On August 20, developer Game Science released a trailer for its upcoming game Black Myth: Wukong. It generated a lot of buzz among fans, but also a lot of job applicantions for the company. This positive response prompted Game Science founder and CEO Feng Ji to remark that he had been “licked so much that [he] could no longer get erected.” In another post about the trailer, Feng, somewhat inconsistently, said, “Now I feel pressure in my pants!”
While the trailer was universally praised, Feng’s comments might have endangered the game’s ultimate success as many female gamers vowed to boycott the title. More importantly, this situation undersores the deeply-rooted culture of sexism in China’s video games industry.
China’s female gamers
Feng’s erection-centered comments might have potentially antagonized nearly half of the country’s population of gamers.
- in 2019, the number of female gamers grew 3,5% and exceeded 300 million;
- According to Niko Partners, women make up 48% of Chinese gamers (the entire gamers’ population in the country is 720 million);
- polular MOBA Honour of Kings is played by more women than men. Women spend considerably less on in-game purchases than men;
- despite the growing female audience, games are still being predominantly made by men. That is why their tastes and preferences determine the current agenda in China.
Speaking about Feng’s comments, one Weibo user said “Over the years, I have played many foreign console games but this is the first time I felt ostracised. It hurts even more as it comes from a game that I so looked forward to playing.”
Other players called on the community to boycott the game due to the vulgarity of Feng’s coments — even if an attitude like this is nothing new in China. Xia Changshen (not a real name), who is a school student and a gamer, said that male players routinely make sexual jokes when they hear her voice over the microphone.
China’s female devs
It’s not just female gamers that are victims of the culture of sexism. Even female developers are unable to avoid the underlying sexist attitudes of the industry, South China Morning Post reports. Scor Mu (not a real name either), game concept artist based in Chengdu, said that there’s a tacit agreement that female character in games are supposed to be “pretty” and “sexy.” She was still shocked to get the following set of instructions for designing a new character:
“It needs to give people an urge to masturbate,” the document read. When commenting on this “guideline,” Mu’s employer said, “Just imagine that she’s the type you most want to f***.”
Despite being profoundly stressed by the comments, Mu said there’s no point in filing an official complaint. The company that contracted Mu’s services employs roughly three men to every woman, according to the artist. Many of female industry workers aren’t even involved in the artwork, they mostly work in reception or in business development.
The problem is further aggravated by the fact that China’s feminist movement is “silenced and stigmatised.” “Chinese people who are against sexism are often labelled ‘feminists’, which often has a negative connotation, the very making of which is yet again an example of widespread sexism and misogyny,” said Cuihua Shen, associate professor of communications at the University of California, Davis. The Chinese authorities are known to have censored #MeToo hashtags, while detaining and interrogating activists.
Unfortunately, Chinese women working in the industry do not expect the situation to change any time soon. Not on an industry-wide scale, anyway. However, the growing number of female gamers that are willing to be vocal indicates that some progress is still happening, even if at a painfully slow pace.