Valve has become the latest in a long list of companies that have bent the knee to the Chinese Government in order to keep their access to the Chinese Market. Gizmodo reports two games with a narrative and setting that focus on the Hong Kong Protests are being denied approval by Valve.
Liberate Hong Kong, the first game referenced is a VR game that puts players in the place of a Hong Kong Protestor dodging bullets and dealing with the brutal crackdown protestors have experienced. Rather than provide an action oriented or even power fantasy ,the game aims to allow international audiences to experience what it is like to be where those fighting for their very right of self determination are and how they are treated.
There is at the very least a plausible excuse for denying Liberate Hong Kong for reasons other than politics. In a Facebook post the developers describe that their game is educational rather than meant to be enjoyable, thus making it an edutainment title.
“Games do not necessarily bring entertainment, but it will bring people to reflect and have educational meaning. The works made from the current Hong Kong image, will be the most authentic Hong Kong in VR. The night of the Hong Kong demonstration shows that participants will feel the thrilling process of being exposed to light and being chased by the police under a VR device. June and Tom were invited June and Tom to share the difficulties they had encountered in making the game and the purpose behind them. I hope you will meet under the future.”
There is a merit in having a discussion over whether such an educational experience does violate Valve’s requirements, but for that conversation to occur Valve needs to state that is the exact reason for their refusal of approval. There are no rules stating that edutainment software is banned from Steam, though. Rather Valve has opted to simply ignore the approval request for the game and not even communicate with the developers.
For their part the developers want to have a conversation with Valve, but Valve has not replied to their messages or even commented on their application.
In contrast to Liberate Hong Kong, Karma a visual novel set in a dystopian future Hong Kong dealing with the “Sorrow and Sadness” that is prevalent in the city.
Where Valve has remained silent towards the developers of Liberate Hong Kong they have provided a clear reason why another game submitted on October 8th hasn’t received approval yet.
The sole reason the game has been held up is the: “Controversial and potentially illegal content” of the game.
China’s handling of the Hong Kong Protests has at every stage blown up in its face. Where they had Blizzard Crackdown on Blitzchung it caused Congress to take notice of their influence over American Corporations. Their attacks against the NBA has caused them to lose two games in China thanks to protests by nationalists, and resulted in a 15% ratings decline in the west.
Had Valve and China simply allowed the approval of these games they probably would have only garnered minor attention and middling sales. Now they’ve catapulted them into the spotlight and raised the issue amongst the development community of Valve’s censorship stance when it comes to China. A conversation we are going to see continue to grow and one that is in desperate need of being had even by consumers.