Strict censorship guidelines revealed for console games in China, stomps on free speech

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The Chinese government has released a comprehensive list of restrictions and guidelines to be placed on the content of console games allowed to be sold in the region following the lifting of a ban on the sale of consoles the PlayStation and Xbox earlier this year.

The guidelines are incredibly strict and while some may seem logical individually, when combined they could set the games industry back twenty years as far as diversity and experimentation is concerned with little chance to release games with strong, empathetic messages that have been such a breath of fresh air in recent years.


The full list of guidelines for the kinds of content that is not allowed in console games in China reads as follows:

– Gambling-related content or game features.
– Anything that violates China’s constitution.
– Anything that threatens China’s national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.
– Anything that harms the nation’s reputation, security, or interests.
– Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
– Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
– Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
– Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
– Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
– Other content that violates the law.

Games will be subject to an approval process that is said to take no longer than 20 days, and companies outside of China must work with a local partner or distributor which operates out of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, according to a report on Games in Asia. If a game is not approved, the reason for the rejection will be provided. In addition, game updates will also need to go through this approval process.

While games like Grand Theft Auto would most likely be rejected outright, what about games that strive to impress a specific message on their audience? What about games that rely on freedom of speech that developers in most of the world enjoy?

And how could these restrictions in a market estimated to be worth $17.6 billion in 2014 affect the development of games going forward – a market that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, as well as publishers like Activision, EA and Ubisoft, would want to take advantage of? Could we see games in the future being created specifically to adhere to the rules set out by the Chinese government in order to reduce the costs of removing offensive content from games created for Western audiences?

Let us know your thoughts on these restrictions and how they could shape the way publishers and developers approach game development in the future.

Source: Games In Asia

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