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The Real Reason Life Is Strange: True Colors Is Being Review Bombed

The newest addition to Square Enix's "Life is Strange" series was just released on September 10, but something strange is happening with its reviews. The general response from critics and users has been positive, but there are a growing number of Chinese gamers on Steam who have been bombarding the game with a massive number of negative reviews. "Life is Strange: True Colors" has still managed to maintain a "Very Positive" rating overall, as people are quick to praise it's complex storytelling, stunning visuals, and highly curated soundtrack. Still, how did the sequel to one of the most romantic games of all time manage to earn such vitriol from so many players?

Well, it seems like it mostly comes down to a flag. The game is set in the small town of Haven Springs. Here, players can find a shop called Treasures of Tibet, which has a Tibetan flag flying above its entrance. That might not seem like a big deal to westerners, but that flag has massive political significance overseas. According to the BBC, the flag is viewed as a symbol of independence for Tibet, as many of its citizens still believe the exiled Dali Lama is their true leader and that they are an independent nation being occupied by the Chinese government. The Chinese government maintains that it has a centuries old sovereignty over the Himalayan region and that Tibet is a part of China. This controversy explains the strong feelings expressed by some of the gamers.

Chinese gamers negative reaction to the Tibetan flag

Many of the negative reviews made vague mention of politics in gaming, while others were far more direct in their complaints. Just.Morgana wrote (via Google Translate) "Some disgusting political elements go in and trample on China," one commenter wrote (via Google Translate). "After playing for a few minutes, I really want to play. The music is beautiful, but I was so disappointed. There is no need to engage in the mentality of Chinese players." This makes it seem as though these players view the flag in "True Colors" not only as a challenge to national politics, but as an attack on their cultural identity. It's worth noting, however, that a significant percentage of the negative reviews have less than an hour of gameplay on record, meaning many of them spent little or no time actually playing "Life is Strange: True Colors."

That's a lot of controversy for a small background detail in a roughly 14-hour game, but it's not the first time Chinese gamers have gotten upset over something like this. The game "Devotion" from Taiwanese developer Red Candle Studios was review bombed and removed from Steam after gamers found references to Winnie the Pooh that compared the children's character to President Xi. Square Enix has yet to make an official statement, but it will be interesting to see how — or if — it chooses to respond.