Since its release on February 19th, Chinese gamers are captured by the first-person atmospheric horror game Devotion (还愿). The popular game has taken social media by storm, triggering discussions all over Weibo; the hashtag #Devotion (#还愿) has received over 120 million views on Weibo at the time of writing.
Devotion is the fourth game that has been developed by Red Candle Games (@赤烛游戏), an independent game studio from Taiwan. Inspired by East Asian folk culture, the game depicts the life of a family shadowed by religious belief. It is already being compared to classic horror games such as Silent Hill 2.
The game design is rather impressive. We’ll give you a brief introduction to the story of the game, followed by an overview of Chinese social media discussions relating to it.
If you prefer to explore the story on your own without any spoilers, skip the first part and move to the second part. Note the game can only be played on Windows system now, available through game distribution platform Steam.
Devotion: The Story
The story of the Devotion game is set in Taiwan during the 1980s. It revolves around a fictional popular belief in the goddess Cigu Avalokiteshvara (慈姑观音). The game’s protagonist is Du Fengyu (杜丰于). He once was a popular playwright and is now trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his daughter Du Meixin (杜美心), going on an exploration inside the Du family apartment.
Du’s estranged wife is Gong Lifang (龚莉芳). Once a famous singer, she retired from the stage after marrying Du, who objected to her profession. Du, somewhat of a male chauvinist, refused Gong’s proposal to return to the stage, even when the family was suffering from a devastating financial crisis. Not long after the birth of their daughter, violence and hatred started to deeply affect the entire family.
The daughter inherits the gift of singing and performing from her mother. With his own flopped career, bad-tempered Du turns all of his attention towards turning his daughter into a successful singer, like her mother used to be. When the daughter is signed up to perform in a talent show, she fails to succeed and later develops a mysterious illness.
Du Fengyu turns to Teacher He (何老师), who practices the belief in Cigu Avalokiteshvara, to ‘cure’ his daughter. Opposing this practice and unable to change her husband’s mind, mother Gong Lifang runs away from the family home.
What follows is a spiritual journey in which Teacher He leads Du to travel through a ghostly world, where Du sacrifices himself to save his daughter. When Teacher He instructs Du to submerge his daughter in a bathtub full of alcohol, blood, and snakes for seven days, the situation turns extremely grim, as the little girl loses her life, and Teacher He manages to escape.
Weibo’s Devoted Fans
As the super popular game is trending on Weibo, an entire fandom culture is taking shape, with people discussing all the different features of the game, sharing fan art, and diving deep into its story.
Many netizens are expressing their fear of playing the horror game. “Whatever gave me the courage to play this game?!” some wonder.
“I just downloaded the game for its excellent atmospheric design. I was alone in the bedroom, with the lights turned off, and within five minutes of playing it I became absolutely terrified,” another player admits.
There are also some online discussions on whether or not protagonist Du is to blame for his little daughter’s misfortune, with some cursing him and others arguing that he deeply cares for his child.
The online fandom to the game is apparent in the many memes and images that are posted in relation to it. One Weibo user remarks that her friend, who is studying to be an architect, became so engrossed in the game that he drew up a map of the Du family home.
Many also appreciate the game’s music, that was produced by Taiwanese rockband No Party For Cao Dong (草东没有派对).
People can follow other players live streaming their Devotion experiences through online platforms such as bilibili.tv, acfun.tv, or twitch.tv.
Amid all discussions, the official Weibo news account of the Chinese Commission of Politics and Law (中国长安网) warn online players against the dangers of cults. Although not all commenters recognize the connection between the game and the “anti-cult” topic, they do point to the game’s ‘Teacher He’ as being the instigator of all the tragic events in the game’s narrative. By now, the hashtag “Teacher He” (#何老师) has even appeared in the Weibo hot search lists.
The success of Devotion represents the potential of the Chinese game industry in the eyes of many, giving Chinese developers a chance to get their game recognized by a global audience. Watch the trailer of the game embedded below:
As for me personally, I appreciate the storyline, the game design and music, but cannot share too much on my experiences of playing the game – I chickened out after the game’s first chapter.
For those who are not easily affected by horror, the game provides a great opportunity to immerse yourself in an eery 1980s Taiwan setting and enticing narrative. Remember to turn on the sound, and get ready for the scare.
By Boyu Xiao
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“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.
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.
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.
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
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China’s Top Mobile Gaming Apps
China has the largest mobile gaming market in the world. It’s an exciting market not just for game-lovers, but also for those into marketing and advertising.
One of the key drivers behind this online gaming environment is the fact that China is a mobile-first country. China’s average mobile user owns a relatively cheap but high-performance mobile phone, which enables them to play mobile games. As the quality of China’s smartphones keeps on rising, so are the possibilities and developments within China’s mobile gaming market.
The Chinese gaming industry is flourishing, but also highly controlled. Online games are allowed to be imported
To gain more insights in this enormous market, we list five of the mobile apps that currently play an important role in the mobile gaming industry. We made our selection based on the data from the Android app stores Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, and Zhushou360. We tried our best to give you a representative overview of a variety of apps that are currently most used in China, but want to remind you that these lists are by no official “top 5” charts.
This article is part of a series of five articles, listing popular Chinese apps in the categories of short video & live streaming, news, health & sports, and knowledge & education. We’ll list the other categories for you below this article, but let’s move over to review these popular mobile gaming apps now.
#1 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 绝地求生
PlayersUnknown’s Battleground (PUGB) is a so-called ‘sandbox style’ survival game, which basically means that gamers are allowed to freely roam and change the game, that does not have a set storyline, and that they are required to do all they can to survive as long as possible by eliminating its competitors.
In this online multiplayer game, that is called a Fortnite rival, players are placed together with up to 100 other players on an island. As the game proceeds, the battlefield gradually shrinks, putting more pressure on its players. The users have to assemble weapons and other necessities, and in doing so, need to kill their competitors and take their possessions. The last person left is the winner.
PUBG, which is currently the most popular mobile phone game app in China, was created by the South Korean Bluehole. In 2017, Chinese gaming giant Tencent launched the mobile app version of the game. The Chinese version is not entirely the same: it has been adapted to make sure it aligns with ‘socialist values.’
At the moment, there are two versions of PUGB games: Exciting Battlefield (刺激战场) and Full Ahead (全军出击). The games Exciting Battlefield and Full Ahead subsequently ranked most and third most popular game app in the Chinese Apple stores in 2018, with Exciting Battlefield reaching 14,9 million daily active users at the end of 2018. Currently, Exciting Battlefield still ranks the most popular game app in both the Tencent and Zhushou360 app stores.
#2 Honor of Kings or Kings of Glory 王者荣耀
Honor of Kings is a game developed and published by Tencent which was first launched in 2015. The game is a multiplayer online battle arena game, where players have to team up for a five-to-five battle.
Every user can personally assemble their hero and equip it with certain features such as appearance, powers, etc. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s base.
In 2018, Honor of Kings was the second most popular game app in the Chinese Apple store with 53,8 million daily active users in the last quarter. This year, the game especially rose in popularity during the Chinese Lunar New Year: in the week from 4-10 February, Honor of Kings reached 92 million daily active users.
But the game’s popularity isn’t limited to China. In 2017, Tencent launched an international adaption of the game called Arena of Valor. The game was adopted as one of the games at the eSport Demonstration Event at the 2018 Asian Games, where the Chinese team won the gold medal.
#3 Speed QQ / QQ飞车
Speed QQ is a 3D game that combines both casual and competitive racing. The game has three kingdoms: wind, fire, and fantasy.
In each kingdom, there are different kinds of races, and players can move up levels if they beat other players. In the end, the strongest player of all will be crowned ‘king.’ To prove their skills, the best players of each kingdom can also race against each other in races played on racetracks on the border of the several kingdoms.
The game can be played by either a single player or multiplayer, with a maximum of six players.
Speed QQ, just as Honor of Kings and PUBG, is a game by Tencent – it is the world’s largest game distributor by revenue. Speed QQ was first launched in January 2008 as a PC version, and it was not until 2017 that the mobile app version was released.
#4 Identity V 第5人格
Identity V is a so-called asymmetric warfare game, meaning that the game is a wargame between individuals or a group of players and their hostile opponent.
The horror game, designed in gothic art style, is a one-versus-four multiplayer game. Later in the game, players can decide whether they want to play either the hunter or one of the four survivors.
However, the game is mainly a survivor-based game. The player first enters the game as a detective who receives a mysterious letter inviting the player to investigate an abandoned estate and search for a missing girl. As the player is searching for clues about the missing girl, a hunter will try to catch the player and strap it to a rocket ready for blast off. This is where the three other survivors come in; those are the ones who can free their fellow-survivor from the racket. But if they are too late, the player will be fired off and lose.
Identity V is the newest game app in our selection as it was launched in April of last year by NetEase. Despite its short period on the market, the game gained significant success. The app was the fifth most popular game app in Chinese Apple stores in 2018, with over 26 million downloads.
#5 Mini World 迷你世界
Mini World is a 3D sandbox style game, allowing its users to roam around in the virtual world of the game.
Mini World, also called a block art game, allows its players to build their world by moving around blocks and placing other elements. They can do this alone, but they can also invite friends and create a dream world together. The game closely resembles the Swedish game Minecraft (我的世界), which is also available in China.
Mini World was first launched in December 2015 by a Shenzhen based company. A couple of years later, the game was available in both Android and Apple stores. In 2018, Mini World became the fourth most popular game app in China with 3.7 million daily active users in the third quarter.
- Top 5 of China’s Most Popular Live Streaming and Short Video Apps
- Overview of Top 6 Chinese News Apps
- Devotion Game Taken Down in China
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