Through Life Is Strange: True Colors‘ high critical praise, the game has become involved in a massive unexpected political debate involving a seemingly innocuous flag in Haven Springs. Life Is Strange: True Colors‘ critical reception has overall been overwhelmingly positive, but some players are choosing to ignore the engaging story all because of what a single flag represents.
Life Is Strange: True Colors is the latest entry in the popular Life Is Strange series, released on September 10 and quickly received a barrage of hateful reviews on Steam. The reviews are due to the inclusion of a symbol considered controversial to those who would attempt to censor it.
In the game, there exists a small shop in the Haven Springs area adorned with the Tibetan flag, a symbol banned in China for being used as a symbol of Tibetan independence. Despite its inclusion not inherently being a political statement, CogConnected reports that sorting the reviews by language reveals that the negative reviews are mostly written in the Simplified Chinese language and make statements declaring Tibet to be a part of China, as well as explicit statements directed at the game’s characters and even developers. Judging by the reviews, it seems that Life Is Strange: True Colors will not be joining the already tiny amount of Steam games available in China without censoring the flag.
For situational context, China has long attempted to gain tight control of states within its area, but the people in some states such as Tibet and Hong Kong are fighting to stay independent. As a result of China having such tight control over media that enters it, the game industry has had difficulty gaining a foothold in the country for decades and some companies even attempt to censor esports players speaking in support of independent states, as demonstrated by Blitzchung’s ban from Hearthstone tournaments. To have a game released in China requires it to go through a strict moderation process and in some cases be heavily censored to meet the requirements.
The Life Is Strange series is empathy-focused and is known for its impactful stories and inclusivity. The narrative of the game does not appear to focus on Tibetan independence, but the representation of LGBTQIA2S+ characters may prove to be another obstacle to selling the game in China, especially with a recent announcement that the government will enforce a ban on games with such characters. The censorship of games in China takes many forms and heavily restricts gamers living in the country from many highly experimental and impactful experiences.
Life is Strange: True Colors is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and is set for a future release on Switch.