Tech companies’ involvement with the Hong Kong protests just keeps getting more and more tangled. Now Google has banned a game about the protests, joining Apple and Blizzard in allegedly suppressing anything that might offend the Chinese government.
The game is called The Revolution of Our Times and it apparently was a game documenting the life of a Hong Kong resident as they become more involved in the events leading up to the protests as they exist today. It also had microtransactions of $0.99 and $1.99. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was removed for violating Google’s rules about games concerning current events.
Google joins the likes of Apple, which removed HKMaps.live, a crowdsourced map protesters used to track police movements. It also reportedly removed the Quartz app in China over the site’s coverage of the Hong Kong protests. There’s also Blizzard, currently the focal point for gamers’ ire after it banned a Hearthstone esports pro from playing for expressing his support of the protests.
To be fair, the rule the game was apparently violating specifically cautions devs against “capitalizing on sensitive events, such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game.” In Google’s Developer Policy Center, the rules state that violations include “lacking sensitivity regarding the death of a real person or group of people” and “appearing to profit from a tragic event with no discernible benefit to the victims.”
While that sounds reasonable, the last part about “benefit to the victims” might create an important distinction. According to Hong Kong Free Press, the developer — who goes only by Spinner of Yarns — pledged 80 percent of the games earnings will go to the Spark Fund, which helps cover legal help for protesters. Assuming that’s true (it wasn’t mentioned on the cached Play Store page we saw), it would seem to fall under the “benefit to the victims” exception to that rule, wouldn’t it?
Regardless, the microtransactions do seem to be the problem. It’d be interesting to see what happens if the game reappears