The Developers Keeping Hong Kong’s Spirit Alive Through Games

“The Internet has this power nowadays to keep the truth alive, and also to spin the opinion of people,” says Jerry, one of the four developers working on Name of the Will, who preferred not to make his full name public due to safety concerns. “We hope to remind people that what you are told from the government might not be true. That you should stand on your own.”

Zeitgeist created Name of the Will first and foremost, he says, for the player’s enjoyment. But also to let the “international community experience the Hong Kong spirit of our generation.” Through online promotion, Zeitgeist raised $25,000 in funding for its game on Kickstarter—mostly from Hong Kongers. That’s almost double what the team hoped for, and a good example of the supportive spirit they want the world to get a taste of.

Set in a gloomy, dark, and kind of creepy world—which is like a futuristic version of Hong Kong—police officers are presented as dogs, those who remain apolitical are pigs (that’s almost everyone), and protesters resemble cockroaches—all slurs commonly used in Hong Kong, and directly inspired by Animal Farm, the dev team says.

“If our game can influence at least one person to keep up their guts to fight, then we might be able to change the world a little bit,” says Mandy, another member of Zeitgeist.

“We’re trying to paint a general scenario of how dictatorships shape society. You’ll see the setting of Hope, the life under surveillance, it’s all happening in mainland China,” Mandy continues, referring to the government’s use of facial recognition tech, digital surveillance, and even point-based personality ratings. “But it doesn’t only happen in China. There are so many countries that are experiencing similar things. We’re just trying to give an experience of what it’s like to live under a dictatorship, and specifically what life is like in Hong Kong.”

Through moral dilemmas and tough decisions that influence the progression and ending of the game, the developers hope to not just give you an exciting gaming experience, but also make you think about the way you live your life.

Mighcty, who wishes to remain anonymous due to concerns over being harassed, shares that sentiment. He’s an independent developer who recently managed to raise nearly $15,000 in a month from supporters of the democracy movement, all to fund the development of his game, Legacy of Datura. The game is a fictionalized 2D fantasy story inspired by the Hong Kong protests, in which Mighcty hopes to preserve the memory of key events from the past few years. With release expected in 2022, he also hopes to spread the story of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement to an audience that it may not otherwise have reached. In Legacy of Datura, the player will travel between parallel universes, all different versions of Hong Kong, fighting cops and throwing magic fireballs at the bad guys.

But it wasn’t initially structured this way. In early 2019, “when I first started planning the game, it wasn’t about the protests,” Mighcty tells WIRED. “Because they hadn’t happened yet.”

“Now, I’m trying to create a story that encourages people in Hong Kong to keep doing what they want to do,” he says. “That, no matter what, they can keep fighting for their dreams, they can keep fighting for their life, whatever that is. I just want them to remember why they do certain things.”

The game takes place in a fantasy-fied version of 2019’s mass protests, and, in the demo that is currently available to the public, the player is dumped right into one of the movement’s defining moments: the Yuen Long Attack, or the 721 incident. This may not mean much to you, but to pro-democracy Hong Kongers it means everything.

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