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Mobile gaming

‘Sexist’ adverts for ‘virtual boyfriend’ game Love and Producer pulled after backlash

PapeGames says messages in videos were ‘quite different from the theme of accompaniment’ it wanted to express

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 11:04am

The developer of a popular Chinese “virtual boyfriend” mobile game has withdrawn a series of advertisements and apologised to its (mostly female) users after being hit with a slew of complaints that they were offensive.

The videos promoting Love and Producer – or Lian Yu Zhi Zuo Ren as the game is known in Mandarin – were launched last weekend to coincide with the Lunar New Year holiday.

In the first, women travelling independently on a coach get into an argument and upset their fellow passengers when they discover they have each selected the same virtual boyfriend character.

In the second, a woman shows off her digital inamorato to her friends – all of whom are boasting about the luxurious Lunar New Year gifts they have received from their partners – while they are at a karaoke bar.

In the third, a workaholic woman, after being chided by her mother for not having a man, assures her that she has found one who takes good care of her. The older woman has no idea her daughter is referring to a pixelated partner.

“So, is this what the company [that designed the game] thinks about its loyal gamers?” a person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

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“This is disgusting and sexist, saying that we are all old and single women who are immersed in fantasy,” said another.

“As a married woman who has a stable income and relationship, I only play this game because I like the voices of the characters … I can clearly distinguish the virtual world from reality,” read another.

“Does the company realise we [the gamers] are the gold mines that keep them going? Why would they mock us like this?” said another.

The social media backlash prompted PapeGames, the product’s developer, to take down the videos and issue an apology.

“Due to the loose quality control on the production of the advertisement, the message that it gives is quite different from the theme of ‘accompaniment’ that it was designed to express,” the company said in a statement.

“We are deeply sorry for the unpleasant feelings this has brought to you all.”

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The videos are still available on other platforms, including YouTube, however, where one person described them as “the advertisement that discourages users from playing the game”, and others appealed for a boycott.

The basic premise of Love and Producer is that the gamer takes the character of a female television producer who comes into contact with various men. She then has the option to chat to them – via text messages or pre-recorded telephone calls – or even go on dates.

The game has been downloaded more than 10 million times in China since its launch in mid-December, with women accounting for more than 90 per cent of its users.

While the game is free to download, players have the option to pay for various add-ons. An industry insider was quoted by mobile game platform 9game.cn as saying that he estimated the company to be making an average of 300,000 yuan (US$47,400) a day from the product.

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Despite the outcry about the latest advertisements, the game’s popularity is not showing any signs of waning just yet.

A promotional video for a new option that allows players to listen to high-definition voice messages from their “boyfriends” has been liked more than 46,000 times on Weibo since it first appeared at the start of the month.