sugar in the U.S.? Because they didn't want to enrich the Cubans by getting cane sugar from them, so they raised tariffs on cane sugar as high as was necessary until it became more cost effective for local companies to use the syrup instead, using corn from the U.S.

I would assume that was because we have an embargo with Cuba over the Cuban Missile Crisis from the 1960s. That's a far cry from locking out other countries from selling their products here. It's not even close to being the same thing.

Please give an ACTUAL example of where the US blocks out other countries. Because all I see here are Japanese electronics, German cars, and Chinese parts

well you gave 3 already, but another example is Australia. Our beef export use to do very well in the states being higher quality, then the local American farmers complained and the US gov raised import taxes and gave substatises to keep local prices down, wiping us out of your market due to cost. Similar thing happened with our film industry, except Hollywood had more to do with that due to their finances.

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