Square Enix is reportedly being sued in China for publishing a game which allows the player to kill Chinese, and which damages the image of that great nation by most unfairly depicting Shanghai as a squalid hotbed of criminality.
The controversy centres on “Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days,” which involves the violent antics of two mercenaries rampaging through the Shanghai underworld.
A Chinese lawyer apparently happened upon details of “a game where you could kill Chinese” on a Chinese forum, and soon became incensed at the “unbearable” content contained in the title.
He then enlisted the help of Chinese Internet denizens to gather screenshots of the heinous game in action, and had soon catalogued numerous examples of such outrages as depictions of filthy Chinese slums and the player being able to freely shoot the Chinese townspeople thereof.
This, he asserted, was nothing less than a “Chinese slaughter game.”
Accordingly, he filed suit against Square Enix accusing them of “damaging the image of Chinese people,” “mocking China and the Chinese people,” and “causing people to misunderstand China.”
Claiming “it is my duty as a lawyer to protect the rights of Chinese,” he is demanding an apology and compensation from both IO Interactive and Square Enix for slandering the Chinese people and causing them so much mental anguish (some apparently played it), although only to the tune of 10,000 yuan ($1600).
It is not clear what his chances of winning the suit are, but ominously he proclaims that:
“If I am victorious, it will establish a precedent allowing us to sue others – we will be able to strike a great blow against foreign companies who think they can insult China.”
Given the unfavourable depiction of China in the most recent Deus Ex title, this is probably not a precedent Square Enix would wish to see set.
The initial release of Kane & Lynch 2 displeased many Chinese (despite it not being released in China), but at the time nobody thought to sue the publisher – though after realising the publisher was Japanese, it seems their enthusiasm increased markedly.
The game itself was not directly developed by Square Enix (that honour falls to IO Interactive), being instead published in 2010 by Square Enix subsidiary Eidos Interactive, and only distributed by Square Enix proper.
Despite being poorly received and rubbished even by the notoriously supine gaming press, it still managed to sell a million copies.
Although China’s efforts to censor foreign game publishers are nothing new (most notably, Paradox Interactive was subjected to a blanket ban on their games for depicting China as multiple states in WWII, a ban it subsequently ignored), Square Enix seems intent on expansion into China – suggesting it may soon find all its publishing activity subject to party approval if it wishes to continue there.