Genshin Impact comes from China-based developer miHoYo, which was previously known for its mobile gacha games (essentially, loot boxes) such as Honkai Impact 3rd. Its newest title is a leap forward that took the world by storm, raking in millions of dollars and quickly inspiring a fandom, with its forward-looking mix of high quality open-world gameplay and microtransaction monetization.
The game’s success now has a dark tinge since fans have noticed that the words “Hong Kong” (or any variation thereof) and “Taiwan” are banned. Players reported not being able to use those words in chat on social media, and Motherboard confirmed that they cannot be used in a player’s profile signature. Instead, a prompt appears that says, “Signature contains illegal characters.”
Hong Kong is a hotbed of pro-democracy protests as the Chinese government encroaches on its autonomy, passing a highly controversial security law in May that bans any act or activity that runs counter to the government’s priorities. China also considers Taiwan to be under its control despite the latter’s self-governance and a claim to independence.
Genshin Impact’s censorship is likely due to the fact that game developers in mainland China must adhere to government-mandated rules that block any potentially subversive activity. It’s bound to raise further concern about the intersection of increasing Chinese political repression and the growing importance and influence of China both as a market and development hub for popular games.
Last year, U.S.-based Activision Blizzard kicked off an international incident by suspending a professional player and rescinding their winnings after they expressed support for Hong Kong after winning Hearthstone’s Asia-Pacific Grandmaster tournament. U.S. senators spoke up against the company’s actions, and it eventually reduced the penalties against the player and apologized.
Also last year, the developers of Taiwanese horror game Devotion pulled the title from Steam after Chinese users negatively rated the game for including a poster that said, “Xi Jinping Winnie-the-Pooh moron.” It is a popular subversive meme in China to compare President Xi Jinping to the tubby cartoon bear.
Spokespeople for miHoYo were not immediately available to comment.