A Chinese game based on the country’s notorious “internet addiction camps” has shed light on their condition, and some of the appalling “cures” they have inflicted on teenagers.
The game, called Mysteries of Fence (篱笆庄密闻), gained attention after getting featured on Steam Greenlight, which allows people to vote on indie games.
Set in a tense, clinical environment, players are asked to solve puzzles, use tools and play mini-games, so as to ultimately flee the compound.
The game’s developer — who goes by the pseudonym InkyCatEars — said that she made the game based on video interviews with patients who had undergone electric shock therapy at these facilities, according to Sixth Tone.
InkyCatEars spent four months making the game, before releasing a beta on Chengguang, a Chinese gaming website in September last year. She completed the game in January.
Electric shock therapy — which has been used to treat internet addiction since 2006, was banned by the country’s Ministry of Health in 2009.
The practice still continues to flourish, and its key proponents — like controversial Chinese clinical psychiatrist Yang Yongxin, who developed the method and applied it to thousands of patients — continue to do it today.
In the game, a similarly-named Dr Yang plays the central antagonist.
“The media has been reporting on [internet addiction boot camps] for years, but it hasn’t changed the status quo one bit — it’s outrageous, really,” Jiuyi, a spokesperson at Chengguang, told Mashable. “Most of our users are young people, and we were hoping that we could give them some inspiration through the game.”
Mysteries of Fence has yet to be released on Steam, but the game’s producers want to develop it in other languages.
“It’s a little bit too broad to talk about what message we want to bring to the world,” Jiuyi added. “But we want to let everyone know that there are dark and dusty corners, and warn teenagers about them.”
Jiuyi said the game’s producers wanted to reach out to more users by putting it out on Steam Greenlight. “We didn’t expect the game to be so widely covered by the media,” he said.
There’s hope that the plot of Mysteries of Fence will become history — or at least, illegal. China’s government drafted a new law in January that would ban abuse and threats to minors who are made to attend internet addiction camps.
The game has elicited strong feelings from the Chinese gaming community.
“I wish things in real life could result [in escape], as in the game. Entering the real Yang Yongxin’s clinic, or being trafficked to a rural village, is really a fall into a bottomless abyss,” said a reviewer.
“It’s best if there was an ending where you can kill the guy,” said a user on Steam.
UPDATE: May 15, 2017, 10:28 a.m. SGT Updated with comments from Chengguang, the Chinese gaming website that helped produce Mysteries of Fence.