Seeking socialist glory in new Chinese game

Selflessness and political service are virtues in online game whose big prize is Chairman Mao's collected works.

2 min read
Doing good deeds, volunteering on building sites and obtaining Chairman Mao's autograph are some of the objectives of "Learn from Lei Feng," a new online game starring the Chinese Communist Party's legendary hero.

The plot revolves around Lei Feng, a humble, selfless People's Liberation Army soldier who, the myth goes, spent all his spare time and money helping the needy and serving the Party until tragically dying in an accident in 1962.

"For beginners, sewing and mending socks is the only way to increase experience and upgrade," said Jiao Jian, a young pupil and online game fan from the southern city of Guangzhou.

Party propagandists went into overdrive in 1963 after Mao called on the nation to "Learn from Comrade Lei Feng." As an unconditional Mao loyalist, Lei's name would be endlessly invoked during the chaotic Cultural Revolution, which erupted in 1966 and ended only with the chairman's death 10 years later.

While the new online game includes a treasure hunt, the prize is not a special weapon or pile of gold but a copy of Mao's collected works.

Enemies in the game are "secret agents," Xinhua said. Players can replenish their strength after battling such evil forces by talking with the Party secretary, en route to a final meeting with Mao himself.

Online gaming has exploded in China in recent years, with an estimated 14.3 million people playing regularly and spending some $240 million on their hobby last year. Annual revenues are expected to hit $1.5 billion by 2008 for a habit that domestic media warn is taking a toll on children's studies.

But the developer of "Learn from Lei Feng" said the game was aimed at providing students with the tools to learn the pleasures of helping others, Xinhua said.

"As long as my experience, reputation, skill and loyalty satisfy the game's criteria, I will win and meet Chairman Mao," Jiao said.