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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.

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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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    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

The Yico Zeng Controversy: Chinese Singer Falls from Grace after Beijing Airport Misconduct

Chinese celebrity Yico Zeng triggered major controversy on Weibo over the past week for failing to comply with security regulations at Beijing airport.

Wendy Huang

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Chinese singer Yico Zeng seems to have fallen out of favor with Chinese netizens after refusing to comply with Beijing airport security rules and exposing the personal details of an officer on her Weibo account.

Just a month ago, Weibo blew up when the inluential Chinese entertainer Roy Wang, a participant of the popular reality show I’m CZR (我是唱作人), was caught smoking inside a Beijing restaurant.

Now, another participant of the I’m CZR entertainment show has triggered major controversy for breaking the rules in multiple ways. Yico Zeng (曾轶可) was occupying the hot charts of Weibo earlier this week for causing a scene at Beijing Airport and for posting personal details of airport security staff.

 

The Weibo Post that Backfired

 

Noteworthy enough, it was Yico Zeng herself who brought the issue to the public’s attention. On June 17, the 29-year-old celebrity published a post on her social media account account (1.4 million followers) in which she criticized the way she had been handled at the Immigration Inspection at Beijing Airport.

The former talent show singer described her unpleasant run-in with an airport officer who had ordered her to take off her cap at the passport checkpoint. In that post and in a later one, Zeng accused the officer of wrongfully detaining her in a separate room, and posted a series of pictures of the officer’s badge, exposing his personal information for all of her followers to see.

Zeng’s posts – which have since been deleted – drew major criticism on Weibo, followed by an official statement issued by the Beijing Immigration Inspection (@北京边检) on June 19. According to that statement, soon receiving over 20,000 shares, Zeng had refused to take off her cap for identification when using the inspection E-channel and thus failed to pass the tunnel.

Beijing Immigration Inspection also condemned the Chinese singer for refusing a manual check, using offensive language, and exposing the officer’s personal information on social media.

The Weibo account of China’s Communist Youth League also reposted the statement, expressing their “strong support” for law-enforcement and for law-abiding citizens.

Zeng soon posted an apology on Weibo over her “inappropriate words and behavior.” She wrote: “I cannot believe that I was so emotional at that moment. I apologize to all, and I’d like to personally apologize to the officer if I have the chance.”

The post received more than 100,000 comments within a day after it was posted, but many commenters rejected Zeng’s apologies, suggesting the celebrity only said sorry because of public pressure.

 

Fallen out of Favor

 

The airport incident has not been without consequence for Yico Zeng. Since the controversy, the popular Strawberry Festival has canceled Zeng’s upcoming show, and it is reported that more of her work for the upcoming time, including her participation in the reality show I’m CZR, will be postponed or called off indefinitely.

Shanghaiist reports that Zeng could face up to ten days of detention and a fine of up to 500 yuan if she is convicted of resisting the officer.

An article published by Sina News on June 24 argued that Zeng had not just done one thing wrong, but had actually committed three wrongdoings: she ignored laws and regulations, she breached the privacy of others, and used her celebrity status to demand certain privileges.

Zeng is not the first celebrity to fall from grace after breaking the law. One of the most noteworthy years regarding Chinese celebrity scandals is probably 2014 when various singers and actors triggered controversy and received legal punishment for possession of drugs, illegal gambling, or visiting prostitutes.

Although Zeng is condemned by the majority of commenters on social media, there are still some loyal fans who are actively participating in the Yico Zeng ‘supertopic’ Weibo community, hoping for a quick comeback of the singer.

Other commenters, however, are hoping that the star will receive legal punishment instead.

“We’re all equal before the law,” various people write on Weibo.

By Wendy Huang, Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Chinese TV Dramas

No ‘Novoland’: This Really Is a Tough Year for Chinese Costume Dramas

After the sudden cancellation of the much-anticipated ‘Novoland’ premiere, Chinese fantasy costume dramas are facing grim prospects.

Manya Koetse

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First published

With 1,4 billion views on its Weibo page, the Chinese fantasy drama Novoland: Eagle Flag was one of the most-anticipated series of the year. This week, the show was suddenly canceled twenty minutes ahead of its premiere. The incident is indicative of recent tensions within China’s TV drama industry, where some costume dramas have apparently failed to win the support of official regulators.

Just a week ago, What’s on Weibo reported about the Chinese fantasy drama Novoland: Eagle Flag (九州缥缈录, Jiǔzhōu piāomiǎo lù) being one of the most anticipated TV dramas in China this summer. On June 3rd at 21:40 CST, however, just twenty minutes before the drama’s much-awaited premiere on Tencent, Youku, and Zhejiang TV, the show was suddenly canceled.

Novoland: Eagle Flag, which has been called China’s answer to Game of Thrones, is a costume drama that tells a story of war, conspiracy, love, and corruption in a fantasy universe called Novoland. It is based on a popular web fantasy novel series by Jiang Nan (江南), and produced by Linmon Pictures. Production costs reportedly were as high as RMB 500 million ($72 million).

Why was the show’s premiere suddenly canceled? The only reason given for it on June 3rd was that there was a ‘medium problem’ (“介质原因”).

China’s English-language state tabloid Global Times reported on June 4th that their official sources also did not know the reason for the withdrawal, although they did admit to having received an order from “higher level,” which would come from China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA,国家广播电视总局).

In March of 2018, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT), the former top regulatory body overseeing television productions, was officially abolished and replaced by three different state administrations in the ideological sector.

The NRTA is responsible for media control on radio and TV, and falls directly under the State Council. It is led by Nie Chenxi (聂辰席), who is also the deputy director of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China. This appears indicative that the Party now has more direct influence over this industry, as also recently suggested by Global Policy Watch, SupChina, and Variety. Under the NRTA, the regulation and censorship of Chinese TV dramas are as strict, and arguably stricter, than under the SAPPRFT.

 

Costume dramas: not enough “spiritual guidance”?

 

The strict control of the NRTA over China’s TV industry is especially visible this year. As reported by CCTV News, China’s regulatory body started to severely crack down on the rising popularity of Chinese costume dramas (古装剧) in March of 2019.

Regulatory rules were supposedly issued for costume dramas with ‘themes’ (题材) such as martial arts, fantasy, history, mythology, or palace, stating that they should not air or were to be taken down from online video homepages. The strictest crackdown would allegedly last until July.

From early on in 2019, it was already rumored that Chinese costume dramas would face a tough year.

On January 28 of 2019, Beijing Daily, the official newspaper of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, published a critical post on its social media account listing negative influences of court-themed TV dramas (宫廷剧).

The critique included arguments such as that the imperial lifestyle was being hyped in these dramas, that the social situation of the dynastic era was being negatively dramatized, and that these productions are just aimed at commercial interests while weakening China’s “positive spiritual guidance.”

In February of this year, two weeks after the Beijing News post, Eduardo Baptista at CNN.com reported on the abrupt cancelation of the planned rebroadcasting of two costume dramas that were also targeted by Beijing News, namely the super TV drama hit Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略) and period drama Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace (如懿传).

Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace

Other costume dramas such as iQiyi’s The Legend of White Snake (新白娘子传奇) or The Longest Day in Chang’an (长安十二时辰) were also withdrawn (or postponed) in March. Investiture of the Gods (封神) was replaced by another drama on Hunan TV this month.

“Historical dramas in many cases twisted the narrative of the country’s past and the image of historical figures,” TV critic Shi Wenxue was quoted by Global Times recently: “[they are] having an adverse effect on teenagers who may regard such fictional stories as real history.”

 

A state and marketplace collusion

 

With China being the world’s largest consumer of TV dramas in the world, the drama industry is a powerful channel for spreading Party ideology.

The political and cultural agenda is especially apparent in those TV dramas that are official propaganda productions. But since the TV drama industry has become increasingly commercialized and TV dramas became more market-oriented in the 1990s, their programming is no longer a mirror reflection of ‘Party narratives.’

The number of profit-driven productions has grown over the past 25 years and has skyrocketed with the arrival of video streaming sites such as iQiyi or Tencent Video.

Although non-official productions are ultimately still regulated and overseen by the relevant state departments, they also have to compete for viewer ratings in a highly competitive (online) media environment.

There are many visible trends in China’s TV drama industry. There have been peaks of popularity in those TV dramas depicting rural struggles or urban family life, for example, but historical costume dramas (especially dynasty dramas) have consistently been popular and rising since the mid-90s.

One reason for the growing popularity of these historical or fantasy costume dramas is that official censors initially had different standards for them than for more contemporary storylines, resulting in more creative freedom for scriptwriters (see Zhu et al 2008, 7).

Yongzheng’s Dynasty (1999)

There also have been many popular Chinese dynasty dramas that were commercial successes while also serving as propaganda tools.

As pointed out by Shenshen Cai in her work Television Drama in Contemporary China (2017), for example, TV drama serials such as Yongzheng Dynasty (雍正王朝) or The Great Han Emperor Wu (汉武大帝) promoted the ideal of strong central government, harmonious relations between the fatherly ruler and his devoted people, or the exemplary ruler cracking down on corruption – these narratives contributed to the leadership agenda in “stabilizing and re-energizing the dominant moral order” (Cai 3-4; also see Schneider 2012).

But more recent historical dramas have taken a fantasy route that, apparently, resonates with viewers but does not successfully appropriate the official propaganda apparatus.

The sudden withdrawal of new costume dramas is actually not about costume dramas at all. It just shows that although China’s TV drama industry is no longer the propaganda machine it once used to be, it still needs to adhere to those narratives that are in line with Party ideology.

‘Novoland: Eagle Flag’ (2019)

Even if their scripts and productions were apparently given the green light in earlier stages, the official supervision bodies still have the power to intervene until the last moment before airing – even if that, apparently, means that moment is twenty minutes ahead of the grand premiere.

 

“Things don’t look too optimistic”

 

For Chinese drama fans, the recent cancellations have been a real slap in the face. The Novoland: Eagle Flag TV serial was super popular before it even aired: its hashtag page has a staggering 1.4 billion views on Weibo.

“I cried,” one ‘Novoland’ fan comments: “Why such a sudden and abrupt withdrawal?”

“When can we finally see this show?” others wonder.

For now, the show’s premiere has officially been “postponed” and is “waiting for specific broadcasting time.” Whether or not the 55-episode series will be allowed to broadcast after June is still to be seen.

On Twitter, the fan account of Liu Haoran (刘昊然), one of the show’s main stars, writes: “You’re going to see rumors of tentative dates flying around this week, but note that it’s more of a deadline to get things sorted, not an air date. As of right now, things don’t look too optimistic. We’ll just have to be patient!

More: For an overview of all of our articles on Chinese TV Dramas, please check this list.

By Manya Koetse

References

Cai, Shenshen. 2017. Television Drama in Contemporary China: Political, social and cultural phenomena. London and New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Schneider, Florian. 2012. Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series. Leiden and Boston: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Zhu, Ying, Michael Keane, Ruoyun Bai (eds). 2008. TV Drama in China. Hong Kong University Press.

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