Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's a (fill in the blank) thing, you wouldn't understand...

Escarlata, which means "Scarlet" (feminine) in Spanish, created by an American woman, and is living on an Oceanic server. It's a strange world, after all.
I sure do hope Tome never gets tired of her posts inspiring me. I'm sure she never in her wildest dreams thought, "You know, someday I hope there's a Northwestern/Texan shaman who reads my thoughts and spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about them!" Well, Tome, you got your wish! Once again I've taken one nugget of a mention, and plan on steering it into dark, murky waters. Toot Toot! All Aboard!

Okay - here it goes. In her latest post, Conversations with Joan, in a comment Cymre mentions about how when one plays the Chinese version of WoW, you can cover up your bony joints. This reminded me of something I've been meaning to write about: censorship, cultural sensitivity, and commercialism. 


Whatever. I want to ponder this, so ponder I shall. Freedom of Speech, and all that.

Let's go back to 2011. I'm at Blizzcon, and talking to folks, am told that the Chinese government wouldn't allow WoW unless some cultural modifications are made. And I know I should be embarrassed by using this, but one of the best comprehensive resources about this is Wikipedia:
In China, because a large number of the players do not own the computer they use to play games (e.g. Internet cafes), the CD keys required to create an account can be purchased independently of the software package. To play the game, players must also purchase prepaid game cards that can be played for 66 hours and 40 minutes.[57] A monthly fee model is not available to players of this region. The Chinese government and NetEase, the licensee for World of Warcraft in China, have imposed a modification on Chinese versions of the game which places flesh on bare-boned skeletons and transforms dead character corpses into tidy graves. These changes were imposed by the Chinese government in an attempt to "promote a healthy and harmonious online game environment" in World of Warcraft.[58][59] The Chinese government has delayed release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, due to what it feels is objectionable content.[60] NetEase took over licensing of World of Warcraftfrom The9 in June 2009 following the expiration of The9's contract,[61] and were able to secure a launch for Wrath of the Lich King on August 31, 2010, nearly two years after its Western release.[62]
A forum on MMO Champion discusses this issue:

But here are my questions:

1. Why? Anyone out there of Chinese heritage who can answer this for me? (Since posting yesterday have been considering this--it is universally difficult to handle the subject of death, and Asian culture is no exception. Of course it's not cool to show bones! Who wants to give the Grim Reaper any ideas?!)

2. Should a company change its marketing/product to be culturally sensitive?

I can answer #2: Yes, if it wants to be viable in the global market.

I heard years ago about the Chevrolet Nova. "No Va" in Spanish means No Go. Imagine how well sales did there. But there are many more examples of terrible, expensive, and hilarious marketing blunders:

Don't drink your ancestors.
And this one:
5. There are several examples of companies getting tangled up with bad translations of products due to the word "mist". We had "Irish Mist" (an alcoholic drink), "Mist Stick" (a curling iron from Clairol) and "Silver Mist" (Rolls Royce car) all flopping as "mist" in German means dung/manure. Fancy a glass of Irish dung?
Kind of gives Mists of Pandaria a new meaning...

Case in point of cross-cultural contentions: In U.S. schools, a traditional "Halloween" party rarely exists. Religious groups protested, and over time schools might have a "harvest" celebration, but ghosts and ghouls are no more. They have bitten the dust. Bought the farm. Gone onto their great commercial reward. This deeply saddens me. It's something I grew up with, and love. It's part of my culture. But it interfered with someone else's cultural rights. Nothing I can do about it, but in my own private life make sure I decorate with as many witches, ghosts, and monsters as I please. Fine. But this is a world game. At what point does a cultural (encompassing religious, traditional, and political views) encroach on the rest of the world? If I had to play a game where the bony joints of the undead were removed from sight, I would be annoyed. But if I was raised without knowing anything differently, or more importantly, knew that this was a valued and important part of my culture that deserves respect, and then was exposed to this, I would probably be equally put out. I realize I don't have to worry about this, because "they" have their game, and "we" have ours. Settled. 

But sometimes I wonder if we worry about the landscape of "our" game changing in ways we don't desire, that a cultural piece is assimilated, mutated, or destroyed. The old "not in my back boneyard" song. What a silly thing to worry about, right? But it turns out, once again, I find out that I'm only human:

Yesterday I heard a fantastic interview by Mahzarin Banaji on NPR about a new study and resulting book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. It's not so much the explicit acts of aggression or intolerance we perpetrate on one another, but the effects of connection and favoritism. In no way am I suggesting that we excuse that racist uncle or dismiss egregious trade chat, what I am suggesting is a recognition that we as humans all have predilections and cultural biases. Part of the deal, yo. 

This topic fascinates me, truly. Think about it: we all bring our own cultures with us, like big suitcases full of memories, foods, idioms, etc., and then we actively choose to layer these lives with virtual ones of fantasy characters. "Oh, you're a NIGHT elf, not a BLOOD elf, well, fine, come right in! Have a seat!"We may be able to garner preferential treatment in a virtual world that we are unable to attain in the real one.

I was talking about idioms today, and a Spanish-speaking acquaintance shared with me that when her dad says "Hevo" to her, it means it's non-negotiable. I doubt if I said "egg" to someone they'd catch my frisbee, know what I mean? But she explained the nuances of the term, and I got it.

And I'm still laughing over "fanny pack."

Postscript: China opened an unlicensed WoW theme park-- what cracks me up is people thinking Blizzard can do anything about it. (It looks really fun, too!)


  1. No Halloween parties in school? I must stop being lazy and step up my Halloween decorating come fall. That was one of my favorite times of year as a child.

    And fanny pack? OMG! I DID NOT KNOW! I guess it's safer just to say ass instead of trying to say something with a PG rating and get yourself in even more trouble, lol.

    1. Yesterday a young squire shared a list of Elizabethan insults with me, and some of them are fairly outrageous. You do NOT want to call someone a flap-dragon. I found more here: http://www.renfaire.com/Language/insults.html

      Being culturally sensitive is important in a country where there are well, so many cultures merging at one time, and has made me reflect on what elements I consider 'my' culture, and if those elements are worth sharing. And then I think about In-And-Out Burgers and ice chests (because I'm sure ice chests/coolers and taking cold beer every where one goes is an American invention) are world-class gifts. World: you're welcome.

  2. It is surely a mystery to me about those bones. But I am not very educated about such matters. A really thought provoking post there!

    1. It may have had nothing to do with anything other than control. I know the U.S. is fraught with hypocrisy: calling one thing something to distract from a larger political agenda. Who knows? I will continue doing research; I am working on my PhD in Azerothian anthropology. :)

  3. Why is it that dancing in Azeroth is restricted by race? What is the reasoning that a Gnome is not allowed to perform a Pandaren dance? Well, beside programmer laziness. I suppose it "promotes a healthy and harmonious environment" between those of the same race?

  4. Oh Kallixta--I didn't even think of that! That would be so amazing!! To dance freely in any style we chose, from the Lakers cheerleader style of blood elves, to the Napoleon Dynamite of male night elves...now I dreaming of a world where shamans aren't doing the Batusi for all eternity. I wanna shuffle too! Free the Sprinkler!

    Keeping the dream alive...


Thank you for your comment!