After protesters turned to video game activism, a new web game lets players beat figures like Joshua Wong and Martin Lee with a flip-flop or baseball bat
Remember the game Liberate Hong Kong? That's the one that lets you play as a Hong Kong protester dodging rubber bullets. Now there's a game for the other side.
A new anti-protest propaganda game in China called "Everyone Hit the Traitors" lets players smash black-clad, bleary-eyed Hong Kong protesters and prominent pro-democracy activists. And just so you know where the game stands on Chinese sovereignty, the title screen includes in bold letters, "Hong Kong is part of China, and this can't be meddled with by outside powers."
The game is free to play on the web at dalaoshu.net, using the Chinese word for rat. When you fire it up, the game tells you there are a number of "traitors" who are instigating protests in Hong Kong and colluding with Western powers, a common allegation from the Chinese government.
The people labeled traitors in the game are depicted by crude caricatures of themselves. Martin Lee, considered by some as Hong Kong's "father of democracy," is depicted as a rat crawling through the streets with his tail painted red, white and blue. The game also includes activist Joshua Wong, media tycoon Jimmy Lai and former government official Anson Chan. Some of these figures are pictured in a huddle with US diplomat Julie Eadeh.
The game isn't very sophisticated and is pretty easy to win. Here's how it works.
Before starting a session, the game asks you to select one of the traitors as a target. Once you confirm, you are put in charge of stopping a moving horde of young Hong Kong protesters with the person you selected at the beginning walking among them.
Your main objective is to strike down your chosen traitor by repeatedly tapping on him or her while doing the same to the protesters. You can choose between using your hand, a flip-flop sandal or a baseball bat to bludgeon the protesters, labelled "useless youth" in the game. Each weapon deals different levels of damage, with the hand dealing the least and the bat dealing the most.
If any of the protesters slowly making their way across the screen make it to the end, you lose. But that doesn't seem likely to happen. You get plenty of time to hit your targets as they lumber through the street.
While the protesters can be struck down with just a few slaps, the traitor in the middle has much more life and requires repeated tapping before being defeated. When you take down a protester or traitor, the game shows them as arrested. A counter on the side shows how many arrests you've made.
It's not currently known who created the game, but it's been reported by the state-owned tabloid Global Times, which claims the game is popular on Chinese social media. But searches show the game is barely mentioned on mainstream social media platforms WeChat, Weibo and Zhihu.
Everyone Hit the Traitors is the latest in a line of propaganda games centered on the civil unrest in Hong Kong. Previous games have taken the side of the protesters.
Video game activism kicked into high gear in October when some protesters created a game called Liberate Hong Kong. In this game, you deflect tear gas canisters and dodge rubber bullets as a frontline protester.
But the buzz around Liberate Hong Kong died down in recent weeks as it struggled to launch on Steam, the world's most popular digital games store.
A similar fate has befallen another protest-related game called Karma. But unlike Liberate Hong Kong, which didn't hear from the platform, Steam told Karma's developers that the game is still being reviewed because it contains "sensitive political topics."
We reached out to Steam owner Valve for comment but haven't received a response.
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