The Chinese government has instituted more restrictions regarding the appearance of violent content in the media, with a new regulation banning the appearance of blood or the use of the word ‘kill’ in video games released in the region.
On April 14th the Founder and CEO of Yodo1 and an expert blogger in the Gamasutra community, Henry Fong, published a blog entry on Gamasutra titled The Future is Bloodless! China Bans Blood in Video Games. In his post, Fong discusses the new regulations and what impact they will have on game developers going forward:
In the past, games that wanted to publish in China could get away with things like “colored” blood—as in any color but red. Now, the new rules are very clear and straightforward: no blood means no blood. That includes anything that can be imagined as blood.
Before the new regulation, blood, bones, guts, human corpses, and dismembered body parts were already banned.
Older regulations have already required many games to make alterations to their assets before they could be launched in China.
However, when it came to in-game blood, developers devised all kinds of clever ways to get around the restrictions. This included changing the color of blood from red to blue, black, or white, and many games pulled off getting licensed in China with these techniques.
Now that new regulations have been passed, blood—and anything players might perceive as blood—is definitively forbidden. No more workarounds. And as far as we know, the law takes effect immediately.
With its new set of regulations, China has also banned the use of the word kill anywhere in a game.
Fong also provides a handful of examples of actions developers can follow if they wish to comply with this new regulation:
- Animate death differently. Some Chinese games with combat action show characters slowly disintegrating when they die. This has been compliant with the new rules and accepted by players. Another example from a different genre is how characters die in Clash of Clans: they either become smoke and vanish or they return to their “original state” as an elixir—one of the game’s resources. You could also convey death by giving a character a fitting facial expression and showing them clutch their chest as they fall.
- Go old school and use comic-book style combat feedback. You can illustrate and animate what happens when a player engages in combat with written text in cards or bubbles the way the old Batman tv series does.
- Use surrogate special effects for blood. Instead of liquid oozing or squirting out of a character’s body when they are wounded, you can design alternative special effects. For example, you could have white “puffs” appear around a body part that gets shot or stabbed.
- Toggle visual violence on/off. Some game developers might remember a time when this was done to meet age restrictions. Considering China’s trend toward increasingly strict game regulation, the option to turn your gore or violence visual SFX on or off is certainly a handy function to start building into your game now.
- Get inspiration from kid-friendly games. Games that are built for a general audience, such as Clash of Clans, tend to use “kid-friendly violence”. They can be a great source of ideas on how to rethink and redesign your animated violence.
The restrictions put in place by the Chinese government have already led to the censorship of the widely popular PUBG Mobile. Due to said restrictions, the original version of PUBG Mobile was unable to find approval in China, leading developer Tencent to quickly modify the game and release it under a new name, Game for Peace. Though the two games are nearly identical, modifications made for Game for Peace include a “socialist makeover” and the removal of the previously noted violent content. The arbitrarily made changes have been met with mockery across social media, with particular ridicule given to the new ‘death’ animation, which sees the eliminated player providing the victor, in an almost gift-like manner, with the weapons and items he had in his inventory before waving good-bye to the player:
They changed PUBG Mobile in China to comply with stricter game violence laws. Now when you ‘kill’ someone they give you a loot box and wave goodbye and honestly it’s just so hilariously wholesome pic.twitter.com/Q5xkrtM0MA
— Svend Joscelyne (@SvendJoscelyne) May 8, 2019
What do you make of these new changes? Do you think this type of censorship will begin to affect how developers make games? Do you think it is already affecting them?