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Lecture | LIAS Lunch Talk Series

Playing China’s University Entrance Exam: The Videogame 'Chinese Parents' and Its Political Potentials

Wednesday 1 March 2023

1.04 (Verbarium)


Digital politics in China are frequently analysed through the lens of ‘hard’ issues related to power, policy, and collective action. And yet, Digital China is also full of playful activities. If we are to understand what politics emerge out of Chinese digital networks, we’d be well advised to take the seemingly ‘soft’ issue of digital play seriously. Videogames for the personal computer (PC), and the gaming cultures that surround them, are a particularly exciting place to explore these politics of play in contemporary China, and this is visible in a relatively new phenomenon: the arrival of Chinese-designed independent games on transnational gaming platforms like Steam. What is the political relevance of such independent digital games, and what should we make of attempts by their designers to speak to, and intervene in, socio-cultural debates through the transnational gaming platform Steam? To answer this question, this talk turns to the 2018 Chinese-language game Chinese Parents (中国式家长), which asks players to raise a child and prepare them for the dreaded gaokao university entrance exam. By analyzing this games content, interface, and algorithmic interactions, and by exploring its reception among commentators on the Steam platform, this talk provides a much-needed reality-check about the politics of play in contemporary Chinese-language contexts, and about the way that these politics extend to transnational digital networks.

A screenshot of 'Chinese Parents' (中国式家长). © Moyuwan Games

About the speaker

Florian Schneider, PhD, Sheffield University, is Senior University Lecturer in the Politics of Modern China at the LIAS. He is managing editor of Asiascape: Digital Asia, director of the Leiden Asia Centre, and the author of three books: Staging China: the Politics of Mass Spectacle (Leiden University Press, 2019, recipient of the ICAS Book Prize 2021 Accolades), China’s Digital Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2018), and Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series (Brill, 2013, recipient of the 2014 EastAsiaNet book prize). In 2017, he was awarded the Leiden University teaching prize for his innovative work as an educator. His research interests include questions of governance, political communication, and digital media in China, as well as international relations in the East-Asian region.

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