The Chinese government has gone to great lengths to ensure its citizens can’t read about the military first-person shooter Battlefield 4, much less play it, citing national security concerns as it banned all mention of the Electronic Arts product—which was never officially available there.
Subtitled China Rising, the video game is set in the year 2020 and follows a narrative in which U.S. armed forces must quell an attempted coup by a Chinese general whose rise to power could trigger a worldwide war. Players attack cities like Shanghai and exchange fire with the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the Communist Party of China.
Previously, an opinion column in the nationalist newspaper Zhongguo Guofangbao expressed fears that a plot featuring such domestic unrest put China in a bad light and misled the youth of the country. The Ministry of Culture went a step further, arguing that the game represented “an aggressive attack on our culture,” officially declaring it and any associated news, demos, patches, or downloads “illegal” material that would have to be deleted within 24 hours.
ZDNet reports that the term “ZhanDi4", the Chinese translation for Battlefield 4, is now censored on Weibo, the country's biggest social media site, but that hasn’t stopped peer-to-peer downloads under the not-yet-blocked acronym “BF4.” Before the ban, Chinese fans looking to play the game—which is riddled with major bugs, incidentally—could turn to gray markets, where goods filter down through unauthorized but not entirely outlawed distribution channels.
It’s pretty far-fetched to suggest that EA designed the game to undermine the party line in a nation where they never actually launched it, but if the bureaucratic crackdown on this supposedly propagandizing Western “encroachment” succeeds, people there might find themselves stuck with titles that skew less political. Though World of Warcraft comes with its own set of security problems.