News reports from China say a new online game that allows players to vent their frustration against the authorities is taking the internet by storm. The game pits heroes from the lower rungs of Chinese society against officials, as street pedlars fight off local law enforcers trying to clear them from the pavement. Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with The World’s East Asia Correspondent Mary Kay Magistad. Download MP3
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LISA MULLINS: Doing business in China can also be pretty difficult, especially for street vendors. They often have a tense relationship with the authorities. A new down-loadable videogame in China is based on that unhealthy dynamic. It’s a game of vendors versus police, where the two sides are out to kill each other. Chinese internet censors are not amused. The two-week-old game is now very hard to find on the Web. But here’s an audio sample. The World’s Mary Kay Magistad is in Beijing. Describe the game for us, Mary Kay.
MARY KAY MAGISTAD: Okay. Well, what we’re hearing here is what you hear when you first log on to play the game. And it’s actually a song by a singer named [PH] Kwanza, who’s known for writing a lot of songs with sharp social commentary. And this one basically talks about how many people are left outside in the cold as China’s economy grows. There’s also a dedication at the beginning of the game, a fairly serious one, to people who have been killed by these semi-official city law enforcers that many cities have. One was beaten to death when he was videotaping them beating someone up. One was beaten to death in a local police station in [SOUNDS LIKE] Guangzhou because he didn’t have a temporary residence permit. And already this game has created a lot of buzz, at least informally within China.
MULLINS: It sounds like it’s pretty serious. What actually makes it a game?
MAGISTAD: Okay, well take a listen to this. What you’re hearing here is what you hear as you play the game. You have this virtual person who goes into a barren field where there are vendors who are trying to sell their wares. A little girl comes up to you and says, we hear that the law enforcers are coming, we need your help. We’ll help you fight them. Please fight them. So, you have to kill the city law enforcers as they come or they will kill you. And you kill the first one then you get money to be able to buy the support of the vendors who are behind you. Different vendors cost different amounts depending on their abilities to help you. So you get one who basically can just kill officials at short distance, he’s pretty cheap. You get a laid-off worker, he’s one of the more expensive ones because he’s really angry and he’s got a lot of strength and he can kill enemies at a distance. And then you also get what’s called the [SOUNDS LIKE] Tofu Beauty, which I think is a euphemism and she seems to be sort of a prostitute. What she does, she also doesn’t kill the law enforcers, but she does make them sort of slow and stupid, so it’s easier for you to kill them.
MULLINS: How are authorities keeping up with this? Or aren’t they? I mean they’re known to have such a heavy hand in terms of what goes on the net. Are they ahead of this one or behind?
MAGISTAD: They’re behind so much of what goes on the net. I mean there is very heavy censorship here, but there are a lot of very creative young Chinese who are on the internet these days, 400 million people on the internet all told, and they always seem to be a step or two ahead. However, in this case, this game has only been online for two weeks and already it’s very hard to find a place where you can download it anymore.
MULLINS: But even so it gives a lot of insight into what at least the computer games makers are feeling in terms of anger toward local officials.
MAGISTAD: Yeah, and it’s very interesting. The makers of this game actually originated at [INDISCERNIBLE] University of Technology. It was a student group originally that was founded in 2003 and they produce a lot of these domestic Chinese video games. But some of them actually do have a social edge. There’s another game, a demolition game. So it’s people who’s home is about to be destroyed by local officials and you’ve got the father, the mother and the child all throwing different things out of their home at the people who are coming to demolish their house. So some are throwing molotov cocktails, the mother’s throwing slippers, and they’re all trying to defend their home. I think the idea is, it’s a [INDISCERNIBLE] that’s supposed to make you laugh, but at the same time it’s also supposed to make you think.
MULLINS: Alright. Thank you very much. Speaking to us from Beijing, The World’s Mary Kay Magistad talking about a popular, but suddenly hard to find, computer game in China that pits street vendors against city law enforcers. May Kay, thank you.
MAGISTAD: Thank you, Lisa.
MULLINS: By the way, you get to see a video that shows how that street vendor game works, and sample the other game we mentioned, about home demolitions in China. We posted the links at TheWorld.org.
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