Over the weekend, industry heavyweights from major gaming companies like Tencent Holdings, NetEase, Sony Group, Microsoft, Unity and Activision Blizzard attended the inaugural Beijing International Game Conference (BIGC), where game developers shared their experiences.
But at the three-day event supervised by the Communist Party Publicity Department in Beijing and organised by a government-backed industry group, several Chinese officials also delivered speeches. And their message was clear: developers should create games that impart Chinese culture and values.
Yu Jiannan, deputy director of the Chinese National Academy of Arts, said Chinese online games should “adequately tell the stories of China” to help Chinese online games expand abroad. Du Feijin, the department chief of the Communist Party Publicity Department in Beijing, also said games should have a “higher purpose” and encourage positive values, according to local news reports.
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The launch of BIGC last Friday, which complements the country’s biggest gaming expo, ChinaJoy in Shanghai , reflects China’s growing ambition to lead global conversations about video games.
In April, the government unveiled a plan for Beijing to become the “international capital of online games” by attracting major gaming talent and establishing a vibrant e-sports ecosystem by 2035. In August, Beijing also introduced an initiative called “E-sports Beijing 2020” detailing steps to turn the city into an e-sports hub via subsidy schemes.
Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting in Beijing, said it is unsurprising that Beijing considers video games an important medium to promote a positive image of China‘s culture and history.
“China’s government has always taken a very active role in managing and controlling media content: more traditionally print, radio, film, and television, and over the last several decades, the internet,” Natkin said. “Campaigns to encourage the inclusion of content promoting Chinese culture have been a familiar feature in China’s regulation of the video game industry.”
Feng Chucheng, a political risk analyst and partner at independent research firm Plenum, said that like TV series and movies, video games are “important propaganda vehicles” that the Chinese Communist Party needs to take control of in order to further its ideological reach.
“China’s video game developers have the potential to grow globally and the video games will be an effective vehicle for China to shape perceptions in other countries as well,” Feng said. “It is in the government and the Party’s best interest to shape the trajectory of the industry.”
Speaking at BIGC, Tencent’s vice-president and deputy director of the Communist Party committee Yuan Min stressed the importance of protecting underage gamers while furthering the growth of the games industry.
Tencent, the world’s largest video game publisher in terms of revenue, unveiled the TV version of their cloud gaming platform START on Sunday at the event.
Sony’s former gaming boss Shuhei Yoshida and Xbox Games marketing boss Aaron Greenberg also sent in pre-recorded speeches for the event although they did not attend in person.
“The Beijing [International Game] Conference is a very important event for the games industry,” Yoshida said. “China now is the largest game market in the world, and this is accompanied by the remarkable growth of Chinese local talents and development teams in this industry.”
China, which is home to 657 million gamers, saw video game sales surge to 139.4 billion yuan from January to June, according to an industry report by the government-backed China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association. This was up 22.3 per cent from the same period last year because of stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures related to the coronavirus pandemic, the report added.
Both Yoshida and Greenberg highlighted Sony’s and Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to promote and feature Chinese games on the PlayStation and Xbox platforms. However, neither addressed whether their next-generation consoles will be released in China, which is notorious for its content restrictions and only lifted a 15-year ban on video game consoles in 2015.
This article Beijing stresses importance of games imparting Chinese values at inaugural developers conference first appeared on South China Morning Post