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UPDATE: Taiwanese ‘Devotion’ Game Taken down in Mainland China amid Discussions over “Hidden Insults”

The super popular Devotion game is being blocked in the PRC after users discovered hidden messages insulting President Xi.

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Just within days after made-in-Taiwan horror game Devotion was released and became an online hit with Chinese players, the game has been blocked in mainland China amid discussions of the game containing secret insults towards Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Yesterday, we covered how Chinese gamers were going crazy over the first-person atmospheric horror game Devotion (还愿). The popular game took social media by storm this week, triggering discussions all over Weibo; the hashtag #Devotion (#还愿) received over 120 million views on Weibo within no time.

But today the game has been taken offline in mainland China, with discussions focusing on the game allegedly containing hidden insults directed at Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Devotion game has certain so-called ‘Easter Eggs’ (小彩蛋) which are hidden jokes and secrets that are concealed throughout games that would only be noticeable to people searching for them or paying extreme attention to the details of the game.

Some of these ‘Easter Eggs’ in the Devotion game seem to be highly political. One obscure detail on an evil talisman in the game shows an indirect insult of Xi Jinping (featured image and see image below), with four characters on the side of the object (呢嘛叭淇) representing a curse in Hakka while the stamp in the middle of the image showing the characters for ‘Winnie,’ which refers to Winnie the Pooh – the Chinese President is often compared to the bear for various reasons. The ‘curse’ would then mean something along the lines of “Xi Winnie the Pooh Moron.”

As explained by Spieltimes here, the seal in the middle of the talisman, which is considered evil in traditional Chinese culture, shows the name of the President next to the characters for Winnie.

One of the persons to expose the so-called “Easter Egg” is a well-known Weibo blogger from Shanxi, who is a secretary of the Daoist Society (@全真道士梁兴扬). He wrote that he had stopped playing the game after noticing the insults to the Chinese leader. His post has since been deleted.

In another part of the game, there allegedly is a newspaper segment that is showing what is believed to be a blurred picture of a younger Xi, with the headline saying that ‘Baozi’ (also used as a nickname) has been sentenced to prison, even suggesting he has been given “capital punishment.”

People believe that the blurred image is that of the President. Please keep in mind that this image is being spread online but we have not been able to verify yet if it actually comes up in the game, and consider the fact that it may have been photoshopped (we’ll update if more facts surface). Updated later: although this was suggested, it turns out that this is not true.

At time of writing, the live-streaming videos of the game through the online platform Billibili seem to be taken down, or at least, a search for the game now comes up with zero results. When searching for the Chinese name of the game on the Chinese version of online platform Steam, we also found no results at time of writing. The game is still available for international users. For Chinese users, only the soundtrack of the game is available now.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese developer of the game, Red Candle, has issued an apology through Facebook, stating that the “insults,” that were allegedly referring to “internet sub cultures,” were already removed from the version released on Thursday night.

The Chinese publisher of the game, Indevient, has also issued an apology and stated it would end its cooperation with the game.

Various discussions across several online platforms show that Chinese netizens are outraged. On Weibo, some commenters said that they felt they were being insulted while the developer was also taking their money. On Steam, Chinese commenters also said that the game was “sh*t” for using its platform as a “political tool.”

Hashtags such as “Devotion Game Insults China” (#还愿游戏辱华#), “Reject/Boycott the Devotion Game” (#抵制游戏还愿#), and “Devotion Gate Brings Disaster to Steam” (#游戏《还愿》事件或殃及steam#), are quickly spreading on Weibo.

On the news site Spieltimes, which is focused on reporting on video games and more, the current Devotion scandal is being described as possibly “disastrous” and “a matter of utmost importance for Chinese players and the entire Chinese gaming community,” suggesting that this matter might possibly lead to a Chinese ban on the Steam site, which is a leading multi-player platform and game distributor.

As the game is now no longer available in mainland China, some commenters on Weibo are asking for their money back, an issue that Red Candle has not responded to yet.

For more information on this case, also see the coverage on Spieltimes here and its extensive coverage on the issue here.

By Boyu Xiao and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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    China Arts & Entertainment

    Rotten Girls: China’s Thriving Online Boys’ Love Culture

    It is an online subculture that has been around for more than a decade, and it is not likely to die out any time soon.

    Manya Koetse

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    They are mocked, hated, and misunderstood, yet China’s so-called ‘Rotten Girls’ are at the core of an online subculture that has been thriving for years.

     
    This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, original publication in German by Goethe Institut China (forthcoming), see Goethe.de: WE…WEI…WHAT? Manya Koetse erklärt das chinesische Internet.
     

    China’s ever-buzzing social media sphere sees trends, topics, and movements pop up every single day and then fade away quickly when their novelty is gone. But there are some trends that turn into something bigger, bringing forth communities and online subcultures that keep on thriving for years, with the participants building their own spaces in the online environment.

    One such space belongs to those who, with some self-mockery, define as “Rotten Girls” (fǔnǚ 腐女), derived from the Japanese fujoshi. In the Chinese context, ‘Rotten Girls’ are young women with a passion for fictional stories, drama series, and manga (comic books) featuring gay male erotica and romantic relationships called ‘yaoi.’

    ‘Rotten girls’ do not just consume these stories, primarily written by and for women, they also create and share them with others to discuss.

    In Chinese, the gay erotica known as yaoi is also called ‘danmei’ (耽美) or ‘BL’ (for ‘Boys’ Love’) – all umbrella terms for contents of male-male homoerotic fiction. The genre plays a major role in various corners of the Chinese internet. It is an online subculture that has been around for more than a decade, and it is not likely to die out any time soon.

    Media and technology both play a big part in the sharing of fǔnǚ fantasies. These fantasies can range from boys holding hands to more pornographic ones, but the main point of the imaginary is love and intimacy (Galbraith 2011, 213).

     

    Always Another BL Trend

     

    There is always something different trending in the world of Rotten Girls. This summer, for example, the release of the Japanese 18+ games ‘Lkyt’ by BL game brand Parade received a lot of attention. A previous game by Parade, ‘Room No. 9,’ is also still popular among BL fans in China. The game revolves around two young men, long-time friends, who get locked inside a room where they are subjected to a behavioral analysis experiment. The two have to make some taunting decisions, including possibly being forced into sexual activity with each other, in order to make it out alive.

    Another major topic that went trending within the Rotten Girls community some years ago, even attracting the attention of western news media, was the British crime drama Sherlock. Many Chinese viewers in the BL scenes were convinced that detective Sherlock Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his sidekick Watson (Martin Freeman) were not just professional partners, but a romantic couple. This practice of imagining a relationship between two characters is also known as ‘CP,’ an abbreviation for “coupling” or “character pairing.”

    The ambiguous relationship between Holmes and Watson – and the very fact that they are not explicitly homosexual – suits the fantasies harbored by China’s fǔnǚ. There are countless examples of how BL fans photoshopped Sherlock images into homoerotic scenes, making up their own stories and endlessly discussing the relationship between Holmes and Watson.

    Fanart: Holmes and Watson share a passionate kiss

    BL fans are active in various online spaces. There are Rotten Girls communities on Chinese literature websites, discussion boards, and on ACG-focused platforms such as Bilibili (ACG is a popular abbreviation of “Anime, Comic and Games”). Boys’ Love is practically everywhere: short stories, web novels, manga, anime, games, and series are all actively created, consumed, and shared within the BL fandom.

    The Chinese Jinjiang Literature City site (1998) is one of the earliest and most influential websites for the danmei genre, where some top channels receive millions of clicks. The Chinese web novel author ‘Priest’ is among one of the most successful authors (some translations in English can be found here).

    But besides the special BL fiction forums, there are also many fǔnǚ accounts on the more mainstream social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo. Under Weibo hashtags such as “Fǔnǚ Daily” (#腐女日常#), “BL Webtoons” (#bl条漫#), “BL Manga” (#bl漫画#), “Original Danmei” (#原创耽美#), and many more, Rotten Girls discuss their favorite danmei works and the latest news on a daily basis.

    Although the Rotten Girls have been increasing their sphere of influence, it hasn’t been without controversy. Not only are they often looked down upon for their love for male homoeroticism, some LGBT people also criticize them for silencing the voices of actual gay men or erasing real-life gay experiences.

     

    From Japanese Toy Boys to Chinese Danmei

     

    Where did this all begin? China’s BL subculture finds it roots in Japan. The popularity of danmei came up with the growing influence of Japanese popular culture in China.

    In the early 1990s, Japanese manga and anime titles started flooding the Chinese market, often as unauthorized (pirated) copies. With this wave of Japanese entertainment products hitting the Chinese market, there were also those belonging to the genre of BL.

    In Japanese fiction and manga, the theme of male-male romance intended for a female audience emerged as early as the 1970s but did not really rise to popularity until the early 1990s, when Japanese mainstream media saw a ‘gay boom’ and representations of male homosexuality became in vogue.

    The year 1993 truly was a ‘gay year’ in the Japanese media and entertainment industry. In “Producing Gayness” (1997), Sho Ogawa describes how one Japanese magazine even offered readers a “Gay Toybox”: full color paper gay dolls to cut out, including matching clothes from jackets to sports uniforms and even leather bondage gear. Instructions that came with the paper dolls encouraged readers to play with them, “give them a lovely name” and “imagine a campus love affair” between them.

    It was also in this same year of 1993 that many Chinese young women first discovered the genre of Japanese Boys’ Love, mainly through the dissemination of pirate manga, novels, and magazines in Chinese bookstores.

    Throughout the years, the Chinese genre of danmei has become much more than just an imported entertainment genre from Japan, and it is also somewhat different from the subgenre of ‘slash fiction’ in the West.

    Danmei literally means “to indulge in beauty,” and it has developed its own characteristics, taking a predominantly literary form while also strongly resonating with Japanese visual culture (Madill et al 2018, 5). Since the first Chinese BL-focused monthly magazine appeared in 1999, the genre has mixed with various local and other foreign media and celebrity cultures (e.g. that of South Korean and Thailand), and has become a truly Chinese fan culture phenomenon (Chen 2017, 7; Yang & Xu 2017, 3).

     

    Safe, Subversive, and Pure Love

     

    Those outside the danmei subculture often wonder what makes ‘Boys’ Love’ so appealing to so many young women. There are various explanations and interpretations of why female fans enjoy writing and reading about male homoeroticism.

    Chen Xin, who studied the topic of Boys’ Love at the University of British Columbia, offers “safety” as one explanation for the popularity of danmei, as it gives its readers, mostly straight women, the freedom to fantasize in a way that is removed from their own romantic lives. This is also reiterated by other scholars, who argue that BL provides a safe fantasy where female fans can avoid the objectification of women while exploring the boundaries of their own sexuality.

    The concept of ‘pure love’ is one of the funü’s greatest attraction to BL. According to them, it is the most romantic type of love because it transcends the boundaries of gender. The male protagonists in these stories do not identify as gay, but fall in love with other men nevertheless. “It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, I just love you” and “It’s not that I am gay, I just love a man” are classic sentences within Rotten Girls’ fiction (Dai 2013, 34).

    Zhang Chunyu (2016) also highlights the genre as an outlet for female writers and readers to explore sexuality and pleasure in a “subversive” way. Rotten girls position males as the objects of female desire, and in doing so, they challenge traditional gender stereotypes and appreciate gender fluidity.

    China’s Rotten Girls subculture is also ‘subversive’ in another way. Because of its focus on homosexuality and eroticism, danmei fandom is subject to online censorship. According to China’s cyberspace regulations, online content should adhere to the “correct political direction” and “strive to disseminate contemporary Chinese values.” Over the past few years, there have been various moments when displays of homosexuality were targeted by censors.

    An anti-pornography campaign of 2014 resulted in the shutdown of hundreds of websites and social media accounts. Throughout the years, dozens of danmei authors have been arrested and many sites were closed or deleted for creating and distributing homoerotic content (Chen 2017, 9; Madill et al 2018, 6; Zhang 2016, 250).

    Despite the strict internet control, fǔnǚ and BL content are still going strong. In order to circumvent censorship, the words and images used are often coded or nuanced enough not to get deleted – but BL fans will still understand and enjoy the subtext.

    Over the past years, China’s Rotten Girls have grown from a niche community to a force to reckon with on the Chinese internet. They have become a phenomenon that is often discussed in the media and is even researched by many academics.

    “We’ve become professionals now,” one ‘Rotten Girl’ joked on Weibo recently.

    Another commenter replied that the rise and possible fall of the danmei community is, eventually, intrinsically linked to how much room is given by China’s internet regulators. Although the past decade has demonstrated that Rotten Girls are not easily scared away by censorship and shutdowns, their future eventually does depend on the online accessibility to BL media and forums.

    “If there is no relaxed online environment, it doesn’t matter how professional we are,” one commenter writes: “We might come to a standstill.”

    What the future will hold for China’s Rotten Girls remains to be seen. Whether met with controversy or censorship, for now it seems impossible to put the Rotten Girls back into the closet they came from.

    By Manya Koetse
    Follow @whatsonweibo

     
    This text was written for Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.
     

    References

    Chen, Xin. 2017. “Boys’ Love (Danmei) Fiction On The Chinese Internet: Wasabi Kun, The Bl Forum Young Nobleman Changpei, And The Development Of An Online Literary Phenomenon.” MA Thesis, University of British Colombia https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Boys%27-Love-(Danmei)-fiction-on-the-Chinese-internet-Chen/63e7b494653bc1d849461b7a8f3d57aad05be452 [Aug 30, 2020].

    Cohane (阿扣-绝赞爬墙中). 2020. “第二章 中国内地BL文化发展历史整理 [Part Two: A History of Development of Mainland China BL Culture Development]” (In Chinese). Weibo Article, Aug 8, https://weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404536531036799045 [Aug 26 2020].

    Dai, Fei 戴非. 2013. “腐女心理 [Funu Psychology]” (In Chinese). 大众心里学 Popular Psychology (12): 34-35.

    Galbraith, Patrick W. 2011. “Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan.” Signs 37 (1): 211-232.

    Larigakis, Sophia. 2017. “Boys’ Love: The Gay Erotica Taking China by Storm.” Sophialarigakis.com, Nov 6 https://www.sophialarigakis.com/writing/boys-love-china [Aug 29, 2020].

    Madill, A., Zhao, Y. and Fan, L. 2018. “Male-male marriage in Sinophone and Anglophone Harry Potter Danmei and Slash.” Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 9 (5): 418-434.

    Ogawa, Sho. 2017. “Producing Gayness: The 1990s “Gay Boom” in Japanese Media.” PhD Dissertation, University of Kansas.

    Yang, Ling and Yanrui Xi. 2016. “Danmei, Xianqing, and the making of a queer online public sphere in China.” Communication and the Public 1 (2): 251-256.

    Yang, Ling and Yanrui Xu. 2017. “Chinese Danmei Fandom and Cultural Globalization from Below.” In: Lavin, Maud, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao (eds). 2017. Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols – Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, page 3-20.

    Zhang, Chunyu. 2016. “Loving Boys Twice as Much: Chinese Women’s Paradoxical Fandom of “Boys’ Love” Fiction.” Women’s Studies In Communication 39 (3): 249–267.

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    China Comic & Games

    “Darkest Day in the History of Animation”: Kyoto Animation Arson Attack Trending on Weibo

    The devastating arson attack at Kyoto Animation has shocked Chinese anime fans.

    Wendy Huang

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    Chinese anime fans are mourning the shocking arson attack on the Kyoto Animation Studio.

    An arson attack has left at least 33 people dead and dozens injured at the Kyoto Animation Studio. The attack, that occurred on the morning of July 18, has shocked anime fans in China.

    Approximately 70 people were inside the three-story Kyoto building when multiple fires broke out around 10:30 in the morning (local time).

    As reported by BBC, a 41-year-old suspect broke into the Kyoto Animation studio on Thursday morning and sprayed petrol before igniting it.

    The man reportedly shouted ‘go die’ when bursting into the studio. The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital for treatment. The case is currently under investigation.

    Image of suspect given out by Japanese media.

    On Chinese social media, the Kyoto Animation Studio (also known as ‘KyoAni’) went trending on Thursday.

    Many Chinese anime fans offered their prayers to those who lost lives or faced injury at the deadly attack and expressed anger at the arsonist. Others initiated the setup of donation channel to support the Kyoto Animation studio and the families of the victims.

    On Weibo, popular literary blogger ‘Guo Maimai’ (@知书少年果麦麦) published a long post about the Kyoto Animation’s work as an independent studio, commenting: “This is the darkest day in the history of animation.”

    He further added: “The gravest consequence of this fire is not the loss of the original works or the building, but the loss of the talents who have been trained for such a long time.” 

    At time of writing, the post was reposted nearly 60,000 times, receiving over 7000 comments. The hashtag “Darkest Day in Japan’s Animation” (#日本动画最黑暗的一天#) also took off afterward.

    Chinese cartoonist ‘Feizhaizhi’ (@我是肥志, 2.66 million followers) wrote: “All the original works have been destroyed! All their efforts, their dreams, and now even their lives are gone!”

    To express his grief, the cartoonist changed his Weibo profile into a gray one.

    Bilibili, China’s leading online platform to distribute Japanese anime, also changed its anime website to grey.

    The Kyoto Animation company was established in 1981 and has produced anime ever since (‘anime’ refers to a style of Japanese film and television animation typically targeted at adults as well as kids).

    KyoAni’s high-quality animations, including TV series and films, are known for often featuring highschool girls and becoming big hits.

    From ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,’ Kyoto Animation

    Japanese comics and animations have been hugely popular in China since the 1990s. Even today, Japanese productions are usually more popular among Chinese anime fans than domestically produced works (read more).

    Despite the outpouring of support for the Kyoto Animation studio, some Weibo netizens did not show sympathy and made anti-Japanese comments in light of the history of the Sino-Japanese war.

    Others, however, would not accept such comments in these tragic times, writing: “Kyoto Animation has been such a good companion during our childhood..Why can’t we support the companion of our childhood?”

    Another person wrote: “I will never forget the history, just like I will never forget the memories of my childhood created by Kyodo Animation.”

    By Wendy Huang

    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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