In an inaugural post with 3,000 upvotes on LIHKG, the creator of The Revolution of Our Times billed the role-playing mobile app game as “the biggest international promotional campaign in the world” for the ongoing protest movement.

But within three days of its announcement on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like forum, the Android-only game was suspended from Google Play for violating the platform’s “sensitive events policy”.

Photo: LIHKG.

The Revolution of Our Times is a choice-based story game where the player takes on the role of a Hong Kong protester. The protagonist is tired and frustrated from the failure of the 2014 Umbrella Movement in seeking universal suffrage, but is considering participation in the scheduled protest on June 9, 2019 amid the increasingly fractious extradition bill debate.

Each decision has consequences for the city’s public opinion, for the player’s skills and attributes, and even for his romantic relationships.

As with real Hong Kong protesters, the player can buy protective gear and weapons. But likewise, there is ever-present danger of arrest, death, a total loss of public support, and even – if the bill is passed – extradition to China.

Photo: LIHKG.

The developer, who uses the pseudonym Spinner of Yarns, told HKFP he is an IT professional but learnt to develop games by himself, owing to his interest in story writing.

He launched The Revolution of Our Times on Saturday evening after quitting his job to work on the game for a month. It is still incomplete, and only tells the story of the protests up until the end of June.

80 per cent of the earnings for the game have been pledged to Spark Alliance, a legal fund for arrested protesters.

Photo: LIHKG.

Spinner of Yarns had hoped that a well-made game would spark interest among ordinary overseas gamers for Hong Kong’s plight. “I hope that everyone will have the chance to participate in this revolution of our times, and experience what Hongkongers have gone through since June 9,” he wrote on LIHKG.

As such, the game introduces the events leading up to the protests in detail, and features a map of key protest sites and targets in Hong Kong.

Over the course of three days, players who downloaded the game left positive reviews despite a relatively basic user interface and user experience.

Photo: LIHKG.

But on Tuesday, he received a notice from Google Play, saying the game was suspended from the platform.

“Before suspending me, Google Play did not give any warning,” Spinner of Yarns told HKFP. “But I noticed that for three days after it was published, I couldn’t search for it by name on Play Store, but only access the app via the app ID.”

“So it felt strange, and I wondered whether they would eventually censor me.”

He does not know if the game was taken down after complaints: “I only saw a handful of ‘blue-ribbons’ [pro-Beijing supporters] criticise it and rate it one star.”

Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Spinner of Yarns has appealed the suspension, but so far has received no information aside from the initial notice from Google Play, asking him to review the developer programme policies.

Some LIHKG users have accused Google of being the latest in a number of multinational companies or brands to “appease the Communist Party”.

In a response to HKFP, Google Play said that the app violated their policy on ongoing conflicts and tragedies: “We have a long-standing policy prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game. After careful review, we found this app to be violating that particular policy and suspended it, as we have done with similar attempts to profit from other high-profile events such as earthquakes, crises, suicides and conflicts.”

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Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.