Weibo Netizens Captured by Taiwanese Horror Game “Devotion”
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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