CCTV, China's state TV, reports on the new PLA-developed video game.
BEIJING – In 2005, I was deeply engaged in an extended military campaign on battlefields across China. Thousands of Chinese and Americans fell each day, but the only real casualty suffered was my bruised ego as I was easily picked off time and again in a blaze of glory playing the videogame, Battlefield 2.
Battlefield 2, a popular first-person multiplayer shooter released that year, pitted U.S. Marines, Chinese forces and a fictional Middle Eastern Coalition against each other in imaginary locations around the world.
The game’s Chinese maps and scenarios were incredibly popular among Chinese players who took great pleasure in blasting me and countless others with a variety of different weapons regardless of whether my character was wearing a Chinese or American uniform.
Which is why it is surprising to see the recent release of Glorious Mission (also known as, Mission of Honor), a military simulation jointly developed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese software developer, Giant Interactive Group. It has generated waves in the U.S. not for its graphics or game play – but for the fact that American soldiers are the main adversary.
Objections don't appear to be focused on the game's existence. After all, the U.S. military is heavily invested in its own acclaimed military training and recruitment game, America’s Army, but it features a generic enemy, so as not to offend anyone.
Rather, the concern is that the game, which was ostensibly developed as a training tool for the PLA, makes American solders and equipment the enemy combatant and could lead young, impressionable trainees to believe that the United States is the enemy.
There are indeed legitimate concerns that some nationalist elements in the PLA do view conflict with the United States as inevitable. However, in the case of Glorious Mission, it seems unlikely that one simulation could dramatically alter the thinking of PLA enlisted men. After all, the generation of soldiers that Glorious Mission is geared towards has already been exposed to a wide variety of online games that pit players against a whole host of enemies ranging from the real to the ridiculous.
Designed by the People's Liberation Army and a Chinese gaming company, Glorious Mission is a military simulation game intended for training purposes.
Take a trip to any Internet café or arcade around China and the one thing that can quickly be concluded is that when it comes to video games, teenagers playing first-person shooters don’t particularly care who or what they are shooting at, as long as they are shooting at something.
Perhaps what should be of greater concern to American tech insiders is the apparent smoothness of the graphics and game play of Glorious Mission.
The successful development of Glorious Mission represents not just a small step forward by the PLA towards creating an American style “virtual army experience,” but also the Chinese gaming industry’s noticeable move up the technological food chain.
In the last few years there has been an explosion in online gaming in China, fueled by the rise of countless Chinese gaming companies. In 2010 alone, China's online gaming market raked in 32.37 billion Yuan (approximately $4.9 billion) – a 26.3 percent increase over 2009.
With over 76 million online game players in China and a business model that sensibly caters to young gamers’ wallets through low-cost games and cheap add-ons, it is no small wonder that the country has quickly risen to become the largest online gaming market, expected to be valued in excess of $8 billion by 2014.
Meanwhile, as U.S. gaming companies have largely struggled to sell their products in China, Chinese companies are beginning to make in-roads in the U.S. market. Earlier this year, China’s largest Internet company, Tencent Holdings, bought a majority share of American gaming company Riot Games Inc. for more than $350 million.