Video Games Emerge as Global Ambassadors of China's Cultural Appeal

ByZhang Yunlong July 10, 2024
People try games at the booth of game science during gamescom 2023 in Cologne, Germany, Aug. 23, 2023. [Xinhua/Zhang Fan]


BEIJING, July 9 (Xinhua) — Inspired by the 16th-century Chinese classic "Journey to the West," the video game "Black Myth: Wukong" has topped the wishlist chart on Steam, a global digital distribution platform for video games.

This is yet another testament to China's expanding cultural footprint beyond traditional boundaries, with video games becoming new ambassadors of its rich heritage.

New Lines Magazine in America highlighted the worldwide attention "Black Myth: Wukong" has attracted, saying it indicates that "China's investment in soft power is paying off."

"Chinese cultural elements are merging with cutting-edge communication technologies to form a 'Chinese digital flow,' creating a new image of China that is 'cute and cool' as well as 'dynamic'," said Shi Anbin, director of the Israel Epstein Center for Global Media and Communication at Tsinghua University, adding that this new portrayal is capturing the attention of Generation Z worldwide.

This digital transformation is not an isolated event. In recent years, Chinese cultural exports have garnered international acclaim. From the literary success of the "Three-Body Problem" novels to the cinematic achievements of "The Wandering Earth" series and the global popularity of historical dramas like "Story of Yanxi Palace," China's cultural influence continues to grow. Now, Chinese online games, such as the globally celebrated "Genshin Impact," are expanding this influence, particularly among younger audiences.

"Genshin Impact," an open-world adventure game, exemplifies this trend. Released in September 2020, it quickly became a global sensation, praised for its stunning graphics, engaging storyline, and seamless integration of various cultural elements, including those from China.

The game's "Liyue" region, for example, features architecture inspired by classical Chinese buildings, and the characters' costumes incorporate traditional Chinese Hanfu clothing designs. Events like the "Lantern Rite," celebrated in the game on the night of the first full moon in the year, mirror similar real-world Chinese festivals. These cultural elements foster a deep connection with players globally, enriching their gaming experience.

"Games like 'Genshin Impact' modernize traditional Chinese culture through character settings, background designs, and scene depictions," observed Shi. "The game masterfully blends multiple cultural characteristics, achieving a dissemination effect of 'cultural hybridity,' and breathes new life into traditional Chinese culture through an animated form."

Photo taken on Sept. 17, 2021 shows a poster of the Chinese-made game Genshin Impact in a subway station in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province. [Xinhua]


Data from German statistics platform Statista shows that "Genshin Impact" is one of the fastest games to exceed 100 million U.S. dollars in player spending worldwide, achieving this milestone in just 13 days. "The Diplomat," an online magazine, stated that "Genshin Impact" was the first Chinese video game to become a global hit, characterizing the role-playing game's massive success as "a win for China's soft power."

These games, Shi noted, uniquely engage global players with Chinese culture by allowing them to participate and influence the story's development through "game language" over a long period of time, fostering extended interaction.

The upcoming release of "Black Myth: Wukong," scheduled for August, is highly anticipated.

Developed by Game Science, the game draws inspiration from "Journey to the West," one of China's most beloved classical works. The novel follows the adventures of a monk and his three disciples, centering on Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King, who is known for his supernatural abilities and mischievous nature.

The influence of "Journey to the West" extends across China and beyond, especially East Asia. The story has been adapted into numerous forms of media, including operas, TV series, films, and now video games.

On YouTube, many users from Asian countries have expressed how the game's trailer music evokes their childhood memories. "I loved the Monkey King as a child. I can't even tell you how many times I read 'Journey to the West'," read a comment, written in Japanese.

China's domestically developed gaming products raked in 16.37 billion U.S. dollars in overseas sales in 2023, marking the fourth consecutive year this figure has surpassed 100 billion yuan, according to a report from the Game Publishing Committee of the China Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association.

As China continues to blend its rich cultural heritage with modern digital platforms, its influence on global pop culture is poised to grow, showcasing a dynamic and multifaceted image to the world, according to communication studies experts.

"Black Myth: Wukong" is not the only major gaming title set to satisfy the needs of gamers interested in China's rich culture this year.

"Phantom Blade Zero," developed by Beijing-based S-Game, has been touted as a fusion of traditional Chinese martial arts and fantasy. Since early June, its latest trailer has garnered over 1.4 million views on PlayStation's official YouTube page, with the game's world tour demon running from June to September. 


(Source: Xinhua)

Editor: Wang Shasha


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