Freedom isn't usually a word you hear spoken when gamers refer to those living in China. While the summer Olympic spectacle dazzled the eyes and lightened the opinions of the world when viewing the planet's biggest Communist regime, the lack of showy distractions have been peeled away as the government there goes back to work.
This week, a duo of Shanghai-based social media bloggers talked about several of the new regulations the Ministry of Culture will be enforcing in order to "harmonize" popular social games that "gravely threaten and distort the social order and moral standards, easily putting young people under harmful influence".
The Ministry of Culture says that roughly 10 % of its youth are "addicted" to social media games and news reports in the country (news is run by the Ministry of Culture too), cite such events as workers losing their jobs, spouses and placing their children in uncared for situations.
While there is no Facebook gaming phenomenon in China, three of the more popular social gaming networks (Qzone, Kaixin001 and RenRen) boast a collective of some 455 million users. Shockingly, most of the games in China resemble the games that their western counterparts enjoy. The most popular? A game called Happy Farm that is the Chinese equivalent of FarmVille or Country Story. So why government types find concerned with a farming game? Well, apparently, players were able to go to a friend's garden and steal their crops. To alleviate any social woe, the government "asked" Five Minutes (the game's developer) to change "stealing" to "picking."
The change, while simple, highlights the Ministry's attempts to control social media such as Twitter and Facebook and even set up rules to prevent in-game currency inflation. With that, what might the future hold for western companies that do make social games that appeal to global players? The freedom to pick but not to choose.