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    Taking to the Virtual Streets

    China’s massive gaming community is making its presence known
    online and in the real world. Stephen Hutcheon of the Australian
    The Age reports that roughly ten
    thousand avatars — online representations of human players —
    quit competing and rallied in the virtual streets of the game
    The Fantasy of the Journey West to protest the display
    of an image similar to the rising sun of the Japanese flag, or
    Hinomaru. The controversial sun graphic was first spotted in a
    government office inside the game about the same time a leading
    player’s avatar was virtually incarcerated for refusing to
    change his screen name, Kill the Little Japs. The ‘arrest’ then
    forced the disbanding of The Alliance to Resist Japan, a guild
    of 700 players led by this avatar.

    The idea of online political action is not entirely new.
    Activists have been staging virtual sit-ins for years, and
    hacktivists also have established an online
    presence. A 2002 AlterNet piece tells of a 160,000-strong
    virtual sit in against the World Economic Forum that caused the
    international organization’s site to collapse. Smaller sit-ins
    supporting the Zapatistas in Mexico took place as early as 1998.
    More recently, in July of last year, 27,000 protesters made several
    anti-immigration websites unreachable for three days through an
    action organized by the group
    SWARM the

    In the Chinese case, the use of avatars made the incident
    uncannily similar to a real-world protest. (Images of the rally
    depicted protesters lambasting the internet portal that runs the
    game with signs like, ‘NetEase, you have even hung out the sanitary
    napkin,’ a reference to the Hinomaru’s red circle on a white
    background.) The root of the protest has real-world ties as well:
    Though the Chinese government has previously sanctioned nationalist
    protests against Japan, NetEase claimed the measures against the
    anti-Japanese avatar were based on rules formulated by the Chinese
    government’s National Internet Supervisory Bureau. With plenty of
    crossover between the real and virtual worlds, the Chinese example
    may point to a new front in the rapidly evolving landscape of
    online protest.

    Go there >>
    Avatar Activists See Red

    Go there, too >>
    Hacktivists Stage Virtual Sit-in at WEF Web

    SWARM the

    Related Links:

    EastSouthWestNorth Blog

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    Games Get Real

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    Published on Jul 1, 2006


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