Chinese state media has taken aim at recently released video game Battlefield 4, accusing it of “demonising the image of China in a new form of cultural aggression”.
In an editorial published last week in military newspaper Zhongguo Guofangbao , Battlefield 4 was criticised for “discrediting China’s image abroad and distorting the truth in an effort to mislead young people”.
“[In the game], American soldiers attack Shanghai [and] exchange fire with the People’s Liberation Army,” the editorial read. “Set in the year 2020, China’s domestic unrest is the [game’s] backdrop, and the US military must fight for peace and uncover China’s conspiracies.”
The editorial went on to critique the game’s plot, which features a renegade Chinese general as a main villain, and said it was full of “profanity” and “made no sense”.
“When western countries would make war games in the past, they would settle on Russia if they needed an imaginary enemy,” the article read. “But in recent years, with the boosting of China’s national strength, China threat theories run rampant, and foreign companies are increasingly keen to put the Sino-US conflict in their games as a gimmick to attract attention.
“The use of video games…to discredit one country’s image in the eyes of other countries is a new form of cultural penetration and aggression.”
Wang Jiahang, an associate professor of journalism at the China University of Political Science and Law, was quoted as saying that “video games have a main audience of young people aged 18 to 25, and the distorted facts in these games will mislead their values”.
The article also quoted Ma Zhengang, vice director for the China Public Diplomacy Association, who said that “in order to deal with western preconceptions of China…[Chinese people] need to rise up, share China’s voice…[and] resist video game media that puts China in a bad light”.
Over a thousand netizens commented on the editorial when it appeared on the Tencent Games news portal, most dismissing it as overly critical – particularly when the military themes espoused in Battlefield 4 were “nothing new”.
“Games, cartoons and comics do this sort of thing all the time,” one commentator wrote. “Your own country is always the best, and there’s plenty of media out there that discredits its own country of origin as well. To prohibit something like this is futile.”
Video: Trailer for Electronic Arts game, Battlefield 4
Others argued that while Battlefield 4 might portray the Chinese in a negative light, American media was generally more willing to “discredit its own country of origin” than Chinese video games or films.
“How many times have games and movies from the US shown domestic terrorist attacks, alien invasions or the White House getting blown up multiple times?” one netizen asked.
On western gaming site Kotaku, some commentators questioned the logic behind the editorial’s arguments.
“I had the feeling that the Chinese were portrayed extremely positively in Battlefield 4,” a commentator using the name “Exploboom” wrote. “For starters, the Chinese enemy is essentially a rogue general, caught up in China's aggressive attempts to expunge corruption from their government.
"In the [game], you actually work with the Chinese military to stop this rogue general, who'd tried to have a promising new leader assassinated and subsequently framed the US as the perpetrators in order to orchestrate a war. [When] you reveal to the Chinese that the leader is not only still alive but well, [the player] goes on to aid them in stopping the rogue general.”
Battlefield 4, published by American game developer Electronics Arts, is the latest in the award-winning Battlefield series of first-person shooters. It was released in late October and early November in most regions, but has not yet seen a release in mainland China.