No blood, no gambling: Four ways games are changed for China
When news broke that the world’s biggest game store was coming to China, Chinese gamers reacted… badly.
“Pow! And I spit out a mouthful of green blood,” one gamer said.
Why green blood? It’s because they fear the China-only version of Steam will have a very limited lineup of approved games, and the games that are there will be heavily censored -- hence, green blood, because red blood looks too violent.
It’s one of a number of changes that developers are forced to make if they want to officially release their games in China. Let’s run through them!
1) No gore, no blood!
Shooting games are huge. And this might sound really obvious, but shooting games are usually quite violent. I mean, what did you expect in a genre like battle royale where the objective is to kill the other 99 players?
But in China, don’t expect to see blood. Instead, you’ll see other things, like puffs of green smoke.
Well, beyond green blood, there’s also “oil blood”. In the Chinese version of CS:GO, characters bleed black blood, likened by Chinese gamers to crude oil. That’s also why the Chinese version of CS:GO has the nickname “Crude Oil Edition”.
2) No skulls and no skeletons
When China’s 15-year console ban was lifted in 2015, famed console game Final Fantasy XV was quick to release in the country.
But the Final Fantasy XV China got isn’t quite the same as the Final Fantasy XV the rest of the world got. These enemies, for instance, had to be changed because China doesn’t allow skeletons.
World of Warcraft was the biggest game in China for about ten years from the mid 2000s to the mid 2010s. Yet the epic Western fantasy blockbuster known for fantasy staples like orcs and demons had no skulls or skeletons in China.
Instead, the undead are often turned into flesh-and-blood -- and quite buff -- thug-like characters.
Even the dragons couldn’t be spared by censors. The skeletal dragon became a blue and fat one in the Chinese version.
3) Hide your vices
A huge uproar broke out last month when Ubisoft’s popular shooter Rainbow Six Siege made graphical changes to the game around the world to help its expansion into “Asian territories”.
Besides removing skeletons, the game also tried to hide a strip club sign and some slot machines.
Ubisoft later walked back these changes after Western gamers complained -- arguing that they shouldn’t suffer from changes made to please one country.
4) Cover up!
If Chinese censors didn’t approve of an abstract neon drawing of a stripper… well, it’s probably not surprising to see they’d have a pretty strict dress code.
Yup, characters simply wear more clothes in the Chinese version of games than in their Western or Japanese equivalents. Take Final Fantasy XV’s Shiva, for instance; barely clothed in most editions of the game, in China she’s almost wholly covered in a weird blue outfit.
But it’s not just foreign games that are targeted. Domestic developers have to make changes too -- including the makers of China’s biggest game, Honor of Kings, known as Arena of Valor in the West.
The country’s most popular game features a guest character from the King of Fighters series, Mai, known for her, well, very large (and barely covered) chest. The Chinese version covers her up more, but let’s be real, it’s still plenty revealing.
Now of course, it’s worth noting that China isn’t the only country where games are censored. Take Mai again, for instance. The Western version of The King Of Fighters '94 removes some, um, movement from Mai’s chest. Look, I’m going a little red-faced just trying to say it, so just look at the GIF below to see what I mean.
But even where China seems to be following the global lead… it goes a little further. Take PUBG Mobile. It’s common for online games to ban profanity and racist slurs. A lot of the time, games won’t allow you to use those words at all -- trying to enter them in chat results in the words not appearing.
But in the Chinese version of PUBG mobile, it’s not just swear words that are banned. You can’t even type the word “Taiwan” or “Tibet” in chat -- the words turn into a string of asterisks.
Tencent wouldn’t confirm why they’ve banned those words, but it’s hardly unusual. And it shows the lengths that companies will go to make sure their games are suitable for China.