The South China Morning Post has seen an internal memo from China’s gaming association which suggests games will have to convey the “correct set of values” and be “pure entertainment”. What they will not be allowed to show is same sex relationships and “effeminate males”.
Advances in representation the western world has meant same sex relationships are now found in many games, from the Assassin’s Creed to Overwatch to a myriad of indie games such as Night In The Woods and Stardew Valley.
The banning of “effeminate men”, or men as we call them over here, poses an even bigger problem for one particular genre of games. “If regulators can’t tell the character’s gender immediately, the setting of the characters could be considered problematic and red flags will be raised,” the memo states.
The JRPG genre has long featured male characters who have what could be considered female characteristics, heroes who look nothing like the hulking beefcakes that used to represent masculinity in western video games. The recent Final Fantasy VII remake featured a new take rather awkward section from the original title; In the original, Cloud has to dress as a woman to infiltrate an enemy compound, in the remake he gets a full drag make over and fabulous dance sequence.
The Chinese government believe they are in the middle of a “masculinity crisis” which they have linked to video games. They believe playing games makes boys physically weak and therefore unmasculine. A nationalist blogger named Li Guangman recently posted an article which was widely quoted and publicised by the state run national press. In it he states the country should be “stamping out pretty-boy and sissy-boy tendencies in our national character”.
Video games in China have to be approved before they can be released to the general public and the rules are very strict, but seem to be becoming stricter. A number of games are usually approved each month but none were approved in August and September. There are also restrictions on when game can be played by minors, just one hour between 8PM and 9PM on Fridays, weekends, and holidays.
Ironically, as I am writing this, Drag Race UK is playing on the television behind me on BBC1.