Taiwanese Horror Game Devotion Delisted From Steam After Winnie The Pooh Meme Sparks Controversy
Update: The developer has responded on their Steam page saying they pulled the game down due to a crash bug.
"Due to technical issues that cause unexpected crashes and among other reasons, we are pulling <Devotion> off from steam store to have another complete QA check. At the same time we'd like to take this opportunity to ease the heightened pressure in our community resulted from our previous Art Material Incident, our team would also review our game material once again making sure no other unintended materials was inserted in. Hopefully this would help all audience to focus on the game itself again upon its return."
They did not explain why the YouTube videos for the game have been removed or who is responsible for Steam refunds with the game's publisher rescinding their agreement.
The original story is as follows:
Devotion, a Taiwanese horror game that found a huge fan following over the past week since its release, has been removed entirely from Steam following the use of a meme banned in China. The ensuing firestorm has lead to the game's publisher abandoning the studio and the developers being forced to apologize publicly over the issue.
The game is a follow up to developer Red Candle Games' previous horror title Detention, a school-based survival horror titled based on Taiwanese culture and mythos. Players quickly picked up on Devotion and became attracted to the game's effective use of scares and environmental oppression. However, its average user reviews on Steam started to collapse in the time since release, as Chinese players discovered something they did not like on one of the game's posters.
On a poster in the game for what is known as a Fulu talisman, characters dotted along the edges of the design say what is roughly translated as "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh Moron," referring to the People's Republic of China's president. In recent years, Chinese internet users have poked fun at Xi Jinping for looking like Winnie the Pooh, the yellow cartoon bear with a predilection for honey. The meme reportedly angered the Chinese leader, resulting in a ban in China.
When it was revealed that Tencent, the large Chinese company with investments in a lot of major U.S. tech companies like Riot Games and Epic, was investing in Reddit, the community retaliated by posting pictures of Xi Jinping next to Winnie the Pooh.
It is not difficult to see why the message could have offended some Chinese gamers, but this was not the actual reasoning for the low reviews. Most user reviews cited an anger at the Taiwanese developers for inserting politics into the game or trying to sneak a message in to western players where it didn't belong. Essentially, they were arguing that Devotion was not the place for an argument against China for Taiwanese independence, even as, or perhaps especially as, an easter egg hidden on a poster.
Red Candle Games explained on the game's Steam discussion group that they simply searched for internet slang as placeholders, but forgot to delete it in the final game. In a patch on February 21, the poster was changed entirely to remove the text, but the negative reviews continued all the same. It was not long until the developers' Weibo account was disabled, a microblogging platform with 445 million accounts in China and massive oversight by the Chinese government and internet censorship agencies.
Similarly, all videos of Devotion have been pulled from the developer's YouTube channel, and publishers Indievent and Winking Entertainment have terminated their agreements to publish the console versions of the title.
Today, the game was removed from Steam, but it is not entirely clear why. Valve's stated policy is that all games are allowed on Steam unless they are illegal or trolling, a broad descriptor that seems to allow them to pull things for whatever reasons they deem fit. A listing for the Deluxe version of the title still exists, but it was simply a bundle with the soundtrack, and now only the soundtrack remains.
[Source: The Verge]