Online Censorship re: Gaming

Originally, thanks to my younger self’s love of Gwen Stefani songs, I was planning on a research essay regarding Harajuku fashion as my final submission for DIGC330. I’d listened to many a song in which Gwen Stefani sings about Harajuku girls, and owned many album covers featuring what I was told was “harajuku” style, so I had this very generic image in my head of what harajuku was, but obviously didn’t think about it very much, and went about my day. So I’ve really only ever been exposed to a Western stylized version of harajuku fashion, specifically Gwen Stefani’s version of Harajuku (which was criticized for being “something more like an awkward parade of racist tropes.”)

I know I keep mentioning Gwen Stefani, but throughout my entire life I’d only ever heard the term ‘harajuku’ if it was in relation to something that she’d done, be it music, clothes, or those tiny little harajuku models that were the design for her perfume brand that I would see every now and again.


However, while I’m still interested in looking into it a bit further, my final submission subject has changed entirely, and I blame Chris bringing up online censorship in a lecture, and then relating it to World of Warcraft.

Much like my brief exposure to Harajuku, before Wrath of the Lich King came out in China (A whole 2 years later than it’s US release), there was a phrase that I heard a lot around the game; “Chinese Lord Marrowgar.”

It was kind of like this mysterious idea, based off the Chinese censorship of World of Warcraft. It was just people thinking to themselves “If China censors skeletons and bones in it’s games, and Lord Marrowgar – the first raid boss of Icecrown Citadel is a giant construct made ENTIRELY of bones, what on earth will it look like in the Chinese version?”

There was one tiny image that floated around for a while of this weird looking corpse construct, as the Chinese replacement for Lord Marrowgar.


And a lot of people thought to themselves “How is this better than the skeleton construct?” Because as far as we were concerned, the notion was that the removal of bones and blood in games was to basically to shield the Chinese public, especially the younger generation from anything that was too obscene, graphic, or upsetting. At least that’s what most of the Western world believed, and I knew no better at the time, I just went along with what I read and didn’t really question it.

Off topic: this forum post does have a point. Skeletons are much more hygienic.


So thanks to my reminder of Chinese censorship from Chris’s lecture, I’ll be producing a some form of digital artifact on censorship in online games, with some research into why exactly bones and blood are removed from the Chinese versions of the game, and the rules of this censorship, and if they apply equally across the board – does every bone get removed, or are there standards for removal?

Is it as most of Western society thinks, and the censorship of graphic imagery is just there to spare the Chinese public from anything too real and confronting, or is there a proper reasoning, be it to do with history, culture, or beliefs, as to why all the blood and bones are removed from games such as World of Warcraft.

I’d be very interested to know how meticulously they go about this censorship, it just seems like there’s too many bones in online games to be realistically able to remove them all?

There was only a few select images of the comparison between the Chinese and US versions of World of Warcraft previously available online, but one top guy from reddit was able to obtain a Chinese version of the game, and made galleries upon galleries of comparison shots that are going to be super helpful to pair with some further research to look at the varying levels of censorship, and how far the extent of the censoring actually goes.

I’ll be curious to see how far the truth regarding what gets censored and why differs from the opinion I developed as a young teenager based off what i read on the internet when the whole Wrath of the Lich King censorship event happened in the first place. If previous experiences are anything to go by, the differentiation between the truth and what I read on the internet will probably be .. quite a lot.




  1. Hey, I really like your idea! It would be really interesting to see what’s behind such specific censorship. You’ve provided thoughtful considerations as to what those could be outside of Western perceptions. I would also be interested to see what censorship Western games have and how they differ or are similar to Chinese games. I wonder what games from different genres have Chinese versions and how they’re censored too. It would have been great to see a link to the images you talked about to see the visual comparisons. I look forward to seeing what you find out!


  2. Both ideas seem to be really interesting, but my own bias dictates that the second idea would be way cooler. I thing it would be really cool to look into the differences in our Western Culture to the Chinese culture that is the basis of this censorship in the first place, and tracing it right back to its origins. Similar to the way that in some cultures, some aspects of death is actually celebrated (ie. The Mexican Day of the Dead), yet in other cultures, a dead loved one can be completely taboo to talk about once the burial is over. I have to wonder why instead of simply making it a taboo topic to discuss that the government goes as far to actually censor anything to do with death and gore, especially in a modern context where gore can be glorified through horror movies. Does this censorship extend to other forms of media, too? How deep does this go and where is the line for particular censoring drawn?

    I am really looking forward to seeing your presentation Kirsten, can’t wait. You have heaps of solid ideas here.


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