China bans Battlefield 4 video game; declares it a “threat to national security”

4 min read
Battlefield 4

Not content with banning a video game for hurting their feelings, China have banned any mention of the the game whatsoever, even to the extent of banning it in internet searches.

There are different kinds of bans in the video game world. There’s the Australian ban, normally thought of as pretty extreme when a game is refused classification by their ratings board, and therefore not sold in stores in the country.

But then there’s a Chinese ban, one that has just been slammed down on Electronic Art’s Battlefield 4. When China bans a game, it’s not just that the game can’t be sold. Their Ministry of Culture issued a notice prohibiting use of all materials pertaining to the game, including game downloads, demos, patches, and news reports. The name of the game itself, “ZhanDi4″ in Chinese, has been added to the vast lexicon of censored words on China’s largest social media site, Weibo.

Now that’s a ban.

The move isn’t unexpected, as China fiercely defends against anything they perceive to be a threat to their culture. Battlefield 4′s central plot revolves around a coup in China that throws them and their Russian allies into a war with the US. You, the American hero, fight against both those behind the coup and the Chinese army itself. The result? A lot of dead Chinese soldiers.

Granted, the lone figure meant to be able to work out peace between all sides is also Chinese, and you’re tasked with his protection throughout the game. But overwhelmingly, China is painted as the bad guy, and the Ministry of Culture views that as “cultural invasion” that “smears China’s image.”

It is true that modern military shooters have sort of run out of enemies these days, and China’s rising influence makes them a likely candidate to play the villain now that Russia has fallen out of favor for that role. Though even with Russia’s own censorship issues, even they didn’t put up this kind of fuss when they were made the bad guy of every game, show and movie for two decades or more. China is a little more ornery, it seems, and it’s no wonder Activision recently invented a fictional cabal of South American nations to play a different sort of evil axis in Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Battlefield 4 seems to be one problem after another for Electronic Arts. After a few days of a smooth launch, the game’s reliability fell to pieces and it was almost impossible to finish a match. The game has been patched up since, but the stigma remains, as does a lawsuit leveled against EA that says they mislead investors about the readiness of such a big game. I doubt there’s much actual merit to that, but it’s yet another PR headache for them all the same.

The ban in China shouldn’t necessarily hurt EA all that much, as even with China’s recent lifting of their home console ban, that market is hardly up and running yet in the country. And PC versions of the game are probably ten times as likely to be pirated than bought in China, infamous for its illegal game copying and downloading.

Still, it’s hardly the greatest thing in the world to upset a government that shepherds a billion potential customers. And honestly, if a Chinese game company made a title that featured a Chinese hero slaughtering US soldiers during a civil war in America, we may not outright ban the title (or any mention of it), but it would certainly be all over the news for a while, and I doubt many stores would carry it. So while China may be overreacting a bit, it’s hard to say our own government wouldn’t be somewhat irate if the roles were reversed.Source: Forbes – China Issues Blanket ‘Battlefield 4’ Ban

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Tony Simon

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