Steven Hetcher


Although the Chinese government has devoted significant resources to censoring the online activities of its citizens, it may soon be facing a new challenge. Virtual-world computer games in which player controlled personas interact in cyberspace are growing in both sophistication and popularity. In such games, the very actions of the characters may represent banned themes which unfold in real time. These lucrative games do not lend themselves to the traditional text-based censorship techniques and site blocking may not be feasible for economic reasons. A deeper understanding of the threat virtual-world gaming represents to Chinese censorship efforts can be gained by exploring: (1) whether use by political activists is likely; (2) the influence such a use is likely to have and whether it represents a threat; (3) if future censorship techniques will be adequate; and (4) what effect such techniques will have on China’s economy. To what extent political freedoms exist in a virtual China may turn one who is better able to manipulate emerging computer technologies.