China doesn’t want dead bodies or green blood in games
New government guidelines tighten the screws on getting new games approved
Censors in China hate gore and violence, so game publishers have been coming up with some pretty creative ways to avoid trouble. Two notable changes were adding flesh to walking skeletons and changing the color of blood to green or black instead of red.
But now, even these changes may not be enough.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film & Television -- the government agency in charge of reviewing new games for approval -- announced at a conference a series of new changes to the approval process. That includes some rather specific clarifications on guidelines, according to gaming research firm Niko Partners and gaming executives who spoke with the South China Morning Post.
Dead bodies or pools of blood can no longer appear in games at all. Green blood included.
That would present a unique challenge for publishers of shooting games. Right now when you gun down a character in China’s version of PUBG, a puff of green smoke bursts out. When you run around the Chinese version of CS:GO, you’ll see dead bodies lying on top of splatters of black blood, which have been compared to crude oil.
Some gamers imagine that the new rules mean any person that’s been shot in a game will now simply vanish into thin air without a trace.
“They turn straight into immortals,” said one Weibo user.
Green and black blood on Chinese games have long been a subject of ridicule on social media.
“Isn’t human blood either green or black?” One Weibo user wrote in a sarcastic post after a visit to the dentist. “People in games and anime don’t have red blood. Am I getting sick?”
Another user wrote, “From now on Chinese people no longer have crude oil blood or green blood. Chinese people have no blood.”
Chinese authorities, of course, are sensitive about more than just the color of blood. Regulations published in 2016 ban mobile games from portraying blood that’s spurting or “flowing like a river.” Sex, gambling, historically inaccurate plots and anti-Communist speech are also prohibited.
It’s part of the reason why many Chinese gamers have been turning to Steam. While the distribution platform withholds adult content from Chinese users, it still sells almost everything that’s available elsewhere in the world, including the officially banned Grand Theft Auto.
That’s also why gamers were furious when they learned that Steam, after operating for years in a legal gray area in China, will finally have an official Chinese version. Many fear the local version will be heavily censored.
China has been tightening the screws on games since last year, when authorities hit a pause on game approvals for nine months. When the process resumed, all poker and gambling titles -- a perennial favorite in China -- were shunned. Titles that are considered immoral, such as imperial harem games, are also no longer found.
Getting an approval is only the first step, though, and it’s no guarantee of success. Tencent finally got the green light for its Game of Thrones mobile game earlier this month, but gamers already say they don’t really care.