Good news, After a long 12 year wait, Age of Mythology fans will finally receive a new expansion! It’s called Tale of the Dragon, and set to be released on the 28th of January, 2016.
I myself, being Chinese, is extra excited that the new expansion focuses on the Chinese pantheon. Having loved Age of Mythology when it was first released, back when I was in primary school. I used to grind out on the demo of the game for hours, as I could not afford the full game. Once, I was able to buy the full game with the Titan expansion, the first thing I did when I got home, was always to load up the game. Now it’s going to be even better, being able to play as a pantheon of Gods that I can culturally relate to.
Sadly though, there’s been quite some controversy in regards to the artwork of the new game, and this where the bad news begins.
The Yellow Emperor’s (Huangdi) artwork in the game is remarkably close in design to that of something out of a Yellow Peril poster.
Many Chinese residents leaped over the Great Firewall to critic the perhaps accidentally offensive designs.
One Chinese netizen, Dongcheng Xu, commented:
“I am Chinese and I do want to make one point very clear: Most Chinese probably do not care that much about the looks of Fuxi, Nuwa, etc. because those are truly mythical figures to us. Huangdi is different because he is not just mythical or legendary, he is actually considered the founder of the Chinese civilization, the very first emperor of the Chinese people, to not make him majestic and grand looking is a very serious problem.”
This very much embodies a large part of the issue in using the Chinese pantheon, as many of the Gods to these day are somewhat still revered and worshipped in Chinese culture. Especially, Huangdi, as many still believe that he is the common ancestor of all Chinese people and culture.
The term Yan Huang Zisun translates to Descendants of the Yan and Huang. Most Chinese to this day still use this term to describe themselves, showing the importance of the Yellow Emperor within Chinese culture.
This is not the only piece of artwork that’s been under fire. The other portrayals of the Gods have been considerably weak.
For instance, the culture transcending Wukong, the Monkey King, in which the much loved Goku from Dragonball is based off, looks more like a bumbling monkey uncle than the agile and quick-witted Heavenly Sage that he is meant to be.
Within Chinese culture Wukong was generally known for his speed and trickeryHe could travel 108, 000 Li (Approximately, 50 000 km or 30 000 miles) in just one jump, yet, this bloke looks more towards the solid type than the speedy type. Wukong also possessed the ability to change into 72 different forms, in order to confuse his enemies. Which is why in general most portrayals of the character of Wukong, have been a mixture of agile ape combined with a sense of playfulness.
For instance in the games Smite and League of Legends, where Wukong both feature, there’s this sense of underlying mischievousness. I mean this guy went around stealing drugs, crashing parties and setting the Jade Emperor’s horses free.
Then there’s the other side of the argument in which the Chinese are acting over-sensitive. As Portentous Pysche puts it:
Frankly, I think this is just another case of Chinese egocentrism. Be glad your region was considered over other interesting pantheons like the Gauls, Mesopotamians or Nahuas.
Frankly, the reason that this is happening, is that there’s barely any representation of Chinese culture overall in the west, especially for the longest continual civilisation in the world, as well as the largest population. Chinese gamers, like myself, are bloody joyous that this is happening, but we don’t want another Fu Manchu happening, we want to be able to be proud of our culture, instead of getting the usual ridicule online. Such as having a reputation for cheap labour and low quality products, which are all in someways very hurtful truths. We want the world to know that the Chinese have a long and interesting history, one that spawned much innovation in the past. Hundreds of inventions still in use today were originally constructed by the Chinese, yet the Middle Kingdom is far more famous for ignoring copyright laws. For gunpower, paper, the compass and printing were all originally from China, leading to today’s modern society.
Now the Wukong and Yellow Emperor artworks are not the only offenders but I think the point has been made. Forgotten Empire should definitely be applauded for picking up one of the less popular cultures (within the Western sphere) for their new expansion. However, a few changes to the artwork will go a very long journey into the hearts of the Chinese people, where the history of their nation is a sanctuary of pride.