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A sexist "harem-building" game from China is hot in South Korea

Some players say Call Me Lord is sexist

Video gaming
This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Chinese mobile games have been dominating South Korea’s app charts. But the latest hit isn’t a shooter like PUBG or a MOBA like Honor of Kings: It’s about collecting wives and concubines.

Call Me Lord, developed by Shenzhen-based Chuang Cool, is a “ harem-building” game -- a popular genre in China.

It’s essentially a simulation game where players control a noble family, and aim to expand its power and influence.

One big way to do that is, well, a harem: Having a lot of wives and concubines who can produce children, essential for expansion.

If this sounds incredibly sexist, well… yeah, it is. In the game, dozens of women fight for your attention and you can pick one to reward her with money or sex. You can even punish them for not producing smart children.

Players can punish their concubines if their babies are not smart. (Picture: App Annie)

Some players know it’s sexist, but they don’t seem to care.

“This game is shameless, but I still can’t stop playing it,” says a poster on Bilibili.
Harem management isn’t the only part of the game. You can also expand your influence by sheltering and funding warriors and academics from across various ages of China’s history and legends, including Mulan and the poet Li Bai -- who lived in very different times, but happily co-exist here.

With a major part of the game being about collecting people to deploy in battle, it bears some resemblence to some card games.

Harem-building games are popular in China, tapping into a key period of history.

Feudalism reigned for thousands of years, leaving a mark on Chinese culture. Ancient harems are a popular source for modern entertainment in the country. For instance, two of China’s recent TV hits -- Empresses in the Palace ( available on Netflix) and War and Beauty -- are both stories of feuding concubines.

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Despite those links to Chinese history, this game isn’t actually doing that well in China.

It’s nowhere to be found on the country’s top apps charts -- possibly because the first version of the game was banned in China. During a crackdown on “pornography, gambling and violating social ethics” authorities published developer Chuang Cool, because the game allowed players to bribe people and torture prisoners.

The game now appears to be available again in the iOS App Store, but doesn’t appear to be garnering serious traffic.

Despite being a Chinese game, some characters wear traditional Korean clothing. (Picture: App Annie)

It’s a different story in South Korea, where the game hit #4 on the the iOS App Store’s game charts. Last I checked, it had a rating of 4.5 stars across over 6,700 reviews.

The Korean edition is nearly identical to the Chinese one, with a few key changes. Characters (including yup, the concubines) wear traditional Korean clothing instead of Chinese.

Call Me Lord is one of a number of Chinese mobile games thriving in South Korea. According to CCTV, the top 20 most downloaded mobile games in South Korea last year included 16 games from China, led by titles like Girls' Frontline, The Epoch of Eternity and Onmyoji.

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For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.