TAIPEI (CNA) — Deputy Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) gave his support for made-in-Taiwan video games and creative freedom after Chinese netizens launched a boycott against a game with an embedded image they said mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
In a Facebook post on Feb. 24, Chen praised the video game, Devotion (還願), as a work of a group of young Taiwanese who created a “unique Taiwan-style horror” game with Taiwanese elements combining traditional customs and aspects of daily life.
“Only in countries with democracy and freedom can creation be free from restrictions,” said Chen.
Devotion, a horror riddle-solving game created and developed by Taiwanese game developer Red Candle Games for global digital distribution platform Steam, faced a boycott by users in China just days after its release on Feb. 19.
The new game attracted 100,000 viewers on the live Streaming video platform, Twitch, following its global release on Stream.
A screenshot of a charm amulet hanging on the wall of a room in the game angered Chinese netizens on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, after it was noticed that the names of Xi and Winnie-the-Pooh were written on the amulet in red.
The reference was unrelated to any aspect of the game.
The Winnie the Pooh character has been used to mock Xi since a picture of the Chinese leader walking with then U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013 spurred comparisons to Winnie the Pooh walking with Tigger.
Some Chinese netizens blasted the game for “insulting the national leader” while others criticized the game’s producers as supporters of Taiwan independence.
As the boycott campaign grew on Weibo on Saturday, the game’s commercial agent in China, Indievent, said it was severing relations with the Taiwanese game producer.
At the same time, major social networking websites in China, including Weibo, began to delete all content related to Devotion, and the game was taken off Steam’s official website in China.
Amid the controversy, which has also drawn media attention in Taiwan, Red Candle Games issued an apology on its Facebook page, in which it said the embedded Winnie the Pooh and Xi Jinping reference was planted by a member of the company’s creative team without anybody else’s knowledge.
“This is not Red Candle’s stance, nor an original concept for Devotion,” the post says, noting that the company removed the reference as soon as it was told of the mistake on Feb. 21.
“We feel deeply sorry” for the incident, which has disappointed players who are fond of Red Candle Games, the company wrote.
By Sophia Yeh and Elizabeth Hsu