Chinese game which simulates what it’s like to be a parent tops Steam charts, beating Grand Theft Auto

The Chinese-only indie game allow players to guide their kids from a toddler all the way up to gaokao, the notorious college entrance exam

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 6:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 6:31am

Chinese parenting has gained a reputation over the years for being particularly authoritarian – holding sway over almost every aspect of a child’s life, from learning a musical instrument to eventually finding a life partner.

Now you can experience for yourself what it’s like to be a Chinese parent in a new video game that’s proving so popular it’s outdoing Grand Theft Auto V, which simulates what it’s like to be a gangster.

Indie game Chinese Parents currently ranks among the top sellers on gaming platform Steam, surpassing several big name titles. Released on September 29, the Chinese-only title already has more than 4,000 reviews on Steam, 90 per cent of which are positive. At its peak, a total of 32,000 users played the game simultaneously via the platform, according to third-party provider Steam Database.

In Chinese Parents, players can guide their virtual kids from being a toddler all the way up to the national college entrance exam – known as gaokao and the most important educational test in many Chinese people’s lives. Throughout the 48 rounds of the game, players have to improve their kid’s stats, such as intelligence and physical fitness, by arranging school and recreational activities.

The ultimate goal is to get your child into a prestigious university. Once this prodigious feat is achieved, players can start all over again with a new baby – which inherits the improved genes of the previous protagonist.

Chinese Parents has captured a sweet-spot with China’s gamers, with one Steam user posting a nostalgic comment that playing the game was just like experiencing “yesterday once more”. The title’s success also highlights a growing trend of Chinese indie game developers taking their new offerings to Steam as the US-based platform grows in popularity in China.

While Steam has yet to officially launch in China and exists in a grey area, there are an estimated 20 million Chinese users on the platform for games that would otherwise have to be approved by regulators to publish domestically – a process that has been halted for months amid Beijing’s tighter scrutiny of gaming content and efforts to improve children’s health.

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Perhaps taking inspiration from Chinese-American Yale law professor Amy Chua’s depiction of “Tiger Moms” – which describes how she called her children “garbage” and threatened to burn their stuffed animals if they didn’t do their homework – parents in the game are encouraged to cram their kids with as many test papers as possible.

However, in a nod to the growing problem of teenage suicide in China, parents are also encouraged to give their virtual kids sufficient leisure time for basketball and video gaming to help them relax and lead balanced lives. In recent times there have been several reports of Chinese students jumping off buildings due to the high pressure of the gaokao process.

Other aspects of the game capture familiar elements of Chinese culture. For example, boasting to prying relatives about your kid’s achievements, refusing red envelopes during Lunar New Year before eventually pretending to reluctantly accept the gifts, and kids forced to call off budding teen romances when their mother spots the signs.

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The independent label behind Chinese Parents is Beijing-based games studio Moyuwan, whose two developers Liu Zhenhao and Yang Geyilang were born in the 1980s. “We hope kids and parents can understand each other” through playing the game, Liu told state news media.

Moyuwan did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.

Chinese Parents is also available on Tencent’s WeGame platform, where it has gathered around 5,000 reviews.

Another Chinese-only indie title The Scroll of Taiwu also made it to Steam’s top sellers chart last week. Released on September 21, the martial arts role-playing game sold more than 500,000 copies via the platform within two weeks, according to its developers.