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  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived at exactly the right moment.

  • Just when the world really needed a stress-free digital safe space in which to come together,

  • Nintendo delivered.

  • It's no surprise that the game has become a global phenomenon.

  • Except in China.

  • News reports this week claim that New Horizons has been banned in the Middle Kingdom after

  • supporters of Hong Kong independence began using the game to stage online protests.

  • As is often the case, the truth is a little more complicated than rumours might suggest.

  • For one thing, it's difficult to ban Animal Crossing: New Horizons in China, because the

  • game was never legally released in the region to begin with.

  • The Communist Party of China has always had a difficult relationship with gaming.

  • Amid concerns about video game addiction, it was illegal to sell any games console in

  • the country between the years of 2000 and 2014.

  • Except, it wasn't completely illegal.

  • China's laws are often flexible, especially if you've got enough money.

  • Nintendo was able to sell a version of the N64 in the region under a fabricated iQue

  • brand.

  • While China rescinded its ban on consoles in 2014, it still tightly controls which foreign

  • games are legally imported into the region.

  • Sometimes the government will put a hold on all approvals without explanation.

  • The Nintendo Switch officially launched in China in December, and at present there are

  • only a handful of first party games that are legally on sale in the country.

  • Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario Odyssey have been released, but not The Legend of Zelda:

  • Breath of the Wild, and certainly not Luigi's Mansion.

  • Some fans speculate that these games will have a hard time getting approval for official

  • release because they're full of supernatural elements.

  • The Chinese government really, really doesn't like ghosts.

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of many Nintendo games that has never been legally

  • sold in Chinabut that doesn't stop people from playing it.

  • After all, China's laws are flexible.

  • Many eager players have been importing the game from neighbouring Hong Kong.

  • As a Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong has its own legal system, government, and

  • economy.

  • It also enjoys media freedom, so Nintendo releases games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons

  • in the region without limitations.

  • Nevertheless, Hong Kong isn't completely independent.

  • While it has partial democracy, its Chief Executives are selected by rulers in Beijing

  • and they always choose someone who is friendly to the Communist Party.

  • To cut a very long story short, many HongKongers desire full independence, and protest regularly

  • against Chinese rule.

  • Last year, a controversial extradition law led to some of the most technologically advanced

  • protests in history.

  • Protestors organize themselves through social media apps, warning each other of approaching

  • police officers, forming into groups and then dispersing in an attempt tobe water”.

  • 1Then came Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

  • Hong Kong protestors are all tech savvy, so of course many of them are playing the game.

  • And, of course, they're recreating protests on their islands.

  • Many dress their villagers in black face masks and clothes that match their protest uniform.

  • They recreate protest slogans and signs in-game.

  • They visit each other's islands, protesting in a digital

  • One protestor, Li, who wishes to remain anonymous, said:

  • Since the setting of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is that players start their life

  • on a deserted island, we can decorate the island any way we like, and share the message

  • we want to tell the world.”

  • Perhaps the most famous in-game protest came from political leader Joshua Wong, who has

  • time in prison and been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in organizing pro-democracy

  • movements.

  • A viral photo of Joshua shows his island getaway, complete with an in-game sign readingFree

  • Hong Kong”.

  • Speaking of New Horizons, he said: “Animal Crossing is a place without political

  • censorship so it is a good place to continue our fight.

  • Even lawmakers in Hong Kong are playing this game.”

  • Then, without a word of explanation, Hong Kong import copies of Animal Crossing disappeared

  • from online stores in China overnight.

  • While the game was never fully legal within the country, it just became a lot harder to

  • import it from across the border.

  • Of course, just because one import avenue has closed, it doesn't mean the game isn't

  • available to those who really want to get their hands on it.

  • The game isn't illegal contraband; it's simply not available on major online retailers.

  • Chinese citizens will still find a way to play Animal Crossing.

  • The moral of the story?

  • You can't stamp out free speech.

  • It seems that protesting in Animal Crossing might have actually worked.

  • Hong Kong's democracy advocates aren't going to be silenced any time soon.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived at exactly the right moment.

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Why Animal Crossing Got Banned in China

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    ally.chang posted on 2020/04/29
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