From Electronic Heroin to Functional Games: Perceptions of Videogames and Play in China

All Abstracts > From Electronic Heroin to Functional Games: Perceptions of Videogames and Play in China

From Electronic Heroin to Functional Games: Perceptions of Videogames and Play in China

Author | Affiliation:
Hugh Davies | RMIT University

Presenting at:
Panel 1B |  Games and E-sports


Ominous descriptions of Chinas Social Credit system in Western media have conjured the “gamification” of reality and the use of “citizen scores” to incentivize “good” behaviour (Nittle 2018). Although such discourse is largely based on projected futures as opposed to actual realities, the dystopian tone of coverage continues unabated. This portentous media vernacular occurs against the backdrop of China’s recent videogame market domination signalling a cultural, economic and ideological threat to the industry’s formerly Western hegemony. What has received much less attention are the deep and pre-existing tensions in Mainland China between the ruling Communist party and its videogame sector.

This study give attention to the Chinese Communist Party’s ideological battle against videogames as a waste of time, as anti-social activity and as electronic heroin (Xia 2000; Chew, 2019). Considered here is the fifteen-year ban on game consoles (Liboriussen, White & Wang, 2016) to the current restrictive regulations on game production and play (Chew, 2019) as well as the phenomenon of videogame as emergent sites of protest in both Hong Kong (Davies, 2020) and Mainland China (Chan, 2009). Giving attention to the recent emergence of so-called “Functional Games” to promote the positive social value of games within Mainland China, this study critically assesses the tensions between Chinas online games industry and governmental and media agencies.


Chan, D. 2009. Beyond the “Great Firewall”: The case of in-game protests in China. In L. Hjorth & D.Chan (Eds.), Gaming cultures and place in Asia-Pacific (pp. 141–157). New York, NY: Routledge

Chew, M. M. (2019). A Critical Cultural History of Online Games in China, 1995–2015. Games and Culture, 14(3), 195–215.

Davies, H. (2020). Spatial Politics at Play: Hong Kong Protests and Videogame Activism. DiGRA Australia, Conference proceedings. Nittle, N. (2018). “Spend “frivolously” and be penalized under China’s new social credit system”. Vox.

Liboriussen, B & White, A & Wang, D. (2016). The Ban on Gaming Consoles in China: Protecting National Cultural Security and Industrial Policy Within an International Regulatory Framework, in Video Game Policy: Production, Distribution, and Consumption, Editors: deWinter, J., & Conway, S.

Xia, F. 2000. “Computer Games, ‘Electronic Heroin’ Targeting Youngsters: Investigations Motivated by a Mother’s Complaint.” Guangming Daily, May 9.

About the author

Hugh Davies

Email: –

Hugh Davies is a postdoctoral research fellow at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia. His research explores histories of media devices and cultures of games in the Asia Pacific Region. Awarded a PhD in Art, Design and Architecture from Monash University in 2014, Hugh’s studies in game cultures have been supported with fellowships from Tokyo Art and Space, M+ Museum of Visual Culture and the Hong Kong Design Trust. He has delivered policy presentations on games and technology to ACMI Melbourne, M+ Hong Kong, Design Society Shenzhen, and Zhi Museum Chengdu, and has delivered conference presentations across the Asia Pacific region. 

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