Does China owe its bad reputation in the video game scene to its weird censorship policies, to the fact that the country has gone as far as to consider games virtual opium, or to the word of mouth that claims Chinese hackers are taking over Western video game servers, a trend that sure does seem to mimic some conspiracy theories popular in dark corners of the Internet such as 4chan Facebook? There's no way of knowing for sure. What we do know, however, is that the evolution of China's role in the video game landscape is filled with unexpected twists and turns that we should all know about. 

It all began as a copyright all-you-can-eat buffet

 

One particular aspect of China is the, say, aloofness when it comes to copyright law. This is why we get stuff like World Of Warcraft theme parks that popped up without Blizzard's knowledge, let alone approval.

The creator of Joyland, the beautiful park we see above, claims that “it's not based on Warcraft, it's based on animals”. Interesting, though it's not as if he needed to spend the millions that his lawyers probably required for such a bulletproof defense because China is historically very lenient with all instances of copywronging American properties. An even more interesting example is that of 300 Heroes, a MOBA that's an obvious League Of Legends ripoff that replaces its characters with, well, 300 characters from basically every popular property in existence minus the actual Spartans from 300.

The game quickly generated controversy for featuring Shrek, but does it? Does it really? Upon closer inspection, we can see that the creature we're accusing of the crime of being Shrek is also wearing a mask, which means that a) he can be anyone, really, and b), the devs didn't just take Shrek's model from some other game, they actually went through the trouble of making an Incognito mode Shrek just for the game.

the roster of 300 heroes is composed of characters from other properties.

Riot Games

The others are clearly Naruto and Wall-E, though.

China's gamers became sweatshop workers for shady American companies

 

China's recent economic boom paved the way for literally hundreds of millions of gamers, many of whom are still in need of the extra cash to make ends meet. This created something called “gold farming”, which is LARP-speak for having people work in a game to make fake game money for players who didn't want to engage in the grind required to reach the highest possible levels and get all that shiny gear. It quickly became a booming market, one that gets China quite a bad rep. Interestingly, Chinese people aren't the ones to blame, as many of these multi-million dollar-making ventures are/were helmed by slimy Americans who, at best, got ridiculously rich while paying dimes to their workers whose lives were just a bit better than those of people working on sweatshops. Yeah, playing games for a living isn't all that much fun when our lives depend on having to repeat the same task nobody else wants to perform even once. No problem says Goldman Sachs, the company that invested $60 million in one of the said companies (before it went mysteriously belly up).

A Goblin from WoW atop a pile of gold

Activision Blizzard

Steve Bannon in his bed, probably.

That's a pretty funny ending to that story, but the people behind these ventures, people like, say, Steve Bannon, didn't abandon ship before making awful discoveries like the now-kind-of-obvious-one of learning that there's a lot of hatred in video game communities. He quickly used his newfound knowledge to rally and propagate his hateful beliefs. It's totally plausible that we wouldn't have had Trump in the white house if it hadn't been for the country that he so loves to hate.

They began making better ripoffs

 

Even those who've never played it are likely to already have seen characters from Genshin Impact on display in a sexual or non-sexual capacity somewhere on the Internet. It's one of the most played and most lucrative games in the world, and one that even many Zelda fans claim was totally ripping off Breath Of The Wild. So, let's take a look at a random image from The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild:

the view in BOTW

Nintendo

and then at one from Genshin Impact:

The view in Genshin Impact

MiHoyo

Oh no, it's even worse than we thought. It's a ripoff with even better colors.

Now, that's but a screenshot, which is far from enough to pass such a judgment. No way there's at least over 11 minutes uninterrupted of footage displaying very curious similarities, right?

In all fairness, Genshin has more than enough value on its own and is far from being in the same league as crap like 300 Heroes, but it must be kind of tough for Zelda devs to come up with one of the greatest games of all time and then seeing it earn less than its mysterious bastard twin brother.

They're currently making games that look better than anything made in the West

 

The time to doubt China's power to play on the big table with America and Japan when it comes to earnings has died long ago, and the doubts that new Chinese development teams can come up with incredibly immersive experiences should soon follow suit. We have the Unreal 5 engine to thank for that, as Chinese devs seem way ahead of everyone else when it comes to the looks of various upcoming games. First, there is Wukong Black Myth, a new action-adventure title that looks so good it almost feels like one of those fake Sony CGI trailers that are too good to be real.

That looks just breathtaking, and it's not even anywhere near the final product. While we wait for it to finish cooking, we can take a look at Code: To Jin Yong, another hauntingly beautiful AAA game from another company we didn't even know existed. 

 The future of Chinese games looks so bright that we'd be lying if we denied being hyped even for the ripoffs we might be seeing in the future.

Top Image: Game Science Interactive Technology Co.

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