China’s attempts to curb the growing popularity of gaming have been well-documented in recent times, but the last few days have seen the topic take a decidedly conservative turn, with authorities cracking down on ‘effeminate’ behaviour from men in the media. First, there were reports that Chinese television was to be more heavily monitored, and now it appears as though the government is trying to bring the same new regulations to the gaming industry.
According to a report from ndtv.com, Tencent and Netease were summoned for yet another talking to, as regulators seek to remove what they consider to be ‘abnormal aesthetics’ from gaming spaces. Sadly, in the eyes of those authorities, effeminate behaviour from men is considered to be ‘abnormal’ or harmful, as they ask developers to add more masculine qualities to male characters and avoid depicting effeminate men in games.
The news comes after a report from the official Xinhua news agency last Wednesday, which detailed the latest edicts against gaming. Specifically, they state that "obscene and violent content and those breeding unhealthy tendencies, such as money-worship and effeminacy, should be removed," a move that experts say is driven by the older, more conservative members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Ndtv quotes University of Hong Kong associate professor Geng Song, who said that ‘heterosexuality is seen as the only gender norm’, and more conservative members of society experience ‘anxiety’ at more ambiguous expressions of gender and sexuality. This news, alongside recent curbs to playing time for younger gamers, has seen Tencent and other companies’ share prices tumble, with the ruling party telling huge firms to put their focus on profits on the back burner.
This would not be the first time game companies have had to adjust to differing cultural mores in Asia, with publishers often leaving their ‘Pride’ efforts and other celebrations of LGBTQ communities out of promotional material aimed at China or Korea. The decision to equate effeminate behaviour with violence in gaming, which itself has yet to be proven as a negative influence on gamers, will be a controversial one with western fans at least, with reaction from the Chinese public harder to gauge at such a distance.
The decision from the ruling party to speak with gaming companies about the issue also demonstrates the growing social power of gaming across China, and the wider world. It will be interesting to see how Tencent and Netease, among other companies, react to the edicts, with diversity being a popular theme among many western gamers. We will also have to wait and see whether these laws require the companies to change all future versions of games, or simply the ones sold in China.