War of Internet Addiction
War of Internet Addiction (Chinese: 网瘾战争) is an anti-censorship machinima advocacy production on behalf of the mainland Chinese World of Warcraft community, aesthetically notable for being made entirely in in-universe style. A protest against internet censorship in China, it was first uploaded by video creator nicknamed "Sexy Corn" onto Tudou.com, within days of its release it was banned from a few PRC video sites such as Youku.com, but has since struck a chord with the wider public beyond the gaming community, eventually becoming more popular on-line than Avatar.
The 64-minute video expresses the frustrations of mainland Chinese WoW players being restricted to mainland servers and presents their grievances and normal feelings to the real world, inasmuch they are often marginalized as being Internet addicts dwelling inside virtual worlds. While the video was considered to be bold and rebellious by the Chinese government, it won the Best Video award in the 2010 Tudou Video Film awards.
Major themes and players
The video agit-prop vigorously satirizes the travails of mainland Chinese WoW players over the latter half of 2009 using the technique of personification; the game itself serves as both stage and a framing device. The numerous conflicts and issues addressed include: electroshock therapy for purported internet addiction; the Chinese government’s attempts to censor the internet with mandatory installations of the Green Dam Youth Escort filter; the corporate battle between the PRC's two primary game servers, The9 and Netease, over licensing renewal rights; and finally, the bureaucratic in-fighting between the governmental organs General Administration of Press and Publication and the Ministry of Culture over control of the game. Along the way the video also satirizes and/or parodies numerous Internet tropes, memes, in-jokes, running gags and clichés which are specific to, and endemic to, Chinese net culture as well certain elements of American pop culture. (Obvious take-offs on certain aspects of the Terminator franchise, for example, bookend the main action of the story, but at one point major characters engage in poetic battle by doing the dozens in Chinese couplets.) Furthermore, given its production of political satire by game engine, War of Internet Addiction counts, not only as an heir to the roman à clef tradition, but as an influential machinima à clef in its own right.
Oil Tiger Machinima Team
This is the third movie by Oil Tiger Machinima Team, released on 21 Jan 2010. Two days later it was banned on all major Chinese video sharing websites.
During an interview the producer Corndog (Chinese:性感玉米) stated that up to 100 people were involved in the production and that it took three months to make and cost zero dollars, as all the staff were volunteers.
Corndog elaborated that because the production team were all born in the 1980s, they all grew up playing computer games. They had specifically chosen on-line games as their medium for economic reasons, since outdoor activities involve higher costs. World of Warcraft's superior quality plus the emphasis on team co-operation all gave them a sense of belonging.
In another interview Corndog remarked that he had made the video for fellow WoW players and that he hadn't expected it to resonate with a wider audience. That said, "The last part of the video moved many people, including those who do not play the game, since we actually live in the same society and we are facing the same Internet environment," he said in an emailed response to questions from a Phoenix TV reporter last month. The strong response "should make decision-makers ponder."
The entire video uses the graphics and characters of the on-line version of World of Warcraft (WoW) and includes audio (theme music from Terminator 2: Judgment Day and BonJovi's Bells of Freedom) added by the game's fans from Taiwan and mainland China.
Allusions and references
Blue electric lighting
Near the beginning (and in some later scenes) there is blue lighting accompanied by low-pitched transformer humming sounds, a foreshadowing of the electro-shock therapy offered by Yang Yongxin, who ultimately proves to be the archvillain of the piece.
In the video there is discussion about a torture chamber by the name of Room 13, where the suave and evil Uncle Yang would apply electric shock therapy to WoW players to cure them of their "Internet addiction."
|“||Room 13, a place I will never forget, in there, I had experience of ten thousands swords went through my heart, when the electric shock was applied to me, I wished I was dead.||”|
Near the end of the video rebel leader Kannimei, a blue-skinned minotaur, gives a long and impassioned speech (in effect breaking the fourth wall) about the hostile censorship environment facing WoW players, a speech which actually moved some gamers to tears. A selective translation:
"When we work hard for a whole day come home to an apartment with a monthly rent of 2000 RMB, we face such a distorted version (of the game as the fight for interests lingers on), all we can feel is helplessness. You make no mistake, yes, we are indulging, but not in the game itself. It’s the feeling of belonging, and four years’ friendship and entrusting (in this virtual community we can not give up)... We persevered no matter what.
"We know it’s impossible, but we still swim tirelessly to the North Pole, to the edge of the (global) map, to the place where there is no water, but we still can’t see that icy land! In the past year, I, just like others who love this game, diligently go to work on a crowded bus, diligently consume all kinds of food with no concern of whatever unknown chemicals (they may contain). We never complain that our wages are low, we never lose our mental balance due to those big townhouses you bought with the money you took from my meager wage. We mourned and cried for the flood and earthquake, we rejoiced and cheered for the manned space flight and the Olympics. From the bottom of our heart, we never want to lag to any other nations in this world, but in this year, because of you, we can’t even play a game we love whole-heartedly with other gamers all over the world.
"We swallowed all the insults (as we are forced to go to overseas servers and caused other gamers’ inconveniences). Why can’t we be entertained at the cheap rate 40 cents an hour? Just because we are here?
"You taught me since my childhood that a house of gold or silver is never as good as my own tumbledown home, but what’s the reality? You forced me to live temporarily in my own country. Why is it so hard to grant me to simply dwell in my own country spiritually? Thanks to all you so-called Brick Owners (砖家, a homophone for 专家,expert) and Shouting Beasts(叫兽, a homophone for 教授, professor), aren’t there enough eulogies, cosmetics and anesthetics? Everyday, you have nothing else to do but enjoying your prestigious social status, and pointing at us from an ethical high ground. Have you ever wondered why five million gamers are collectively taking this Net poison (as you so describe our addiction to the virtual game), and the deep-rooted social reasons that are covered? We naively believed that here there are only gardens, that we can touch the ideal if only we work hard enough. When we look up to those servers on the top of the pyramid, we are forced to hold the Happiness bestowed from you. We retreat into the so-called freest Internet on earth, communicate at low cost, and salve the pains in daily life with the game. It’s just like this, but they, for the sake of interests, they are exploiting in every possible way…
"We are so accustomed to silence, but silence doesn’t mean surrender. We can’t stop shouting simply because our voices are low; we can’t do nothing simply because our power is weak. It’s okay to be chided, it’s okay to be misunderstood, it’s okay to be overlooked. But it’s just I no longer want to keep silent."
After this cri du cœur Kannimei reverts to in-game style and calls for other WoW players to signal their defiance by raising their hands to add their energy to his against the robot-like archvillain Yang Yongxin (who had dismissed the appeal in ironic flanged tones with "Nice speech —but useless.") Kannimei again addresses his fellow players throughout the World of Warcraft: "Please raise your hands up. I need your strength," he says. "When they blocked YouTube, you didn't act. When they blocked Twitter, you didn't act." The climax is thus a mixture of Dragonball-Z and Martin Niemöller. Uncle Yang is killed, but his spirit of repression lives on; in the epilogue the fictional Skynet is, in a final crossover, strongly hinted to be analogous to the real-life PRC Green Dam Youth Escort.
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- Background info and list of references to Chinese pop culture and contemporary events
- (Chinese)Google docs:Complete Info
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- (Chinese) 最震撼大片不是<阿凡达> 网友自制史诗<网瘾战争> www.people.com.cn
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- Background of the production
- War of Internet Addiction Video:With English subtitle
- War of Internet Addiction, translated segments on the China Digital Times
- Web addiction shock therapy banned. Reported by Jane Chen | 2009-7-15
- Net addicts need help from school and home
- Chinese hospital gives internet addicts shock therapy
- Cure your Children’s Internet Addiction with Electric Shocks Aversion Therapy 14 May 2009
- Shock therapy for Internet addiction halted. Posted by Eric Mu, 14 July
- Part of the dialogue
- 网瘾战争 War of Internet Addiction — Are World of Warcraft’s Travails In China Much More Interesting Than Google’s?24 January 2010
- Baidu Encyclopedia