Game - Illustration 游戏
Illustration: Wang Siqi

What Video Games (Don’t) Teach Us About China

Video games mix real-world history and fiction in ways that inform—and perhaps distort—people’s views of China

When educational content creator Dong Yuhui livestreamed a lecture about the revered eighth-century poet Li Bai (李白) in June 2022, he was bemused to find the comment section flooded with viewers claiming Li was an assassin.

While Li is still best known by older generations as one of China’s greatest literary figures, the younger netizens on Dong’s stream knew him as a hero avatar from the video game Honor of Kings. In the game, which has over 600 million players in China, Li is one of over 100 characters players can select to fight against others in a battle arena. Historical records suggest that Li enjoyed bladework as a pastime, “but his swordplay was primarily for performance rather than combat,” Dong insisted during his livestream.

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author Roman Kierst (小罗)

Roman Kierst is a staff writer and editor at The World of Chinese based in Beijing but much more at home in Chengdu, where his own China story first began as a high school exchange student in 2006. Likes to pick up a film camera occasionally to take pictures of (mostly) old places.

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