| Aaron Tam |
HONG KONG (AFP) – How do you defend yourself against scores of tear gas wielding police while manning the barricades at Hong Kong’s protest camps? Unleash the wrath of Chinese deity Guan Yu.
That’s just one of the options available to players of a new smartphone game which has swiftly become a hit among gamers and protesters in the southern Chinese city.
“Yellow Umbrella” has been downloaded more than 40,000 times from Google Play’s store since its release on Monday, the game’s developers told AFP, although it has yet to receive approval from Apple and is noticeably absent from Google’s online store in mainland China.
The game puts players on a protester barricade as it is charged by lines of police officers, triad thugs, angry locals and even the city’s leader Leung Chun-ying dressed as a wolf.
Incense sticks, stacks of money and durian fruit can all be placed in front of the attackers to slow them down in a tower defence format similar to the wildly popular Plants vs Zombies.
And when things get really tough, protesters can call down Guan Yu – a popular Chinese deity prayed to for protection.
“They (the protesters) like Guan Yu very much because they want to resolve the problem but they don’t know how to do it. They don’t want to use violence, so they just ask the god to help,” the game’s creator Fung Kam-keung told AFP.
The game itself is filled with cultural references inspired by nearly a month of mass rallies and roadblocks calling for Beijing to rescind its insistence that Hong Kong’s next leader be vetted by a loyalist committee ahead of elections in 2017.
Yellow umbrellas and ribbons are used as defensive tools as student leader Joshua Wong, who has become something of a local celebrity and heart throb, cheers from the barricades.
Leung’s canine appearance is a nod to a common insult thrown by detractors at the city’s leader, whose name sounds similar to the Cantonese word for a wolf. But in keeping with the protest movement’s non-violent ethos protesters cannot attack their assailants.
“I wanted to make a game not only for fun but also to show our support to the students and to let others know that they are very peaceful in asking for real elections,” Fung, the 31-year-old founder of game developer Awesapp, said from his office in an industrial park in the city’s Sha Tin district.“After the tear gas, after the violence from gangsters and even police, I thought we needed to do more to show our support,” he added.
The democracy movement was galvanised in late September after police used tear gas 87 times to clear protesters who took over a major road opposite the government headquarters.
As the protest spread into other parts of the city, demonstrators have clashed over the weeks with angry locals, thugs and police – though the rallies have for the most part been largely peaceful.
Student leaders held talks with the government on Tuesday. But the discussions made little headway and there are fears a full breakdown in talks could lead to further clashes.
The game was developed in just five days, and so far reviews are positive.
“We play this game in order to keep ourselves reminded of our struggle for freedom and democracy. Fight for freedom!” one user Zux Kev, who gave the maximum five star rating, commented on the Google Play store.
“If you’re a Hong Konger and love democracy, play it,” user Yeung Tim-wing, who also gave a five-star rating to the game, said.