Game industry is a kind of globalizing market. This research is investigating the relationship between game art and culture. Due to each culture has an original root which influences particular cultural forms. In some ways, cultural barriers prevent games from globalization market. As a result, cultural barriers give a great influence to the game design.
The society of online games is formed by players who come from various culture backgrounds. Additionally, the online game which involves interactive elements is affected by culture significantly. Players are not playing with computer but human beings. This new way of game play gives more freedom to players and designers. Meanwhile, the cultural contexts are widely used in online game aesthetics, such as stories in mythology. So we can see that online game has close connection with culture.
When we talk about online game industry we cannot ignore the Chinese online game industry, because China is one of the biggest online game industries in the world. The paper focuses on Chinese online game industry because of its accomplishments, highest speed of development and huge online game market. And how this ancient culture influences the new media form is crucial area to investigate.
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Firstly, brief original Chinese culture will be presented for clearing an archetypal culture value. Based on Chinese online game industry, a local game named Westward Journey Online three is examined for getting valuable methods which are how to use the archetypal cultural values into game art. From the examination on Chinese culture, value methods possible are getting for widen audiences all over the world. However, there is limitation existing in this paper which ignores other distinguishing culture contents. Further research might go more detailed on various culture forms for this particular research area.
The main purpose of this research is to examine the archetypal characteristics that are expressed in Chinese culture within Multiple Massive Online Games in order to explain the shared human values that are expressed in a uniquely Chinese expression of archetypal human values to westerners. Depending on the research area in games and culture, the major research question of this research is: how archetypal/universal characteristics are reflecting in online games based on Chinese culture? Afterwards, two further questions are: what is the archetypal characteristic of Chinese culture? And what kinds of archetypal elements of cultural contexts could be translated into universal for more audiences in online games? The study might establish a basic understanding of Chinese cultural values for western players. In terms of culture, to integrate the long history of mythology and emerging entertainment - online games in China is a new method to investigate.
In the era of global culture, cultural barriers might obstruct the distributions of games to meet players' expectations that come from different cultural backgrounds in terms of game aesthetics. The western players possibly have different beauty tastes on game aesthetics comparing to eastern players, the controversy on a female character in Mirror's Edge (DICE 2009) between Japanese players and European players demonstrates different perspectives on female beauty in games. Two sides of players are discontented with the other side's female character design so that the hot discussion was caused online (Liuduanyinsu 2008). Regarding to the cultural phenomena on game aesthetics, the cultural barriers might be one of factors which influence game art.
The game designs involve many elements from various mythologies of cultures. For example, in China there are plenty of online games involving the elements form Chinese mythologies like Journey to the west which is a mythic classic novel in China; this novel was adopted several times into online games. These myths might enable the game to gain archetypal features but at the same time these elements might become a barrier to make games unpopular and incomprehension among players form other culture. The incomprehension happened in the Dynasty Warriors that is a video game involving strong Chinese cultural characteristics. All characters and environmental designs of this game came from a Chinese classic novel, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Therefore, the game had different attention rate in western players and eastern players. Dynasty Warriors gained a high score in east, oppositely the western critic reviews on this game was lower according to the critics reviews in the UK and Famitsu Scores in Japan (IDG Entertainment 2004, Famitsu Scores 2005). The game involving strong cultural contexts might become a bridge for introducing cultural contexts to players come from other culture but it also meets an obstacle which prevents the game to spread among the people from various cultures.
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The examination of Chinese culture is designed to give a brief impression to western readers for understanding the distinct cultural form which has very different philosophy of life, attitudes, lifestyle, ideology and values from westerners. The differences could be discovered in a Germany researcher's images which illustrate westerners and easterners' expressing the personal pinion, lifestyle, interpersonal relationship, expressing anger, beauty standard, problem solving, old age, leadership so on (Complete images see Appendix 1). So the spread of eastern culture to westerners is the same important as western culture to easterners for obtaining common comprehensions each other in the trend of globalization.
It is rare to find the examination to the culture in terms of mythology and online games in present academic area, the new form of game studies could be explored for gaining conclusions for further development of game making. Hades which origins from Greek mythology appeared in God of War: Chains of Olympus which is an action-adventure game for Play Station Portable (Ready at Dawn 2008). The background story of Journey to the West which is a mythic novel in China is employed into the Westward Journey Online 3 (Neteast 2009). Why is this situation happening? Are there same features between mythology and games so that the two things could be concordantly combined? In the research, the Journey to the West and games that were adapted from it is employed as a case to investigate for finding the acceptable answers.
The game industry is globalizing, games are considered as a global cultural form by researchers (Stephen, Nick and Greig 2003, p.13). The era of information explosion gives an opportunity to explore the relationship between culture and games especially Massively Multi-player Online games. Players from various cultures could be living in the virtual world of MMO games and establishing a common community together. Therefore, online game offers a platform to players. The collective attribute in the world of online games might be similar with culture. When a unique cultural context is applied into a game design, it might be set to target a particular group of players. How do these cultural contexts influence online games and how are the platforms building by cultural elements to meet players' expectations is a worth research question to explore in terms of game studies.
This research mainly employed a case study of the Westward Journey Online three as a major methodology to unfold analysis and examination on the relationship between culture and game aesthetics. Because the online game is an example designing by local developers, and combining archetypal characteristics of Chinese culture into game design moreover gaining a successful marketing profits in Chinese online game industry.
Regards to the original contexts of the Westward Journey Online Three, the Chinese classic novel, the Journey to the West, was widely used into the game design and aesthetics. The feature of the game was used to investigate how the mythology harmoniously applying into online games and meet parts of players' expectations. Several of previous studies on the Journey to the West were employed into the study, and these references established a basic understanding of historical research on the particular fiction.
Data were collected from various academic areas, including culture studies, research on game industry studies and studies on mythology. Different data sources give an integral conception in the multiple studies.
From the study on culture and games based on Chinese cultural contexts, a basic understanding of unfamiliar cultural form could be established in western readers. A possible path of how to combine archetypal characteristics into game design for meeting more players' expectations might be discovered through the examinations and analyses on a particular online game. At the same time, another research direction might be generated from the same research topic; the one side study of Chinese culture opened an approach to investigate other cultural forms using established methods and path.
For answering those research questions, multidiscipline study will be involved. There are culture studies, art, marketing and the newest one- computer games study. Depends on aims and research questions, the objectives have been listed below:
- To establish understanding of archetypal characteristics and universal characteristics in terms of Chinese culture.
- To explore the relation of mythology and game aesthetics across several subjects.
- To explore the functions of culture in game aesthetics and seek possibility of combining two different cultures into game art for widen players.
The Overview of Chinese Online Game IndustryLocalization of Chinese Online Game Industry
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Chinese online games industry is localization because of the lower export level. The reasons might be the strategy of government, cultural barriers or limitation of development. Chinese online game industry gives a great influence on the globalization game marketplace. From the research of the three nations that are American, Korea and China, it could be discovered that the income of American online game came from games exporting, and Korea is developing the exporting outside and locally operating, the income of China online game mainly came from locally operating. Therefore, a part of income in American and Korea online games came from Chinese online game marketplace (iResearch 2009). The report from iResearch (2009) evinced that the revenue of Chinese online game market occupied about 27 percentages of global game market and it is ranked the second position, American online game industry is 29 percentages to take the lead and Korea is the third position as 21 percentages. Due to the fact about the data sources of game exporting, it is aware that Chinese online marketplace might be considered on the status of receiving which is caused by local cultural impacts.
However, not all games could be popular in China. In the first half year of 2009, the attention rate of online games was mainly occupied by local Chinese games 49.65% and Korean games 43.82% (Baidu 2009). And the European, American and Japanese games only took up total about 7% in the whole. The similar cultures of China and Korea is possible a reason why the Korean games could be acceptable by Chinese players. Korea and China are located in one continent and Korean culture was influenced by Chinese culture. Therefore, the two countries have a similar culture and Chinese players could easily understand the background stories, characters, environments of Korea games. Due to the different cultural forms between western countries including Europe and America and China, the games involves different cultural elements were hardly comprehended by Chinese players. Regards on Japan, the Japanese game developers emphasize on the development of console games rather than online games. So the small exporting rate of Japanese online games demonstrates on the pie chart. Sum up, the cultural bridge between Korea and China gives online games a shared marketplace, because players share a common cultural basis.
On the whole, the Chinese online game industry is gradually getting more and more important status in international game industry by reason that the Chinese market size is 30.4 million dollars which occupies 27.1 percentages of the gross income of global online game marketing in 2008 according to the iResearch China Online Game Research Report (2009). In addition, China online game industry has the fastest developing speed. The report predicted that the occupancy of Chinese online game market will continually increase at the speed of 5 percentages based on the research. Additionally, it is expected that the occupancy of Chinese online game market will be close to 50 percentages, and reach to 45.9 percentages (iResearch 2009). The online game market in China is an important place in international game industry; it gives a great profit to developers, and publishers. Therefore, understanding Chinese culture might be a door to open the market in terms of game design and aesthetics.The reasons of localization of online games boom in China
The localization of Chinese online game industry is possibly caused by multiple reasons. Local games with strong cultural contexts could get sympathetic attentions by players who live in the cultural environments. From the themes of online games in China, the Wuxia and mythologies were in a heavy demand depends on the research on attention rate on genres of online games in China (Baidu 2009). No matter Wuxia or mythologies, both of them are a kind of strong cultural contexts. Wuxia is a unique cultural form in Chinese ancient times. There are several MMORPG games using the distinctive theme as the background story and game character designs. Xiake is a character's designation in Wuxia. It is a chivalrous person which includes several unique spirits which are sense of honour and justice, loyalty, faithful to friends, serving good for people (Hudong 2009). However, Xiake usually get treasure using illegal accesses such as robbery. Although they use these illegal treasures to help poor people, the behaviour still causes destabilizing factors in society so that government in ancient China turns against the class of xiake. The group of people named Xiake was generated by the societal situation at that time. The corruptive government, unfair societal systems and personal freedom are caused the particular group. A classic novel named Water Margin was describing this group.
Another theme of online games is the mythology which is also a kind of strong cultural context like Wuxia. William (2000) considers myth is "culturally important", and myths are this kind of story which are created by individuals' interpretations in discriminating special societies. Myths demonstrate certain culture contents such as religious, rituals, customs, and people's behaviours. Therefore, it might bring us to an articulate culture form by examining the particular mythology. The cultural attribute of mythology might be considered cultural demands from players. Why players are desire to live in a mythical world in online games? The answer was presented in the Chapter 3.3 depends on the discussion of mythology and culture and analysis the relationship between mythology and online games.
Generally speaking, local players' demands are an indication the reason of localization of Chinese online game industry because of cultural understanding. Players request culturally contents in games, because they could find familiar characters, children heroes and the common historical cognition from these games. Therefore, how to combine the cultural contexts into online games becomes a crucial research area to investigate.
The background of Chinese cultureThe collective and discriminative culture
In different situation, the definition of culture has different explanations. The research mainly discussed art and culture for the latter investigation of game art and culture. Therefore, the definition of culture related to art or aesthetics is the focal point; it does not mean other important comprehension of culture studies are ignored, all the necessary study also is considered through the whole process of investigation. For the later research, which definition of culture is properly suitable for investigating the relation of culture and game aesthetics might be sorted out.
Culture could be understood as a group of people who has a similar taste on game aesthetics. This might be the reason why cultural barriers influence selling of games which involve strong cultural features. Firstly the definition of culture in dictionary must be considered. The 'culture' in English involves several meanings as a noun. The one of major definitions in Oxford Advanced Learner's English-Chinese Dictionary (1990, p.284) of culture described that 'all the arts, beliefs, social institutions, etc characteristic of a community, race, etc'. In Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary (2004), there are similar explanations of the term 'culture' that are ' culture consists of activities such as the arts and philosophy, which are considered to be important for the development of civilization and of people's mind', ' a culture is a particular society or civilization, especially considered in relation to its beliefs, way of life, or art' and 'the culture of a particular organization or group consists of the habits of the people in it and the way they generally behave'. From these definitions in dictionary, the main feature of culture is collective, a certain subject of people's common mind. The common ground includes arts, beliefs, habits, lifestyle, customs, institutions and philosophy. So sometimes, the culture means people's shared mind in one nation, one race even bigger in one group which has common benefits. Simply speaking, players' cultural backgrounds might determine their tastes on game aesthetics. The players come from same or similar cultural backgrounds might have a similar taste on aesthetic appreciations of game art.
The different areas in game industry could be distinguished by analysing cultural characteristics, because culture is discriminative. Culture is regarded as "the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another" by Geert (2001). If a culture loses its own distinguishing feature, it will vanish in the world. The various cultural forms give a colourful world. People could convince Scottish by kilts, recognize the sushi by the knowledge of Japanese culture and distinguish the western oil paintings from traditional Chinese paintings by aesthetic information in culture. If these distinguishing features which exist in various kinds of cultures disappear there are not indications helping us to discriminate these cultures. As a result of that, culture involves the important function which is identifying human's origins. Therefore, different cultures exist by their identification and discrimination with other cultural forms.
A culture is archetypal and distinguishing. Therefore, the different culture gives distinguishing art styles to various games. Moreover, some crucial elements of culture have been possibly applied into game art and design.Main contexts of Chinese culture
The Chinese culture exists for thousands of years; it has great influences to the East area and other parts of the world. Due to the complex culture forms, it is hard to present a very clear and details of this particular culture. This paper is investigating the major root of Chinese culture which possibly affects modern new media the games. These contents of Chinese cultural root include Confucianism, Taoism and very crucial concepts of harmony between man and nature. These foundational concepts of Chinese culture give a great influence to very aspects of modern society. Meanwhile, games reflect or being reflected these traditional cultural concepts more or less.
The Confucianism is a complexity. Some people consider it is a cult, others think it is a form of learning (Xinzhong 2000). However, the research regards Confucianism is a form of culture. The content of Confucianism involves several disciplines such as moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious which reflect cultural contexts in China.
Due to the Confucianism involves different explanations in different historical periods; there is no specific definition for it. From different aspects, we could get different comprehensions from Confucianism. However, the central thought still exists and has positive impacts on modern Chinese people. Generally speaking, there are three cores themes and a crucial core concept in Confucianism. Those are "Li" - ritual in English, "De" - virtue, "Ren" - humanity and the doctrine of mean. More details of contents in Confucianism could be read in Appendix 2.
In the research, the characteristics of China are going to discuss from the native religion of Taoism rather than investigation on religion itself. Taoism is a native philosophical and religious of China and it focus on the moral code. It came from China and has influenced East Asia for over two millennia and the West for over two centuries (James 2003). On one hand, Taoism is one of main original inspirations for Chinese games. On the other hand, it is a core of human value in Chinese society.
Taoism's concepts could be applied into computer game design. The original religion involves several worships. Those include nature worship, totem worship, spirits worship and ancestor worship. Moreover, there is a complex system of Daoism, different branches have different leaders. These features of Daoism give great inspirations to game designers. The features have already employed into several Chinese games which used traditional themes and backgrounds. The Jianxia3 online employed many Daoism's elements into the game play (Kingsoft 2009). Players could choose Chunyang branch which is a real branch of Daoism as their clans. There are many rooms of Daoism could be employed into game design such as celestial beings, making pills of immortality and Fengshui theory in Daoism. Appendix 3 is employed to introduce the very details of contexts in Taoism.
This concept of relationship between man and nature reflects into game design is that the characters in games usually involve appearances of natural things like animal monsters. The situation is very different from western games which seldom apply monsters came from nature. This might be caused by Chinese original root which is called harmony between man and nature which is widely considered as the main principal part of Chinese traditional culture. In the traditional Chinese culture, the world is separated into three parts that are heaven, manpower and earth. For each part there are specific classic texts for guiding people's behaviours. The classic texts include I Ching, the analect of Confucius, the Sunzi Art of War, the Dao Te Ching and Huang di nei Ching (more details see Appendix 4).
The ancient classic traditional Chinese philosophy teaches Chinese people the major behaviours. It affects people's choices more or less in modern society. Understanding Chinese culture, these principles have to be clarified, because when the character involves archetypal characteristics it must follows some elements from these concepts from ancient China.The original mythology in Chinese culture
In terms of game design, there are many games applying mythic elements into character designs, background stories, environment designs and requests designs. There might have common senses between games and myths. Why could the mythic contents be widely employed into games? This chapter will discuss myth and find out the bonding point between myths and games.The common features of mythology and games
Myths are universal and archetypal in every cultural form by using dialectic method of analysis. At the first place, it needs to clarify that what are mythology and what kind of characteristics is involved in mythology. Williams (2000) suggested that myths are fictional but not unreal and non-empirical, however they are not incomprehensible and formed by values of fundamental mythical orientations of cultures. And a common contestation of mythology is that "myths are stories about gods or remote ancestors, myths are sacred stories, myths are stories that explain how the world and humans came to be in their present forms, and myths encapsulate important information about human thought, feeling, history, and social life" (Yang, Deming and Jessica 2005). However, particular myths could be understood by people who live in the particular culture environment, it is hard to be comprehended by other person who has different culture background if he has not established understanding of the particular culture, because every cultural mythology has distinguishing features.
In addition, myths still have universal features like the statement was presented by Stith Thompson in 1955 that myths are connecting with gods and their behaviours, creation, and the general nature of the universe and of the earth (Yang, Deming and Jessica 2005). Every culture involves contexts about gods and origins of world, the primitive mythologies derived from human's imaginations about nature. Most of myths depict that human was created by god; the only difference is the methods and process of creation. Therefore, there is one principal god in every cultural mythology, like Jade Emperor in Chinese myth, Odin in Norse myth, Osiris in Egyptian myth and Zeus in Greek myth. The common feature exists in the distinguishing mythologies and cultures for demonstrate some common characteristics of human world.
Games as a creative industry need creation and imagination, however the design of games should not be incredible. The attributes of games are very similar with mythology's which discussed above. This is not a coincidence; this is why there are so many designers employed mythological elements into the game design. There are two reasons that games should be imaginative and believable.
The first one is the purpose of playing for imaginative feature of games. Players are anxious for getting entrainment from games; they usually want to get different experiences from playing games. If the environment and characters in games are same with real life, the game will be boring. There was an article stated that a game is joyful because players could accept benign stimulus so that players gain a pleasant feeling and contented emotion from playing, the graphics of games belong to direct stimulus which directly motivate players' sense of sight, auditory sense and sensibility (Suxihong 2006). The different graphics from real life in games give players a kind of different experiences. Imaging a fantastic style house and an ordinary house are presented in front of your eyes, which one could give you more direct stimulus. The most of answers are the fantastic one, because it is different from the one we see everyday. More virtual images is used in games, more direct stimulus players could be got. Even a simulating game like series of Sims also involves other virtual elements for giving different experiences to players.
Another reason is that the game needs to be believable. Believable features are the necessary elements could force players immersing into games. The term of immersion is defined by Jessica and Bridgette (2003, p.476) is that "The ability of a game to 'immerse' a player in the interface and gameplay. The Holy Grail of online gaming is to completely immerse a player in the gameplay to the point that he/she loses track of time and, in some cases, reality during the game session." Unreal and incredible characters and environment cannot make players to spend a lot of time on the game. A reality background and adopted characters from reality could apply into games and make a common sense between players and games. So most of successful games were adopted from real stories, the Non-players character, the monsters and the avatars for players were altered from fictional characters in mythology. Generally speaking, games and mythology have same attributes. That the reason mythologies are widely used into game design both in environment setting, background stories and character designs.The mythology is localized
The mythology is a mixture of local culture and people's ideology of certain time, so different myths might be hardly understood by people from different cultural backgrounds. The forming of myths might be a key to understand why the myth is localized.
Firstly the origin of mythology is various. Some myths are adopted from the narratives of scripture by adding several imaginative elements and altered contents of the original scripture. And historical events are another source of mythology; the real historical case was rewritten by later people using the forms of legends and fabulous traditions which are widely disseminated. Additionally, there are other two features could describe myths which are allegorical and physical, nearly all the ancient myths are symbolical and involved some educational contents in aspects of moral, religious or philosophical truth etc (Thomas 2004).
It is generally believed that the Chinese mythology originated from the totem of remote Chinese ancestors and legends of ancient tribes and usually concentrate on explain rationalize, embellish, humanize, or historicize the mythical beings (Williams 2000 1993: 387). Some Chinese myths are another form of historical records such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms which narrated events of Warring States Period in Chinese history, and the mythic character named Yan Di who invented agriculture in Chinese history. Moreover, the Chinese myths mirrored contents of religions; the concept of three worlds that are heaven, earth and human being in Chinese mythology is coming from Buddha. Many online games which were set in ancient Chinese environment applied the concept of three worlds. The characters in these games are generally separated into three groups which are celestial beings, devils and human beings.
The Chinese cultural concept of the harmony between human and heaven is also reflecting in the local mythology. Devils in mythology are transformed from animals and plants so that their appearances embody the shape of original animals or plants. This phenomenon might be different from westerners' attitude to the nature.
From the statement above, we could see the origin of mythology causes a kind of culture barrier. Mythologies are formed with local nuances. For example, the Chinese mythologies are influenced by local religions which are Buddha, Taoism and cultural ideology. The local culture might determine major contents of mythologies. And mythologies were spreading by people in the different periods, during the different historical periods people's thoughts were different and in some way reflected the certain society cognition. Depends on distinguishing history of culture, the local mythology is hardly understanding by other people who came from different cultural backgrounds.The Chinese mythology in online games
Due to the similar points between mythology and games, they naturally combine together that has been verified in chapter 3.3.1. Moreover, the localization of myths could make the traditional culture games more popular in the particular area.
In the Chinese online game industry, traditional myths are widely used. For example, the Chinese famous classic fictions which are considered to include myths inside are applied into several games that released in Chinese online game industry, such as the Romance of the Tree Kingdoms is made into games several times. These games include Biography of the Three Kingdoms Heroes Online (See Figure 6) developed by UserJoy in Taiwan (UserJoy 2009), Sangokushi Online (See Figure 7) which is history of three kingdoms in English developed by Koei in Japan (Koei 2009) and Shin Sangoku Musou (See Figure 8) which is another popular series of games used the story of three kingdoms developed by Koei in Japan (Koei 2009). Players establish the comprehension of Warring States Period of Chinese history from the contents of these adapted games; they knew the main characters of that period such as Guan Yu, Zhuge Liang and the famous stories like Oath of the Peach Garden, Borrowing Arrows with Straw Boats and the Battle of the Red Cliff. Moreover, the understanding of traditional spirits in ancient China is indoctrinated, because players follow the designing game play which refers to traditional Chinese rules.
Games help spreading myths to young people and foreigners who have established basic understanding of traditional mythology or live in different culture environment so that they could get the knowledge of particular mythology by easy-to-understand methods during playing. Games are a kind of educational products, players could learn knowledge of traditional Chinese culture and mythology, the appearances of traditional characters establish beauty taste of ancient China, background stories give a brief conception to gamers what happened in Chinese history because some myths involve historical events which are employed into games as well, game cultural environments provide real space to players who live into it. The requests in these games give guidance for telling players how to live like a traditional Chinese obeying the ancient rules, customs and moral norms. In other words, games which applied mythological contents into could improve culturally globalization and educate traditional culture using interesting paths.
In order to establish the further research about Chinese online games and culture, especially Chinese mythologies, a popular online game named Westward Journey Online three is employed into the study for getting more details about how is the mythology merging into online game design based on Chinese culture.
The case study of the Westward Journey Online threeThe introduction of the Journey to the West
In this chapter, the Journey to the West will be the main material to be analysed from several points of views. Firstly, the plot of a play of the original Journey to the West will be presented for establishing basic understanding for who are not familiar with the ancient classic Chinese fiction. At the same time, the impact of Journey to the West on modern media including TV, movies, Games etc also will be introduced.
Moreover, a previous research by Jinghui (2006) was applied for demonstrating the crucial characteristics of Chinese culture in Journey to the West. The author originally states the distinguishing features of Chinese and western cultures from three aspects which include the origin of the world, consciousness of life and conception of goodness and badness. However, the result of Chinese side was employed in this paper.
From examining these distinctive characteristics of the fiction, it is possible finding a worth result of the origin Chinese culture expressions linking to the Confucianism, Taoism and harmony between human and nature. Move forward, we could consider how to efficiently use these archetypal characteristics into the newest media - art of computer games.The Journey to the West is a cultural bridge
The Journey to the West has great influences on entertainment industry; the original novel had been adapted into TV programs, cartoons and games. The novel became a bridge between modern audiences and Chinese traditional culture. The well-known TV programmes named Xiyouji which was screened in CCTV in 1988 got a high reputation at that time, most of Chinese people had the memory to watch the famous TV drama program, and then the theme song of Xiyouji88 version also gave a great influence to the 80s generation during the period. And the sequels were shot in 2000 which got more technical supporting making the fantasy TV program more attractive.
The classic fiction which is originally based on Chinese culture gave a great influence on the media industry in eastern region. There are several online games in Chinese are originally set the background form the original fiction - Journey to the west, including Westward Journey Fantasy Online (NetEase 2009) which is one of most popular online games in China (See Figure 9), XiyouQji (See Figure 10) refers to Q Memoir of west journey (Guangyu Online 2009) and the Pocket Journey West (See Figure 11) (Perfect world 2009) etc.
The attribute of cultural bridge in Journey to the West gives the study a necessary cause to investigate the mythical novel. Why the classic novel could be naturally adapted into games is worth to answer through analysis on the original novel. The trend of investigation offers a direction to unfold relationship between culturally mythology and games.Origin of the Journey to the West
What are the distinguishing core cultural values of Chinese characteristics which have being expressed in the fiction? The question possibly could be answered by examining the original fiction. In the every first place, the brief content of story should be presented for setting up a general comprehension. The Journey to the west was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. The story happened in the Tang dynasty. The main characters include Tang Xuanzhang - Tripitaka, Sun Wukong - Monkey King, Zhu Bajie - Pig of the Eight Prohibitions, Sha Wujing - Sand Awakened to Purity and the white dragon-horse. The four characters formed a team for bringing back Buddhist scriptures from the west - Vulture Peak in India to China. On their journey, they experienced eighty-one calamities. Finally, they successful obtained the Buddhist scriptures and all of them became immortals.
The paper would like to examine the classic fiction from three fields that are the historical context, characters and the way or mission to west. First of all, the origin of the classic fiction needs to be presented and clarified. The paper is not investigating the exact time and event happening in the book, but the general event related to the classical creation need to be displayed. Because it was not only coming from imaginations, there were real historical events as the basis of background story of the Journey to the West.
The origin of the Journey to the West is a biography named A Biography of the Tripitaka Master of the Great Ci'en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty which was written by two disciples of Xuan Zang (Yuen 2008). After many years spread by storytellers among the people, the story was handed down and improved for a long time. The brief introduction of historical document could be read in Appendix 5. The real event happened a long time before the classical fiction - Journey to the West. The author Wu Chengen combined his experiences and several other elements together to create the famous story after several years when the Xuanzang backed from India. Wu added many fantasy factors into the story making the plot and character more attractive.
The second aspect need to be presented is the characters in the fiction. Regards to characters, it is important to mention the team construction. The team is made by four major characters, and they play different responsibilities in the teamwork and the team involves a clear hierarchic tree. The leader of the team is the master - Xuanzang. The fellowship members are the disciples under his controlling. The disciples have to respect the master Xuanzhang. Xuanzang's duty is reciting scriptures, he don't need to do any works such as looking for food, washing the clothes even not need to guide the right direction because the first disciple Sun Wukong will find a path.
And in these apprentices, it is also involved the clear grade of status. Sun Wukong has right to require others to do something, and he was the main force for fighting. The second disciple is Zhu Bajie who is usually responsible for cooking and slaying smaller demons. The third one is Sha Wujing, who has less important responsibility; he just needs to keep eyes on luggage. The fourth one is the animal character, the white dragon-horse, who is the third prince of the Dragon-King. He was rescued by Guanyin, a celestial being, having a great power from sentencing to death because of setting fire to his father's great pearl. The white horse has not any right in the team, he is only a mount for the master.
Therefore, from the responsibilities of the team members we could see the status of each member. A clear division of labour specific responsibilities could be presented. This is determined by the hierarchical structure of the team. Additionally, these features demonstrate the "Li" in origin of Confucianism in the Chinese culture. Chinese families also have inherent order, every thing has their own position in the world, and so do the relationships of human beings.
The major four characters involve distinguishing characteristics. Here the article ignore the animal character - the prince of the Dragon - King, because he is a small character and not important. The master Xuanzang is craven, mercy, loyal and devoted in the story. He marched forward courageously for finding the scriptures. Therefore, he is a true character. Xuanzang could be easily deceived in the Chapter 27 named Monkey Hit Lady White Bone Thrice in English. Xuanzang was fooled by the demon and driving Sun Wukong back home. At the end, Xuanzang paid the price, he was captured by demons nearly was eaten. The story demonstrates Xuanzang's two dimensions; he is too merciful to be easily deceived, but he has a good intention which becomes a weakness.
The next one major character will be analysed is the first disciple of Xuanzang, the Monkey King. In some way, he is more famous than his master. There are several independent stories which descried Monkey King's experiences before meeting Xuanzang going to the west. He was born from stone beside the east ocean; therefore he is considered absorbing all of the world elements. After his great efforts on studying 72 transformations, he became a strongest character in the team.
There are three main things have to be introduced for Monkey King. First one is the designation of "Great Sage Equal to Heaven" which was named by him. This action demonstrates his wild ambitions, naive characteristics and contempt for all (Hujian 2008). After slighted by celestial beings in the heaven, he decided giving himself the inflated reputation name for gaining respect and contenting self-esteem. The name is empty but he cherished it and asked the Jade emperor rewarded the name to him. The mental status displays his childishness.
Second thing is the process of learning the art of the Tao and 72 transformations. His original intention for learning is that he wants to get the secrets of immortality the same purpose with Taoism's doctrine in China. His first master taught him the 72 transformations for changing the appearances and essence of himself for evading catastrophes in the life. It is illustrated the eternal chase of Taoists and ancient Chinese people. In the past the Chinese people believes that doing good and accumulating merit could get longevity, people always expects immortality. Monkey King also is no exception. However, his advantage is his great perseverance during the learning. The more arduous training, the more Monkey King kept learning.
These stories shape Monkey King's weaknesses and strong points that are naive and childishness which in same way is a weakness in real complex society, valour and hardworking.
Finally, Monkey King's weapon, the Golden Cudgel has a close relationship with the five elements which is the natural science in ancient China. The ancient Chinese separated the world into five elements; most of Chinese believe the five elements made the whole world. Details of five element theory are including in Appendix 6.
Regards to the Monkey King's story, the five elements were applied into the classic fiction and several online games which's background story came from traditional Chinese culture for designing some game rules. Monkey King's golden cudgel that locates in the seabed belongs to the Metal element, so the golden cudgel is a metal in water. And Monkey King lives in the water-covered cave; he also is a metal element in water. They act in unison. Generally speaking, Monkey King is a crucial character in the Journey to the West. The author gave a great attention on this character and makes him rich and reality.
The third disciple is the Zhu Bajie. Like the first disciple, Zhu Bajie also has many independent stories were adopted into TV programmes and cartoons such as Spring Brillian Zhu Bajie which is a comedy TV drama program and broadcasted in 2000 in China and Falling Zhu Bajie from Heaven (See Figure 15) which was produced by Jiang Toon animation and broadcasted in China Central Television.
Zhu Bajie also is a rich character which involves weakness and advantages. His weakness is greedy especially on food, prurience and lazy. And his advantage is loyal. Zhu Bajie is originally Tenpou Gensui in the heaven; however he was punished to demote down to earth because of dalliance the Goddess of the Moon. However, in the process of his reborn to the earth, he made a mistake becoming a pig. During the Journey, Zhu Bajie was responsible for protect master Xuanzang using his 36 transformations abilities. Although his abilities are not enough strong, he also seriously executed every task. His loyal heart is the strongest in the team. At the same time, he usually created comedic figure in the story. That why children audiences like him more than others.
The third disciple Sha Monk is a kind of shadow character. However he also involves two sides' characteristics which are honest and incapable. His responsibility is taking care of the luggage. He nearly has no independent stories. His existing serves for other characters.
In addition, the way to west is another important content in the classic fiction. Those are the purpose, route, formulaic episodic structure combat, 81 calamities and final ending (See Appendix 7).
Lei, an Mphil in Institute of East China University of Science and Technology, discussed the connotative meanings of celestial legend using the Journey to the west and the Lord of the Rings as two samples in Chinese culture and western culture. He states the distinguishing features of Chinese and western cultures from three aspects which include the origin of the world, consciousness of life and conception of goodness and badness (Jinghui 2006). Following his points of view, my study also used the three aspects to analysis the original novel from different angles.
Regards to the origin of the world, Chinese believe human beings and every thing in the world derive from nature, human cannot be above the nature. Therefore, in the Taoism and Buddhism that is localized consider the consciousness is not only belonged to human beings.
Buddha always said everything, the everything here include not only human but also other animals, plants and anything else in the world. The belief reflects in the Journey to the west becomes that the shapes of many characters in the fiction shift from flowers, woods, inserts, fishers and other animals even the natural phenomena. For example, the Buffalo Demon-King comes from the shape of bulls. And the names of demons in Journey to the west could demonstrate the relationship of nature and human, such as Spider demons, Centipede Demon, Azure Lion Demon, Lady Earth Flow, King of Southern Mountains and King of Coldguard, heatguard, dusguard etc. The four main characters also transform from animals and nature, the monkey, pig, sand and horse.
Therefore, in the fiction, all the things in nature have their own consciousness, and they could become a human shape after tough practice. The Chinese culture emphasizes on natural evolution and every thing has spiritualisms, the relation between nature and human is equal, the same meaning with the harmony between man and nature.
In the process of development of Chinese culture, it treats the nature has their own consciousness and the relation between man and nature is equal. So the natural science cannot be significantly developed like western world in Chinese, while the humanity subjects could get successful accomplishment in China. And this feature of respecting nature also could be reflected by the traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese use botanic roots, flowers and animals as the drugs to treat people, it is developed for thousands of years. And Chinese people believe earth is the best shelter for dead people. The origin of conception of traditional Chinese medicine comes from the concept of harmony between human beings and nature.
The next point which Lei regards is the consciousness of life. Everlasting life is a crucial content in Taoism which is a native religion in China. Refining pellets for gaining everlasting life is an objective of most belivers in Taoism. The first emperor of China named Qin shihuang sent thousands of boys and girls goto the East China Sea for looking for praying the supernatural beings to give him the Elixir of life. And in the Journey to the west, Sun Wukong was also looking for talented persons to teach him spells for everlasting life. The king of Monk kingdom followed the secret recipe came from witchcraft collecting one thousand and one hundred eleven hearts of children for refining the Elixir of life in the novel. All of the above ancient fictions, history and religion demonstrates the importance of life in Chinese culture. Chinese people believe that the life is more than other things. There is nothing without life. Game developers might have an attention on this difference for further developing projects for target audiences in game marketplace.
The last thing is conception of goodness and badness. In the Journey to the west the wholeness of thinking model is displayed. Good and badness is not against each other but could be transformed between each other and changeable. Most of demons which are bad characters in the fiction are the relatives or servants of celestial beings which represent good. The good and badness usually have certain relationship. And the evil never cannot be conquered. All the evil demons could be defeated or reformed to a good one. The ending of evil is becoming to a good one, this ending named Parinirvana. This point also could be reflected in some video games.
Online game-Westward Journey Online threeThe developer of the series of Westward Journey Online
Following the main trend of applying the traditional Chinese culture backgrounds into online games, the series of Westward Journey Online games were successful in the Chinese online game market, and brought huge profit to Netease. According to the report on online games by Baidu data analysis centre, the Westward Journey Fantasy is judged to be the top ten MMORPG games in the first half year in 2009 (Baidu 2009). Its attention rate by players was 18.54 percents at the second place in the top ten Q version MMORPGs. The first one was WenDao in Chinese occupying 19.32 percents (See appendix 8).
Before the recent version Westward Journey Online three Netease released three other MMO games based on the background of Journey to the West. They are named Westward Journey Fantasy, Westward Journey Online two and the one named Westward Journey unofficial biography in testing right now. The most popular one is the series of Westward Journey Online games.
Ding Lei who is the CEO of Netease said the performance of Westward Journey Fantasy Online demonstrates its popularity, at the same time shows the game has huge numbers of players under the charging system during Chinese time..." The Netease is the advanced internet company in China, its major business scope is development and publishing patented online games. Profits of Netease mainly came from the operation of online games. The total annual income of Netease was 30 hundreds millions RMB (4.36 hundreds millions dollars) by the end of 31 Dec 2008. And the retained profits was 16 hundreds millions RMB (2.34 hundreds millions dollars) in 2008 (Netease 2009). Most of profits came from operation of several independently developing online games such as Westward Journey Fantasy Online and Westward Journey Online ?and three. For the reason that we can see the Westward Journey Fantasy and the series of Westward Journey Online are a kind of successful pattern in unique Chinese online game industry. It is worth to investigate the successful instance for gaining some inspirations for future game development.Background story
Firstly, it has to clarify the timeline of products belonging to Netease. The first version of Westward Journey Online was released on December 2001 that was one pioneer of Chinese online games during that period. Then the Westward Journey Online two was the first successful operating online games made in China on August 2002. It created a newest record that it involved 890,000 players online at the same time since operating. On January 2004, the Westward Journey Fantasy Online was released; the number of players online at the same time was more than 2320,000, moreover the number of registration players exceeded 2 millions. The record was kept in the same kind of product until the end of 2008. The newest one called Westward Journey Online three was operating on 12 September 2007; the game engine was independently developed by Netease and supporting multiple 2D round system games. The graphics of the game reached highest quality among 2D games. The Westward Journey three could be considered as an AAA game made in China (Netease 2009).
Regards on the original online game, Westward Journey Online three was set a background story based on the original classic novel the Journey to the West. Players could find monkey king and other original features in the game such as Mountain of Flowers and Fruits where monkey king lives has been used in the game. However, developers added some other cultural features into the game as well. So it is considered as a product of mixed traditional Chinese culture based on content of Journey to the West. In the research, the background story of the game will be presented at the first view. Some connection between original fiction and the modern game content, further more the cultural influences might be discovered during the examining.
Depending on the content of introduction on the official website of Netease, the background story of the game is described from three aspects which are overview of the world, the origin of cultures and story content.
The first content is the world, a rich Chinese culture features are able to be found in the few words description. The world of the game was set as three boundaries and four continents that are the same names with original fiction. They are east continent (Dong Sheng Shen Zhou in Chinese), west continent (Xi Niu He Zhou in Chinese), south continent (Nan Zhan Bu Zhou in Chinese) and north continent (Bei Ju Lu Zhou). The origin of four continents came from the Buddhism legend. The world was created by Pan Gu, a creator of universe in Chinese mythology. And three boundaries are human beings, who pursue the harmony between human beings referring to humaneness and righteousness, celestial beings seek self liberation referring to cultivate oneself according to a religious doctrine, devils chase original nature referring to freedom. So that three different cultures in the game are generated,
Apart from the world setting, the historic period related to Chinese history. The story of the game is happened in Tang Dynasty which is a blooming time in Chinese history. The economy is flourishing and society is steady, people begin to reflect the pains which wars and disasters brought in before. And citizens expect the world filled harmony and friendship, therefore, this situation gives Buddhism an opportunity to spread in China. The journey to find scripture of Buddha begins from the start point. The setting affects characters attributes, world's structure and giving a rich environment to the local players.
The second part of background story of the game is about the origin of culture. The description of original culture in the game imitates the characteristics of the time when the classic novel was written. At that time three religions merged together, the different thing is that three religions were employed into three races which are human beings, celestial beings and devils.
The three races have sameness and differentia, the sameness is that all of them wish to attain the way; the differentia is that they have different methods to reach the aim. The process of Human being to attain the way in the game is to cultivate the moral self, regulate the family, maintain the state rightly and make all peaceful under the instruction of Confucianism. Celestial beings cultivate themselves according to the Buddhism, the personal cultivation is more important for celestial beings. And devils usually were created by enriching themselves mentally and physically, they believe everything is following the law of nature, they are desirous to live at ease. Meanwhile three races are interactive each other. All characters both players and NPC are travellers who solve problems during the journey and go ahead for their aims.
The third part is separated into three topics. It mainly introduces the beginning story of the game. The first stage is about the birth of sprit stone. The story is combined the original classic novel the Journey to the West with a movies named Chinese Odyssey which was an adaptation from the classic novel. In plain terms, the story of the game is based on the original fiction; a little difference is that it adds a love story between monkey king and Zixia faerie. Finally, the story of game encourages players to start the journey for pursuing their own destinies.
From the background of the game, it can be aware that the game involves rich traditional Chinese cultural features. Basically, the game oriented to the Chinese players, most of contents are adapted from the classic novel the Journey to the West. At the same time, it added some other elements which could meet modern player's expectations such as love story and fantastic races for playing so that the modern player could have different experiences from playing in the virtual ancient world. It can be said Westward Journey three is a successful mixture of traditional Chinese culture and contemporary art. However, Westward Journey three is only familiar with Chinese players or who have rich Chinese culture background. It might not be understood by other players who have a different culture background. The cultural barriers might be caused by archetypal features between different cultures.Game characters
There are eight main characters which could be used as avatars by players in Westward Journey three. Although all of the characters are mythical, they involve reality more or less, such as Zhuxietiele's story involved a real historical event about resisting Turkic in Chinese history. Every character has their own story and characteristics and distinguishing appearances depending on the cultural origins and living environment. Various cultural features also are applied into the characters' design and their background stories. The character named Zhuxietiele belongs to Shatuo race; his appearances use several features of wild tribes in ancient north of China. One other characteristic character is called Painting Soul; he was given birth by Mr. Black Pine and The third White Lady. Therefore, his appearance is designed as a panda which makes up of two colours black and white. And a harmony between human and nature is also demonstrated in one of the character's story. One of celestial beings named martial honour deity who was set as a son of the Jade Emperor became a tree after preventing human world was flood by Dragon King in East Ocean. The transformation between human beings and nature is possible in ancient Chinese mythology under the influence of Confucianism.
Most of characters have not connections with the Journey to the West, but the design of clans in the game is basing on the original fiction. It can simply aware from their names such as Huasheng Temple where the Xuanzhang began his journey in history, Fangcun Mountain where Monkey king learned the 72 transformations, the feudal official of Tang Dynasty, Wuzhuang Temple where is a Taoist temple for planting immortal fruits in novel, Mount Putuo where is one of Buddhist sacred spots and The Cave of Silken Web where is appeared in classic novel etc.
The disciples of different clans have different abilities applying into battles. Players could choose their favourite clan to join, after joining into the clan players could get unique abilities which clans give them. The virtual spells are design relating to the characteristics of each clan in real historic context and culture. The game employs the five elements into each clan's abilities. Air spells is the unique for Wuzhuang Temple's disciples, strong resistance spells is belonged to the Cave of Silken Web's disciples, Water Spells is for Dragon's Palace in East Ocean, Fire spells is applying by Mount Putuo's disciples etc. In some way, every details of the character designs are came from existing cultural features, mythology and traditional Chinese culture. The crucial thing is how to effectively use these features into game design making the game creditably during game play. All of the elements which Westward Joutney three applies is came from rich root of Chinese culture so that it is easily acceptable by local players. We can sad Westward Journey three is mythical, but it is not rootless. The Chinese culture enriched it, and designers used appropriate methods to combine the traditional elements with contemporary media online games to create it. That is why this game could be popular in Chinese online game industry.Game play
If we want to understand the unique culture of the Westward Journey three, we need to understand how the virtual world is operating everyday for thousands of players. How do players live in the fantasy game world? And what could players do in the game?
Westward Journey three is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Its distinguishing feature of game play is the traditional turn-based. During the Journey players cannot see enemies directly on the map. The enemies randomly turn up. For example, when a player walks on the map, the enemies will suddenly stop him, and then player is brought into the battle mode. In the battle mode, gamers and enemies are separated into two lines like ancient Chinese battle array which two armies duly meet and face each other standing in readiness. Each side has their own attacking time which depends on the agility attribute. When it is the player's turn, the player could choose which method to attack enemies. When the turn is finished, the player has to wait to make actions until the next turn. There are several actions could be selected by players when it is their turn, such as attacking, spelling attacking, defending, fleeing etc. The commonly used action is spelling attacking; each character has the strongest ability for giving the biggest damage to enemies. The modus of battles imitate ancient Chinese war like Chinese chess. Two players are separated into half chessboard by Chu River and Han Bound. Two sides against each other. Sum up, the feature of battle mode in Westward Journey three naturally merged traditional Chinese battle mode making the game is different from western direct fight.
Like other MMORPG games, this game involves various complex systems to service players, including chat system, workshop system which comprises equipment workshop, trading workshop, collecting workshop and official workshop, other systems include faction system, mount system, raising system, Sutra system, household system, business system, constellation system, marriage system, friend system, masters and apprentices system and d