Asian Politics Goes Virtual
China has long been known for its political issues with many other nations including Japan and Taiwan. Some form of local unrest is often prominent in the country’s newspapers, and many agree that China is far from what is normally viewed as a peaceful place.
Recently this issue entered the digital world as well, as China’s MMG called Fantasy Westward Journey experienced what has been described as the largest political protest in a virtual world.
It all started with a Chinese player reached a high level of stature in FWJ’s virtual community, bringing his character (with its alias name potentially offensive to the Japanese) into the role-playing spotlight. The game administrators executed an “arrest”, bringing this player to an in-game jail. Much like an out of control political protestor in the real world, this player was, in some opinions, jailed unfairly.
This started a snowball effect of real life people taking their pretend life world too far. The administrators proceeded to begin shut down procedures for the 700-member guild called “The Alliance to Resist Japan.”
Then rumors began flying that the Chinese company NetEase was being taken over by a Japanese corporation which began making changes to the game such as lion statues turning into pigs and a wall décor suddenly appearing that closely resembled the Japanese flag’s rising sun.
So where does innovation come into this common political bickering between China and another nation? Follow the story a little deeper and you discover a virtual protest was staged. The “protest march” took place over the summer and involved almost 80,000 players. The game’s servers are designed to hold only around 20,000 players at one time, and characters stormed the system, crowding the game’s town and alleyways, executing the world’s largest virtual game protest.
With China being one of the leading gaming nations in the world, it is no wonder real life protests at, say, the NetEase headquarters, have been thwarted in preference to virtual political unrest. Perhaps it says a lot when 80,000 individuals feel more comfortable expressing views in a faux environment than in a face-to-face setting.
Our world is becoming more and more innovative every day – however fascinatingly those innovations are being progressively found through avatars, chat rooms, and MMG’s rather than laboratories and board rooms.