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King of Glory can help promote China's soft power

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-19 09:29

Mike, a US video game fan, and I got to know each other playing computer games together online. We have known each other for years and played Warcraft, Red Alert, Starcraft, FIFA, NBA, all versions of Super Mario Bros, as well as DOTA, DOTA II.

Everything was okay until we started playing King of Glory.

He kept asking questions which appeared quite silly to me: Who is Zhao Yun? Wasn't Li Bai a poet? If so, why does he carry a sword in the game? My friends say in history textbooks Jing Ke is a man. Are they joking, because she is a sexy girl in the game?

At first, I tried to explain everything. But the questions were trying my patience. Why didn't Mike get hold of a Chinese history textbook to find the answers?

Suddenly, I realized why. King of Glory is the first Chinese computer game Mike has played, so he never thought of learning Chinese history before. Almost all the previous games we played together were European or US products, based on Western legends or history. DOTA had Zeus and Medusa, both based on Greek mythological characters. The first hero in Warcraft is called Arthas, a name European in origin, and his three main opponents are vampires; and Super Mario and his brother Luigi are Italian-Americans.

While playing these games, we learned the stories behind them without realizing why, which is a kind of soft power of the West, because it prompts people to learn about Western legends and history.

King of Glory, on the other hand, attracts large numbers of Westerners to play, and inspires them to learn about Chinese history and legends.

Since King of Glory does not have an official English version yet, many foreigners learn the Chinese language just to play the game. A foreigner is reported to have learned Chinese intensively for 33 days, because he wanted to understand his partners' orders in the game.

Foreigners have formed Facebook, Twitter and weibo groups to exchange experiences about the game. In fact, a website, strike-of-kings.com, has been developed by English-speaking King of Glory fans to help foreigners get materials about the stories behind the game.

The exact number of foreigners playing King of Glory may not be available, but those playing it must be more than the fans of Mobile Legends, a similar Chinese game open to foreigners, because many consider the latter a copy of King of Glory and have vowed to support the original. By April, Mobile Legends had been downloaded more than 10 million times in overseas Apple app store.

But Mobile Legends has not helped spread much knowledge about China, because it has rebuilt many characters by giving them Western names and backgrounds. That will change because Tencent, the developer of King of Glory, has been testing its official overseas edition under a new name, Strikes of the King.

Some "experts" say King of Glory "distorts" history by bringing together historical figures from different eras to fight each other. That worry is unnecessary because developers have never claimed King of Glory depicts history. They have only designed characters based on historical figures.

And the players, whether Chinese or foreign, cannot be foolish enough to believe it is history. It has, however, made many foreigners interested in learning Chinese history, and popularized Chinese historical figures more efficiently than many other unofficial channel.

Mike has already bought a Chinese history textbook to know the true stories of the heroes. With King of Glory becoming increasingly popular, we can assume China's soft power will gain in strength.

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