Close to 10,000 Chinese gamers have staged a mass online rally in the game 'The Fantasy of the Journey West' to protest against the display of a symbol which resembled the Japanese flag.
In what amounts to one of the most remarkable blurrings of boundaries ever seen between the “real” world and the “fantasy” setting of an MMO (massively multiplayer online game), close to 10,000 Chinese game avatars have staged a mass online rally in the game “The Fantasy of the Journey West" to protest against the display of a symbol which resembled the Japanese flag.
As reported by EastSouthWestNorth after native Chinese sources, the bizarre incident saw several thousand player characters congregate mob-style to angrily demonstrate against the appearance of what appeared to be the red-and-white “Rising Sun” symbol in the Tang Dynasty Government Office (a fictional game setting).
The display of the allegedly Japanese artwork in the context of the decidedly Chinese MMO had caused deep political offence to online participants. As one of the “demonstrators” commented: "Even although everything in the game is virtual, our feelings are still genuine. This incident has seriously hurt our feelings. We find this unacceptable."
Of course, the amalgamation of -- and blurring between -- the real and the unreal is the stock in trade of (and success behind) the MMO phenomenon.
There is a very real economy on eBay and elsewhere related to the buying and selling (with actual money) of virtual property in several online games -- including the biggest MMO of them all, World of Warcraft, which boasts over six million active users.
And a recent “U2” concert performed by avatars in the virtual world of Second Life provided an eerie glimpse at the level of commitment and attention to detail of some Second Life “residents”.
However, in relation to the mass congregation in “The Fantasy of the Journey West", have we ever before seen such an uncanny replication in a virtual setting of real-world politics? Multiplayer online gaming’s convention of bringing together “avatars” has unwittingly created a new forum for political demonstration and a new form of political expression.
As one online commentator stated, “there is no escape from the crimes of history, no matter how immersive the virtual medium”.