China Forbids The Use Of English Words In Mobile Games

from the not-as-crazy-as-it-looks dept

Techdirt has run many articles about China‘s direct assault on Internet freedom. Indeed, its attempts to muzzle online dissent are so all-encompassing you might think it has run out of things to censor. But you’d be wrong: China is now reining in games for mobile phones, as a post on Tech in Asia explains:

A little over a month ago, Chinese censorship bureau SAPPRFT announced new rules that require every mobile game launched in China to be pre-approved by SAPPRFT (already-launched games will have to get retroactive approval before the grace period ends in October). Before the rules had even gone into effect, developers and analysts alike were predicting things could be bad, and that the rules might dismantle China’s indie mobile gaming scene entirely.


Making sure games aren’t seditious in any way might be expected, but there’s a rather weird twist to this latest move:

One developer’s rant has gone viral in the Chinese web after their game was supposedly rejected by SAPPRFT for containing English words. Not offensive English words, mind you, but completely innocuous ones like “mission start” and “warning.” “I’m really fucking surprised,” wrote the developer of the rejection.

Another developer confirmed that their game had been rejected for the same reason: including English words like “go” and “lucky.” SAPPRFT’s rules also forbid the use of traditional Chinese characters.


The use of English here is hardly subversive. The words in question form part of a global gaming language that has little to do with either the US or the UK. The ban on traditional Chinese characters, as opposed to the simplified ones that are generally used in China, is more understandable: Taiwan still uses the traditional form, so their inclusion might be seen as some kind of subliminal political statement.

The consequence is likely to be fewer games from smaller Chinese software companies, who are less able to meet the stringent new demands. As the Tech in Asia post rightly points out:

We could be facing a future where China’s entire mobile game catalogue consists only of the games produced by powerful corporations like Tencent and Netease, with no room for startups and indies.


And that is probably the real reason for this latest move: big companies tend to be far more willing to toe the government line than smaller independents, since they have far more to lose. So, as with other apparently arbitrary moves, the latest unexpected clampdown by the Chinese government looks to be yet another example of its shrewd and subtle control of the online world.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “China Forbids The Use Of English Words In Mobile Games”

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10 Comments
QuantumForcesays:

Traditional vs Simplified Chinese

What’s ironic about the PRC’s use of simplified characters is that they were part of an initiative started in the 1950s to increase literacy. 60 years later, Taiwan, which (as mentioned) still uses traditional characters, has a higher literacy rate than mainland China (98.5% vs 96.4%). So much for government-mandated initiatives.

(Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/print_2103.html [speaking of government])

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