TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — International gaming platform GOG on Wednesday (Dec. 16) pulled Taiwanese horror game "Devotion" (還願) from its store over a hidden reference in the game that mocks Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平).
Just hours after it announced that "Devotion" — which was first removed from video game distribution platform Steam last year — would be sold on its website starting Dec. 18, GOG backpedaled on the plan over boycott calls from Chinese gamers. In a Twitter post, GOG said it decided to drop the Taiwanese game "after receiving many messages from gamers."
Initially released on Steam in February 2019, "Devotion" took the online gaming community by storm with its unsettling atmosphere that combines elements of Taiwanese folklore and a fictional abandoned apartment complex in Taiwan.
However, players discovered a Taoist talisman in one part of the game had the words "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh" in an ancient style of Chinese writing, referencing an internet meme used to disparage Xi. Also on the talisman were the words "ni ma ba qi" (呢嘛叭唭), the same pronunciation as "your mother is a moron" in the Hokkien language, which is widely spoken in Taiwan.
The controversial in-game "Easter Egg" led to apologies from the Taiwanese developer Red Candle Games (赤燭), which described the symbol as "a malfunction of project management." Although the company later provided an update of the game, boycott calls continued in China until "Devotion" was removed from Steam after just six days on sale.
After GOG revealed its plan to bring back "Devotion" on Wednesday, thousands of Chinese netizens flooded the platform's Twitter page and demanded the game be removed. Meanwhile, Twitter users from other countries voiced support for the Taiwanese game and urged the platform not to cave in to Chinese pressure.
In a released statement following "Devotion's" removal, Red Candle Games expressed regret over the news but said it understood and respected GOG's decision. It also apologized to gamers who were looking forward to the game's re-release, reported UDN.
Horror game "Devotion." (Facebook, Red Candle Games photo)
Taoist talisman in Devotion. (CNA photo)
Taoist talisman reading "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh" in Chinese (Devotion screenshot)