A newly released horror game is under fire on Steam for a politically charged meme. Devotion, the newest game by Detention developers Red Candle Games, has seemingly drawn the ire of Chinese video game fans. This is due to a bizarre insult to China’s president Xi Jinping.
The meme in question is one that’s been going around for a while. It compares the Chinese president to popular Disney character Winnie The Pooh. The president has actually been very sensitive about this internet joke, with China going as far as to ban movies like Christopher Robin because the honey loving bear has been used to mock him.
In Devotion, a poster with the words “Xi Jinpeng Winnie The Pooh moron” written on it has been discovered by players. As to be expected, this kind of insult is not going over well in China. When the game originally released it had received praise and many positive reviews. The game has now been review bombed by several Chinese steam users bringing the game’s rating down to mixed. The act of review bombing is a malicious practice often used against a developer in order to hurt their sales.
Red Candle Games is understandably shaken by the negative attention, and has released a statement on their Steam page regarding the offensive material. They made sure to reaffirm that the poster had placed without their knowledge and they were not made aware of it until much later:
“When the art material was made, each teammate was busy working on one’s own tasks while chasing the deadline. None of the other colleagues were aware of this. It was until we received a private report made by a player on February 21 that we realized what was exactly written on that art material.”
They went on to clarify that the opinions on the poster were not their own and that once discovered, the offensive material was immediately replaced. They also announced that they had parted ways with their publisher Indievent And Winking Entertainment over the matter, and that they will take full responsibility for the political gaffe. The game also has currently been removed from Steam China’s storefront and refunds are being offered to those who purchased the game. To pile onto the bad news, their Weibo account, which is a popular social media site in China, has also been shut down.
Red Candle Games also released a follow up statement, asking for clemency from fans for this mistake:
"As a game company, Red Candle Games' only goal is to provide an impressive and good playing experience to all. However, we failed our players' anticipation and offended many others due to the said mistake. For that, we feel awfully sorry and devastated. Again, we would like to reaffirm that the severe art material mistake is made by Red Candle Games. It has nothing to do with any of our partners. Red Candle Games take full responsibility and bear all the condemns. We sincerely hope that this end with Red Candle, and that please do not take it out on all the innocent partners.”
This is an unfortunate situation for an indie game company to be in. With their publisher severing ties, refunds will have to come from the developers themselves. Additionally, Red Candle Games lost a big revenue stream with their game being removed from Steam China. Thus the chances of Devotion turning a profit at this time doesn’t look good for the fledging company.
Devotion remains available to purchase in the west. Hopefully Red Candle Games is able to recover from this media disaster and continue making more games to terrify their fans.