Players are noticing that certain phrases are banned within open-world action RPG Genshin Impact's chat window. These phrases include "Hong Kong", "Taiwan", and other words frequently banned or scrutinized by the Chinese government.
Which words are censored in Genshin Impact?
This news comes via several Genshin Impact players, including prominent translator and journalist Kazuma Hashimoto. On Twitter, Hashimoto posted a clip of Genshin Impact censoring the phrases "Hong Kong" and "Taiwan", as well as the individual words "Hong" and "Kong". Bizarrely, the word "words" also appears to be censored. In all of these cases, the censor lock doesn't seem to be particularly robust; replacing letters with numbers, as in "H0ng", seems to bypass the restriction. It's worth noting these words appear to be censored no matter where you're playing.
Rather curiously, some words appear not to be censored despite having direct correlation with those that are. Historically contentious phrases such as "Winnie the Pooh" (a disparaging term referring to Chinese leader Xi Jinping) and "Tiananmen Square" don't appear to be censored, and nor does "Kiryu Coco", the name of a Vtuber associated with controversial comments regarding Taiwan. The censorship implemented in Genshin Impact doesn't appear to be a developer going gangbusters on trying to cover every possible angle; rather, it appears to be perfunctory at best.
Why are these words being censored?
As Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad (tweeting as @ZhugeEX) points out in a Twitter thread, this is a common practice among Chinese developers. Genshin Impact developer miHoYo is based in mainland China, and is as such subject to certain rules. One of these, as Ahmad says, is a ban on anything which could "threaten China's national unity". Beijing is particularly sensitive to issues surrounding controversial subjects like Taiwan and Hong Kong, so it's not miHoYo's decision to censor these; rather, it's mandated by the Chinese gaming regulatory body.
People have asked me why this is:— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) October 6, 2020
1. MiHoYo is a Mainland China based developer
2. China's laws and games regulator state that games cannot contain "Anything that threatens China's national unity"
3. All Chinese games censor phrases such as Taiwan / Hong Kong due to this https://t.co/QZ6PerqiTC
Ahmad specifically points to an extract from a China Regulations and Approval Process report filed by his analytical company Niko Partners earlier this year. The report states that games cannot contain any content that "interferes with or attacks the sovereignty of China, such as its claim to Taiwan or the South China Sea". Games set in real-world China but containing alternate history narratives or historical inaccuracies have had to rename those locations in order to avoid censors banning the games, according to Ahmad.
Although Ahmad says there are often two versions of Chinese-made games - a global version and a Chinese version - which differ in content, it's "not always that simple" for Chinese developers. He points to the example of PUBG Mobile, a game created by Chinese developer Tencent, which censors the word "Taiwan" in every text chat, regardless of the country in which you're playing. Genshin Impact certainly isn't the only example of a Chinese game being censored for potentially controversial terms.
How do you feel about these phrases being censored in Genshin Impact? Let us know in the comments below!