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Chinese regulators warn devs over depictions of morality, gender, and history

"Players can choose to be either good or evil, but we don't think that games should give players this choice."

Chris Kerr, News Editor

October 1, 2021

2 Min Read

Chinese regulators are reportedly clamping down on how morality, gender, and history are depicted in video games.

According to a leaked memo from an internal training course organized by China's state-backed game association, obtained by the South China Morning Post, developers are being told to adhere to increasingly strict guidelines to ensure games launching in the region convey "a correct set of values."

The memo reminds developers that games are no longer being viewed as "pure entertainment," and as such must provide what the state views as an accurate depiction China's history and culture.

Notably, any title seen to be encouraging violence, gambling, and superstitions are unlikely to be approved, while regulators have also issued rigid guidance when it comes to how moral choices and gender are presented in-game.

"Some games have blurred moral boundaries. Players can choose to be either good or evil, but we don't think that games should give players this choice [...] and this must be altered," states the memo.

"If regulators can’t tell the character's gender immediately, the setting of the characters could be considered problematic and red flags will be raised," it continues, before noting that games containing "effeminate males" would likely be flagged by censors.

Historical elements are another cause for concern, with regulators warning developers to think carefully about how they incorporate characters, maps, and clothing from past eras. "Games can't distort facts or deliberately provoke controversy, and historical figures with established narratives must not be refashioned," the memo adds.

With restrictions tightening, the Chinese government reportedly failed to approve a single licensed game throughout August and September. That sudden halt comes after regulators also implemented new playtime restrictions for younger players to protect them during what's being described as an "era of national rejuvenation."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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