Video games, historical representation and soft power | Intellect Skip to content
1981
China and the World: Navigating Video Game Localization and Copyright Challenges
  • ISSN: 1757-191X
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1928

Abstract

This article explores how historical video games have become tools for UK and Chinese ‘soft power’ or ‘public diplomacy’ and the role of historical representation in portraying cultural identity in the global marketplace. In the United Kingdom, state support has been introduced for games representing British culture, which are assumed to conduct cultural diplomacy (a subcategory of public diplomacy). In China, public diplomacy – ‘telling China’s stories well’ – has been central to national promotion strategies under Xi Jinping. Although the success of these approaches is visible in game companies like Tencent and NetEase, regulators remain attentive to games that reflect upon China’s history and cultural heritage. What does this mean for historical representation in and around video games? Do nationalistic regulatory environments threaten the capacity of games to offer thoughtful or challenging engagements with the past? And how effectively is historical representation mobilized to project soft power through video games?

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/journals/10.1386/jgvw_00075_1
2024-01-30
2024-05-23
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

References

  1. Abby (2019), ‘Chinese gov’t puts restrictions on palace dramas, men’s earrings and other areas in C-Ent’, DramaPanda, 29 January, https://dramapanda.com/2019/01/chinese-govt-puts-restrictions-on.html. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  2. Anderson, B. (2006), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, new ed., London: Verso.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Anon. (2016), ‘Iran plans to block websites offering “1979 Revolution”’, Tehran Times, 17 April, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/300689/Iran-plans-to-block-websites-offering-1979-Revolution. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke, C. E., Boom, K. H. J., van den Hout, B., Mol, A. A. A. and Politopoulos, A. (2021), Return to the Interactive Past: The Interplay of Video Games and Histories, Leiden: Sidestone Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bai, R. (2014), Staging Corruption: Chinese Television and Politics, Vancouver: UBC Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bazalgette, P. (2021), ‘Sir Peter Bazalgette keynote at Beyond 2021’, Beyond 2021, 20 October, https://beyondconference.org/news/2021/peter-bazalgette-keynote-beyond-2021/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Bell, D. and Oakley, K. (2015), Cultural Policy, London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Birchall, D. and Henson, M. (2011), High Tea Evaluation Report, London: Wellcome Trust, http://museumgames.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/44614076/HighTeaEvaluationReport.pdf. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Bogost, I. (2007), Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Bramwell, T. (2004), ‘Chinese government attacks Football Manager 2005’, Gamesindustry.biz, 9 December, https://www.gamesindustry.biz/chinese-government-attacks-football-manager-2005. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  11. Brandenburg, A. (2020), ‘“If it’s a fantasy world, why bother trying to make it realistic?”: Constructing and debating the middle ages of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’, in M. Lorber and F. Zimmermann (eds), History in Games: Contingencies of an Authentic Past, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, pp. 20120.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. British Council (2023), ‘About us’, https://www.britishcouncil.org/about-us. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  13. British Film Institute (BFI) (2019), ‘British video game certification: Version – November 2019: Video games cultural test guidance notes’, November, https://core-cms.bfi.org.uk/media/77/download. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  14. Burgess, J. and Jones, C. (2021), ‘Exploring player understandings of historical accuracy and historical authenticity in video games’, Games and Culture, 17:5, pp. 81635, https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120211061853.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Chan, K. H. (2022), ‘The rise of prestige Chinese games’, Polygon, 19 February, https://www.polygon.com/22893265/china-aaa-indie-video-games-genshin-impact-dyson-sphere-program. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  16. Creative Assembly (2010), Total War: Napoleon, Horsham: Creative Assembly/Sega.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Dealessandri, M. (2020), ‘China introduces new age rating system’, gamesindustry.biz, 18 December, https://www.gamesindustry.biz/china-introduces-new-age-rating-system. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  18. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) (2001), ‘Creative industries mapping documents’, gov.uk, 9 April, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/creative-industries-mapping-documents-2001. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  19. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) (2015), ‘Creative industries economic estimates January 2015’, gov.uk, 13 January, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/394668/Creative_Industries_Economic_Estimates_-_January_2015.pdf. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  20. Dewey, C. (2013), ‘Chinese army-designed video game lets players fight Japan for the Diaoyu Islands’, The Washington Post, 26 July, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/07/26/chinese-army-designed-video-game-lets-players-fight-japan-for-the-diaoyu-islands/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. deWinter, J. (2015), ‘Regulating rape: The case of RapeLay, domestic markets, international outrage, and cultural imperialism’, in S. Conway and J. deWinter (eds), Video Game Policy: Production, Distribution, and Consumption, London: Routledge, pp. 24458.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. d’Hooghe, I. (2005), ‘Public diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China’, in J. Melissen (ed.), The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 88105.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Donald, I. and Reid, A. (2023), ‘Account, accuracy, and authenticity: A framework for analysing historical narrative in games’, in R. Seiwald and E. Vollans (eds), (Not) In the Game: History, Paratexts, and Games, Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter, pp. 5780.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Dredge, S. (2013), ‘Apple rejects Endgame: Syria iOS game’, The Guardian, 8 January, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/appsblog/2013/jan/08/endgame-syria-apple-rejection. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Duffy, B., Stoneman, P., Hewlett, K., May, G., Woollen, C., Norman, C., Skinner, G. and Gottfried, G. (2022), ‘Woke, cancel culture and white privilege: The shifting terms of the UK’s “culture war”’, IPSOS, May, https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2022-08/the-shifting-terms-of-the-uks-culture-war%20%281%29.pdf. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  26. Dunnagan, A. (2022), ‘Another record year for Rockstar Games Tax Relief (RGTR)’, TaxWatch, 9 May, https://www.taxwatchuk.org/rockstar_games_tax_relief/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  27. Dwyer, C. (2017), ‘A cartoon’s Black star prompts a fight: What did Roman Britain look like?’, NPR, 7 August, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/07/542077027/a-cartoons-black-star-prompts-a-fight-what-did-roman-britain-look-like. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  28. Feit, D. (2012), ‘Chinese iPad game depicts slaughter of stereotypical Japanese’, Wired, 6 July, https://www.wired.com/2012/07/defend-diaoyu-islands-ipad/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Flew, T. (2012), The Creative Industries: Culture and Policy, London: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Fortnite Team, The (2022), ‘Explore the “Kaws New Fiction” art exhibit in Fortnite, based on the Serpentine North Gallery in London’, Fortnite, 18 January, https://www.fortnite.com/news/explore-the-kaws-new-fiction-art-exhibit-in-fortnite-based-on-the-serpentine-north-gallery-in-london. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Garda, M. B., Majkowski, T. Z. and Švelch, J. (2022), ‘Game culture in national context’, workshop description for DiGRA 2022, Krakow, Poland, 7 July, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RGiQQw8rwykXnM4fpPkPYO2Pg1I1b0_p/view. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  32. Girvin, B. (2023), ‘Putin, national self-determination and political independence in the twenty-first century’, Nations and Nationalism, 29:1, pp. 3944.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Goh, B. and Shen, S. (2021), ‘Tencent vows fresh gaming curbs after “spiritual opium” attack zaps $60 billion’, Reuters, 3 August, https://www.reuters.com/technology/tencent-falls-after-china-media-calls-online-gaming-spiritual-opium-2021-08-03/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  34. Grealy, L., Driscoll, C., Wang, B. and Fu, Y. (2019), ‘Resisting age-ratings in China: The ongoing prehistory of film classification’, Asian Cinema, 30:1, pp. 5371.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Grosby, S. (2005), Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Habermas, J. (1996), ‘The European Nation-state: Its achievements and its limits – On the past and future of sovereignty’, in G. Balakrishnan (ed.), Mapping the Nation, London: Verso, pp. 28194.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Harris, G. (2021), ‘Keep problematic monuments and “explain them”, UK government to tell cultural leaders’, The Art Newspaper, 15 February, https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/02/15/keep-problematic-monuments-and-explain-them-uk-government-to-tell-cultural-leaders. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Hartman, A., Tulloch, R. and Young, H. (2021), ‘Video games as public history: Archives, empathy and affinity’, Game Studies, 21:4, http://gamestudies.org/2104/articles/hartman_tulloch_young. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Heritage Alliance, The (2022), ‘The Heritage Alliance response to DCMS select committee inquiry “Reimagining where we live: Cultural placemaking and the levelling up agenda”’, UK Parliament Committees, 2 November, https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/106512/pdf/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. HM Treasury (2014), ‘Video games companies to begin claiming tax relief’, 19 August, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/video-games-companies-to-begin-claiming-tax-relief/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  41. Holmes, O. (2021), ‘No cults, no politics, no ghouls: How China censors the video game world’, The Guardian, 15 July, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/jul/15/china-video-game-censorship-tencent-netease-blizzard. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Holmes, O., MacDonald, K. and Stuart, K. (2019), ‘Revealed: Global video games giants avoiding millions in UK tax’, The Guardian, 2 October, https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/oct/02/revealed-global-video-games-giants-avoiding-millions-in-uk-tax-sony-sega. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Huang, Z. A. and Wang, R. (2019), ‘Building a network to “tell China stories well”: Chinese diplomatic communication strategies on Twitter’, International Journal of Communication, 13, pp. 29843007.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Huxtable, S.-A., Fowler, C., Kefalas, C. and Slocombe, E. (2020), Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery, Swindon: National Trust, https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/binaries/content/assets/website/national/pdf/colonialism-and-historic-slavery-report.pdf. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Ingham, T. (2021), ‘Recorded music grew $1.5 billion in the pandemic year’, Rolling Stone, 17 March, https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/recorded-music-billion-growth-2020-1143159/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. iNK Stories (2016), ‘1979 Revolution: Black Friday’, Steam, https://store.steampowered.com/app/388320/1979_Revolution_Black_Friday/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Iwabuchi, K. (2010), ‘Globalization, East Asian media cultures and their publics’, Asian Journal of Communication, 20:2, pp. 197212.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Jou, E. (2013), ‘Why China banned Battlefield 4, Modern Warfare 2, and 40 other games’, Kotaku, 30 December, https://kotaku.com/why-china-banned-battlefield-4-modern-warfare-2-and-4-1491490947. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  49. Keane, M. and Wu, H. (2021), ‘Online platforms, cultural power, and China’s Pan-Asian strategy’, in D. Y. Jin (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Globalization, New York: Routledge, pp. 15866.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Kerr, A. (2017), Global Games: Production, Circulation and Policy in the Networked Era, London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. KULTURA Ex Machina (2022), Occupy White Walls, London: KULTURA Ex Machina.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Li, M. and Webber, N. (2022), ‘Video games with national characteristics: Understanding “British” and “Chinese” video games’, InGAME International Conference: Games in/between China and the West, online, 12–13 April.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Liboriussen, B. and Martin, P. (2020), ‘Honour of Kings as Chinese popular heritage: Contesting authorized history in a mobile game’, China Information, 34:3, pp. 31941.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Liboriussen, B., White, A. and Wang, D. (2015), ‘The ban on gaming consoles in China: Protecting national culture, morals, and industry within an international regulatory framework’, in S. Conway and J. deWinter (eds), Video Game Policy: Production, Distribution, and Consumption, London: Routledge, pp. 23043.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Liu, T. T.-L. (2018), ‘Public diplomacy: China’s newest charm offensive’, E-International Relations, 30 December, https://www.e-ir.info/2018/12/30/public-diplomacy-chinas-newest-charm-offensive/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  56. Mac Síthigh, D. (2014), ‘Multiplayer games: Tax, copyright, consumers and the video game industries’, European Journal of Law and Technology, 5:3, pp. 119, https://ejlt.org/index.php/ejlt/article/view/324/490. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. McClory, J. (2015), The Soft Power 30: A Global Ranking of Soft Power, London: Portland PR Limited.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. McGivern, H. (2021), ‘National Trust’s report on colonial and slavery history did not breach charity law, regulator says’, The Art Newspaper, 12 March, https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/03/12/national-trusts-report-on-colonial-and-slavery-history-did-not-breach-charity-law-regulator-says. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Mena, E., Cook, N. and Davies, J. (2020), Video Gaming in Lockdown: The Impact of Covid-19 on Video Game Play Behaviours and Attitudes, London: Ipsos MORI, https://www.isfe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/IpsosMori-Gaming-during-Lockdown-Q1-Q2-2020-report.pdf. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Mikoto, M. (2016), ‘Comment: Update December 13: Chinese localization’, Oriental Empires Announcement, Steam, 18 February, https://steamcommunity.com/app/357310/eventcomments/1633040337753359704?snr=1_2108_9__2107&ctp=3#c133257324797010769. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Muriel, D. and Crawford, G. (2018), Video Games as Culture: Considering the Role and Importance of Video Games in Contemporary Society, London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Nitro Games (2009), East India Company, Kotka: Nitro Games.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Nye, J. S. (2004), Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, New York: Public Affairs.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Nye, J. S. (2011), The Future of Power, New York: Public Affairs.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Nye, J. S. (2017), ‘Soft power: The origins and political progress of a concept’, Palgrave Communications, 3:17008, pp. 13.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. O’Brien, M. and Webber, N. (2021), ‘Global capital/local space: The polymorphic territoriality of audiovisual production’, Rethinking Borders and Boundaries: Beyond the Global/Local Dichotomy in Communication Studies (IAMCR 2021), Nairobi, Kenya, 11–15 July.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. O’Connor, J. and Gu, X. (2014), ‘Creative industry clusters in Shanghai: A success story?’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 20:1, pp. 120.
    [Google Scholar]
  68. Owen, G., O’Brien, D. and Taylor, M. (2020), ‘A jobs crisis in the cultural and creative industries’, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, 10 December, https://pec.ac.uk/blog/how-covid-19-is-impacting-the-cultural-sector-with-the-loss-of-55-000-jobs-in-the-arts. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  69. Riot Games (2009), League of Legends, Los Angeles, CA: Riot Games.
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Rough Guides Editors (2021), ‘Introduction to the Rough Guide to Xbox’, Rough Guides, 8 September, https://www.roughguides.com/articles/introduction-to-the-rough-guide-to-xbox/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  71. Rubin, R. (2020), ‘Global entertainment industry surpasses $100 billion for the first time ever’, Variety, 11 March, https://variety.com/2020/film/news/global-entertainment-industry-surpasses-100-billion-for-the-first-time-ever-1203529990/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. Saber, D. and Webber, N. (2017), ‘“This is our Call of Duty”: Hegemony, history and resistant videogames in the Middle East’, Media, Culture & Society, 39:1, pp. 7793.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Schneider, C. P. (2005), ‘Culture communicates: US diplomacy that works’, in J. Melissen (ed.), The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 14768.
    [Google Scholar]
  74. Shimko, H. (2019), Inspiring Creativity, Heritage & the Creative Industries: A Heritage Alliance Report, The Heritage Alliance, https://www.theheritagealliance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/InspiringCreativity_THAreport.pdf. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  75. Šisler, V. (2008), ‘Digital Arabs: Representation in video games’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 11:2, pp. 20320.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Smith, A. D. (1991), National Identity, London: Penguin.
    [Google Scholar]
  77. Steam User 纹身啊?黑社会?(2016), ‘Review: Oriental Empires’, Steam, 24 September, https://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198049876811/recommended/357310/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. Stuart, K. (2023), ‘Pushing buttons: Will The Last of Us open the door for more good video-game adaptations?’, The Guardian, 18 January, https://www.theguardian.com/games/2023/jan/18/pushing-buttons-last-of-us-hbo-adaptation. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  79. Szablewicz, M. (2010), ‘The ill effects of “opium for the spirit”: A critical cultural analysis of China’s internet addiction moral panic’, Chinese Journal of Communication, 3:4, pp. 45370.
    [Google Scholar]
  80. Taylor, M. (2022), UK Games Industry Census: Understanding Diversity in the UK Games Industry Workforce, London: Ukie, https://ukie.org.uk/resources/uk-games-industry-census-2022. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  81. TiMi Studio Group (2015), Honor of Kings, Shenzhen: TiMi Studio Group/Tencent Games.
    [Google Scholar]
  82. TiMi Studio Group (2016), Arena of Valor, Shenzhen: TiMi Studio Group/Tencent Games.
    [Google Scholar]
  83. UKRI (2022), ‘Creative industries clusters programme’, 17 October, https://www.ukri.org/what-we-offer/browse-our-areas-of-investment-and-support/creative-industries-clusters-programme/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  84. United Kingdom Games and Talent and Finance (UKGTF) (2023), ‘About’, https://ukgtf.org/. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  85. von Lünen, A., Lewis, K. J., Litherland, B. and Cullum, P. (eds) (2020), Historia Ludens: The Playing Historian, New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  86. Warnock, E. (2012), ‘Swimming bunnies offer android game solution to island spat’, The Wall Street Journal, 29 August, https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-JRTB-12743. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  87. Webber, N. (2020), ‘The Britishness of “British video games”’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 26:2, pp. 13549.
    [Google Scholar]
  88. Wehrle, C. (2017), John Company, Stockholm: Sierra Madre Games.
    [Google Scholar]
  89. Wijman, T. (2021), ‘The games market and beyond in 2021: The year in numbers’, Newzoo, 22 December, https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/the-games-market-in-2021-the-year-in-numbers-esports-cloud-gaming. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  90. Wright, E. (2022), Rockstar Games and American History: Promotional Materials and the Construction of Authenticity, Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  91. Xinhua (2004), ‘Swedish video game banned for harming China’s sovereignty’, China Daily, 29 May, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-05/29/content_334845.htm. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  92. Yan, A. (2017), ‘Why China’s Honour of Kings is so popular: It’s all about communication’, South China Morning Post, 9 July, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2101716/why-chinas-honour-kings-so-popular-its-all-about-communication. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  93. Ye, J. (2021), ‘New video game approvals dry up in China as internal memo shows that developers now have many red lines to avoid’, South China Morning Post, 29 September, https://www.scmp.com/tech/policy/article/3150622/new-game-approvals-dry-china-internal-memo-shows-developers-now-have. Accessed 11 February 2023.
    [Google Scholar]
  94. Yin-Poole, W. (2013), ‘Sega “investigating concerns” after Russian distributor pulls Company of Heroes 2’, Eurogamer, 6 August, https://www.eurogamer.net/sega-investigating-concerns-after-russian-distributor-pulls-company-of-heroes-2. Accessed 11 February 2023.
  95. Zhang, G. (2016), ‘Parallax view: “Year one” of Chinese game studies?’, Games and Culture, 11:3, pp. 33238.
    [Google Scholar]
  96. Zhang, L. (2013), ‘Productive vs. pathological: The contested space of video games in post-reform China (1980s–2012)’, International Journal of Communication, 7, pp. 2391411.
    [Google Scholar]
  97. Zhang, X. (2012), ‘Censorship and digital games localisation in China’, Meta, 57:2, pp. 33850.
    [Google Scholar]
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/journals/10.1386/jgvw_00075_1
Loading
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error