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China’s eSports Craze Reaches New Heights with the Victory of “Invictus Gaming” (IG)

The hashtag “IG are the Champions” received over a billion million views on Weibo over the past week.

Gabi Verberg

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Over the past week, hotlists of Baidu and Weibo were dominated by the news of China’s IG team winning the League of Legends (英雄联盟) World Championship for the first time in world history. Following China’s success at the previous Asian Games, China’s electronic-sports (esports) craze has now reached new heights.

In early November, ‘Invictus Gaming’ (IG) became the first Chinese team to win the League of Legends World Champions.

In a sold-out Munhak Stadium in Incheon, South Korea, the Chinese team took down Europe based FNATIC by 3-0 on November 3rd.

League of Legends is an online multiplayer video game developed and published by Riot Games in 2009 in which a team of players has to battle against the opposing team by gaining more strength through the accumulation of items and experience over the course of the game.

College Craze over IG

During the finals and in the days that followed, the internet flooded with reactions from esports enthusiasts. On Weibo, hashtags such as “IG are the Champions”(#ig冠军#)and “What the championship of IG means” (#IG夺冠的意义#) went viral, together scoring more than 1,5 billion views. IG’s World Championship has shown, more than ever, how booming esports actually are in China.

During the finals, many photos and videos of school canteens, sports field and internet café’s full of young people watching the final circulated on the internet.

Right after IG defeated FNATIC, videos posted online by students of the Nanchang Institute of Technology, Tianjin Institute of Technology, and many other universities showed countless dormitory rooms with students celebrating, cheering and chanting “IG are the Champions!” (IG冠军!).

At one university, several students even put up a banner reading: “If IG wins the championship, Unit 310 goes naked” (“IG夺冠!310集体裸奔”). Photos and videos later confirmed that some people partly held themselves to the agreement, showing young men wearing nothing but their underwear running around holding the IG’s flag.

Over the past week, photos of banners hanging from university dormitories, congratulating IG, also spread online – showing a craze that is similar to that over football fever in some other countries.

The IG Fever Meme Machine

The craze over the IG victory has triggered dozens of memes on Chinese social media over the past week.

One of these memes involved Chinese businessman Wang Sicong (王思聪), son of billionaire Wang Jianlin. With more than 38 million Weibo followers, Wang Sicong @王思聪 is not only a popular Weibo blogger – he is also the founder of the current ‘Invictus Gaming’ team by acquiring top Chinese gaming club ‘Catastrophic Cruel Memories’ in 2011, in order to promote professional eSports in China.

Wang was spotted eating a large hot-dog during the games, in somewhat uncharming way, sparking a range of memes.

Some copied the image of Wang eating the hotdog in art..

…but the meme also went from online to offline as some companies used it to promote their food or products.

The trend went so far that the hashtag “Wang Sicong’s Hotdog-Eating Image” (#王思聪吃热狗头像#) received over 380 million views, and that the businessman even asked his followers on Weibo to stop sharing his hotdog picture.

As reported by Radii, Wang Sicong also went viral for revealing that he would be selecting 113 fans (11.3 is the date IG won) to receive 10,000RMB ($1440) each, choosing the winners on 11.11 Single’s Day.

At time of writing, that post had attracted a staggering 17 million comments.

But there were also other types of memes on Weibo this week, namely, those making of fun of the many people who had never heard of IG before and were surprised with the online craze surrounding the championship.

Netizens used self-irony in depicting themselves feeling like some kind of Neanderthal when hearing people discussing the IG championship…

Or by depicting two monkeys with a big “Congratulations IG” above them and one wondering “What is IG?!”, and the other telling him just to follow the rest in congratulating them anyway.

This response also shows that China’s post-70s and post-80s are not as familiar with the latest esports craze as China’s younger (post-90s, post-00s) generations are.

A Momentous Victory

The enormous hype over the World Championship of the Chinese team shows that there is more to the topic than the victory the five IG players alone. Many esports fanatics see the Chinese teams’ success as a crucial moment of recognition of esports in the PRC.

After IG was crowned world champion, the hashtag “What the Championship of IG Means” (#IG夺冠的意义#) received over 530 million views, with many Weibo users liking and sharing the following text:

Perhaps middle-aged and elderly people don’t know what just happened, but the Chinese team won the LPL world championship. After seven unsuccessful years, the Chinese teams have been under tremendous pressure from the public. […] But now IG is the world champion. Why do people hear the cheers of young people outside? Because we are the teenagers that were never understood, but now at this very moment, we got our recognition.”

In conclusion, some facts & numbers:

● The first professional League of Legends world competition was held in 2011 in Sweden.

League of Legends is considered to be the largest electronic sport in the world, being the most played game in the world for three consecutive years since 2016.

● In 2018, an estimated 81 million people worldwide played League of Legends each month.

● During the 2018 world final, a record was set with 205,348,063 viewers watching the game at the same time. 203.389.444 of these viewers were Chinese.

● The total prize money of the 2018 LPL world championship was $2,250,000.

● The 12 Chinese competing players altogether earned $556,875 prize money.

● Invictus Gaming won $843,750 prize money. The money was divided equally amongst a total of six players, meaning every player earned $140,625. (Note: the team also received bonuses from other third parties).

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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  1. Avatar

    ChongChing Mayor

    November 12, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Lmao… what dose their victory have anything to do with you? You are still video-game-playing losers, awarding professional players by your money.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Wandering Earth 2 Production Costs: Why Director Frant Gwo is Nicknamed ‘Master in Begging for Alms’

Contributing to the Wandering Earth 2 production without getting paid? It’s “powering up Chinese sci-fi with love.”

Wendy Huang

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Wandering Earth director Frant Gwo (Guo Fan) is also nicknamed the ‘Master in Begging for Alms’ (化缘大师) on social media. His efforts to convince actors and companies to contribute to the movie has kept production costs relatively low.

With the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth II, directed by Guo Fan (郭帆 aka Frant Gwo) taking center stage during this Spring Festival movie season, there have been many social media discussions about the film and how it has been reviewed (read here), as well as about the production of the film, or more particularly, about the total production costs for this film.

Based on a story written by Liu Cixin, author of the award-winning sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem, The Wandering Earth II is the prequel to the 2019 blockbuster hit The Wandering Earth, China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi film and the fifth highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

It is reported that the production investment costs for The Wandering Earth II reached approximately 600 million yuan ($88.5 million). Compared to the production budget of American sci-fi hit films such as Interstellar ($165 million) or Inception ($160 million), Chinese audiences had expected The Wandering Earth II to have much higher production costs than the reported budget, especially considering the spectacular scenes featured in the film.

The relatively lower production costs sparked discussions on Chinese social media, where the hashtag “Guo Fan – the Master in Begging for Alms” (#郭帆 化缘大师#) went trending, gaining in popularity as multiple insiders shared more stories about the production of the movie.

The hashtag, which suggests that Director Guo is a ‘Fundraising Master’ for keeping production costs low, has received over 70 million views at the time of writing. The Chinese 化缘 huàyuán means to raise funds for something or to ‘beg alms’ (like Buddhist monks or Taoist priests do).

Guo’s strict budget control already became a hot topic after the 2019 release of The Wandering Earth. One of the most famous stories is that of the movie’s main star Wu Jing (吴京), as he allegedly began as a guest celebrity and ended up as the leading actor without getting paid, while investing approximately 60 million yuan ($8.85 million) in the film’s production.

A female presenter recently also shared her story on Weibo about her free participation in the production of The Wandering Earth in 2019, which apparently showed the film’s tight production budget. In her post, she wrote: “They didn’t fool me, instead, they just told me directly that I wouldn’t get paid.” Considering the rare opportunity to act in a Chinese sci-fi production, she went to the set at her own expense and filmed scenes, including outdoor scenes in the snow and freezing cold, only to end up being featured less than a second in the finished film. Nonetheless, she said she was still proud to be a part of the landmark Chinese sci-fi film.

Perhaps the idea of taking part in a groundbreaking Chinese science fiction film has made many individuals, companies, and organizations willing to work with Guo’s team, even if no additional compensation or payment was provided.

XCMG Machinery (Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co, Ltd), China’s premier company in industrial design, is also one of these companies. The company set up a team of a total of 319 XCMG staff members to support the project and provided a wide range of operational and transformable machinery equipment for the UEG (United Earth Government) in the film. They called this “powering up Chinese Sci-fi with love.”

Chinese netizens already nicknamed Wandering Earth (流浪地球) “Little Broken Ball” (小破球) back in 2019. The “Ball” refers to the Earth – the second character (球) of Earth in Chinese (地球) literally means ball. It was the director himself who initially referred to his film this way, and this nickname was then popularized among netizens to describe how the Earth is in crisis in the film, but it also refers to how difficult it was for Guo to produce the film.

The fact that Guo managed to produce Wandering Earth II with a relatively limited budget compared to other big international sci-fi movies has instilled some pride among netizens. One popular blogger (@秦祎墨) suggested the actual production value of the movie went far beyond the quoted $88.5 million thanks to the collective spirit of Chinese companies who did all they could to turn this film into a mega hit.

Others praised Guo for being able to get so many people and companies involved, claiming that if it wasn’t for him, the movie would have ended up costing at least twice as much.

Some are already looking forward to a potential Wandering Earth III, saying that the ‘Little Broken Ball’ series has already managed to gather such a strong team of companies, technical support, post-production innovation and experts, that the ‘Wandering Earth universe’ should not stop after two films.

Reflecting on being nicknamed the ‘Master of Begging for Alms,’ director Guo himself reportedly expressed his gratitude toward everyone who worked on the film who was “tricked” by him, saying it is their generosity that eventually made the production of The Wandering Earth II possible.

By Wendy Huang, with contributions by Manya Koetse

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Social Media Reactions to The New York Times Bad Review of ‘Wandering Earth 2’

A New York Times bad review of ‘Wandering Earth II’ has triggered online discussions: “China’s gonna save the world, the US can’t stand it.”

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This Chinese Spring Festival, it’s all about going to the movies. After sluggish years for China’s movie market during the pandemic, Chinese cinemas welcomed millions of visitors back to the theaters during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday.

Much-anticipated new movies attracted Chinese moviegoers this festive season, including Full River Red by Zhang Yimou, the suspenseful Hidden Blade, or the animated Deep Sea by Tian Xiaopeng.

But the undisputed Spring Festival box office champion of 2023 is Frant Gwo’s Wandering Earth II (流浪地球II), the sequel to China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi epic Wandering Earth (2019), which also became the fifth highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

The narrative of the follow-up movie Wandering Earth II actually takes place before the events of the first film and focuses on the efforts by the United Earth Government (UEG) to propel the Earth out of the solar system to avoid planetary disaster. This so-called Moving Mountain Project – which later becomes the Wandering Earth Project – is not just met with protest (the majority of Americans don’t believe in it), it also bans the Digital Life Project, which supports the idea that the future of humanity can be saved by preserving human consciousness on computers (backed by an American majority). The film is all about hope and resilience, human destiny, and geopolitics at a time of apocalyptic chaos.

Outside of China, the sequel was also released in, among others, North American, Australian, and UK cinemas.

Although the film, featuring movie stars Wu Jing and Andy Lau, received an 8.2 on the Chinese rating & review platform Douban, a 9.4 on movie ticketing app Maoyan, dozens of positive reviews on Bilibili, and was overall very well-received among Chinese viewers, a bad review by The New York Times triggered discussions on Chinese social media this weekend.

Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) initiated a Weibo hashtag about “The New York Times‘s completely sour review of Wandering Earth II” (#纽约时报酸味拉满差评流浪地球2#, 6.2 million views at time of writing).

The New York Times review of Wandering Earth II, titled “The Wandering Earth II Review: It Wanders Too Far,” was written by Brandon Yu and published in print on January 27, 2023.

Yu does not have a lot of good things to say about China’s latest blockbuster. Although he calls the 2019 The Wandering Earth “entertaining enough,” he writes that the sequel is a movie that is “audaciously messy” and has lost “all of the glee” its predecessor had:

“(..) the movie instead offers nearly three hours of convoluted storylines, undercooked themes and a tangle of confused, glaringly state-approved political subtext.”

The topic was discussed on Chinese social media using various hashtags, including “The New York Times Gave Wandering Earth II a 3″ (#纽约时报给流浪地球打30分#, #纽约时报给流浪地球2打30分#).

Instead of triggering anger, the bad review actually instilled a sense of pride among many Chinese, who argued that the review showed the impact the movie has made. Some commenters pointed out that the movie is a new milestone in Chinese cinema, not just threatening America’s domination of the movie industry but also setting a narrative in which China leads the way.

“We’re gonna save the world, and America just can’t stand it,” one commenter replied.

That same view was also reiterated by other bloggers. The author and history blogger Zhang Yi’an (@张忆安-龙战于野) argued that The New York Times review was not necessarily bad; it actually shows that Americans feel threatened by the idea of China’s important role in a new international world order, and by the fact that China actually will have the capacity to lead the way when it comes to, for example, space technology innovation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Zhang argues that if a similar movie had been made by India as a Bollywood blockbuster – including exploding suns and wandering earths – The New York Times would have been more forgiving and might have even called it cute or silly.

But because this is China, the film’s success and its narrative plays into existing fears over China’s rise, and it clashes with American values about what the international community should look like.

Zhang writes: “The China in the movie doesn’t boast itself as the savior of the world, but in reality, China really is capable of saving the world. The United States is no longer able to do so (电影里的中国没有把自己吹嘘成救世主,现实中的中国真的有能力做救世主。而美国却已经不能了).”

One popular Film & TV account (@影视综艺君) also summarized the general online reaction to the bad review in the American newspaper: “Whenever the enemy gets scared, it must mean we’re doing it right. Our cultural export has succeeded.” That post received over 120,000 likes.

On Zhihu.com, some commenters also attached little value to the review and showed how the overseas reviews of Wandering Earth II widely varied in their verdict.

Meanwhile, a state media-initiated hashtag on Weibo claimed on January 28 that Wandering Earth II has actually “captured the hearts of many overseas audiences” (#流浪地球2海外上映获好评#), and that the film’s “imaginative” and “wonderful” visuals combined with its strong storyline were being praised by moviegoers outside of China.

On IMDB, the movie has received 5.9/10; it has gotten a 70% Rotten Tomatoes score. The Guardian gave it 2/5. Meanwhile, on Weibo, one reviewer after the other gives the film 5/5 stars.

Weibo blogger Lang Yanzhi (@郎言志) writes: “Recently, we’ve seen a lot of attacks and slander directed at the China-made science fiction movie Wandering Earth 2, especially coming from Western media and pro-Western forces, because the film’s “Chinese salvation” narrative made them uncomfortable. This was already the case when the first film in the series was released. It is very clear that Wandering Earth is not just a movie: it is a symbol of great influence.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Zilan Qian

 

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