JX3 incident: censorship or campaign against insensitive language?

Video game industry in China is famously conducive to all sorts of political controversy. Most recently, Chinese developer Seasun Games has cut off 1.5 million players in Taiwan from JX3, a MMORPG similar to World Of Warcraft. This time, it was about certain Covid-19 terminology that Taiwanese players used.

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Last Saturday was declared in China a national day of mourning for COVID-19 victims. All entertainment was put on hold, with NetEase and Tencent  temporarily shutting down their servers.

While the commemoration didn’t take place in Taiwan, JX3 also went offline for three hours. That led many Taiwanese players to discuss the situation in the game’s chatrooms. Apparently, the term “Wuhan virus” was used used extensively.

Denoting COVID-19 as “Wuhan virus” is deemed insensitive in mainland China. Seasun Games, a subsidiary of Chinese software giant Kingsoft, requested its Taiwanese partner Wanin to issue a ten-year ban for JX3 players using the term. Seasun Games’ demands that the offensive remarks should be “rectified” ended with the following phrase: “May the dead rest in peace, the living work hard and the motherland prosper.”

Wanin refused to either ban players or censor the language used in the game’s chatrooms. According to Abacus, the Taiwanese company viewd the request as undermining freedom of speech.

Following that, Seasun effectively ceased its cooperation with Wanin on Sunday, thus removing 1.5 million players from JX3. A striking move, considering that was almost a half of the game’s 3.3 million player base in East Asia. Wanin is currently offering refunds.

The situation is reminiscent of another controversy related to freedom of speech in China. In October 2019, Blizzard banned esports player Blitzchung for expressing support for the Hong Kong protests.

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