Harry Potter video game characters suspected to have suggestive expressions
Players felt angry and offended after their female game characters were found strangely sticking out their tongues in NetEase's popular game "Harry Potter: Magic Awakened," as they believed the gestures to be sexually suggestive.
NetEase denied the accusation and attributed the situation to "programming bugs," which also sent virtual gifts in the game, the Nasdaq-listed game giant said on Monday in a clarification letter.
Players posted game screenshots that show characters strangely sticking out their tongues and making suggestive facial expressions. Netizens on social media including Weibo and Zhihu claimed the game characters look like "Ahegao," a Japanese cartoon character that normally represents girls in suggestive ways.
The controversy elicited millions of comments and shares on social media beginning Sunday night, which has raised debate and criticism from players. Game characters are only 11-year-old magic learners at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as part of the game's backstory.
"I love the game, but this really hurts me. It's clearly a mistake by NetEase," said Wind-like Brother C, a gaming celebrity with 574,000 fans on Weibo.
Only female characters show these expressions, causing more players and netizens to feel offended.
The Harry Potter game has been one of the most popular games in China since its debut in September.
By October, the game had 6 million downloads and had generated a monthly revenue of 2.3 billion yuan (US$359.4 million). Its annual revenue may hit 6 billion yuan, according to media reports and figures of researchers like Sense Tower.
NetEase has fixed the problem and asked players not to continue to associate the situation with suggestive material. It clarified that the problems came from "programming bugs and 3D modeling mistakes".
Some players don't agree with NetEase's explanation because the facial expressions only occur in female characters.
"After all, these models are essentially a string of codes, nothing more," said NetEase.