Taking on the DemolitionTeams: Reality and Virtual Reality in China

September 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is a “nail house” in Chongqing China.  The surrounding area has been demolished to make way for a new shopping center.  One problem, however: Ms. Wu Ping.  She has no interest in relocating, as the government has requested.  Her lone house remains,  sticking up like a nail that won’t be hammered down.  For three long years, from 2004-2007, she resisted developers, until the local court finally pushed her out and developers paid her a 1 million rmb settlement.

With the real estate boom and the aggressiveness of developers nail houses have been a common site in China.

But when in the summer of this year, farmer Yang Youde, a resident of suburban Wuhan, was ordered to  relocate so developers could build an office complex on his 4.32 acres, he took matters into his own hands.  Pictures here do speak a thousand words:

Farmer Yang climbing a ladder to his makeshift watchtower

Watching for the demolition team from watchtower

As evictors (between 30-100, depending on the report)  approached his property, Yang let loose with his bazooka cannon and home-made rockets, shooting to scare, not to injure (or so he tells the press).





Having successfully kept the demolition team at bay, Farmer Yang won a settlement package of approximately $112,000, according to his lawyer, nearly five times the original offer for his land.  But that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that Farmer Yang has become a cult hero, an everyman eviction-fighter who took on powerful land developers and local government officials with cannon made from pipes, bamboo, and a wheelbarrow.  The photos here of vigilante Yang could be scenes from some action-packed video game.  And this no doubt is why it occurred to Mirage Games to produce “The Big Battle: Nail House Versus Demolition Team.”  The basics of the game are described in an article from yesterday’s China Daily:

“Players are challenged to fend off wave after wave of demolition team members wielding shovels and drills, firing machine guns and driving bulldozers to flatten the house…Players aim to defend the building by hiring guards from six members of a family, including the grandfather, the parents, the sister and two brothers, each of whom has a weapon to fend off the assault: a gun, a catapult, firecrackers, slippers, a dumbbell, and a homemade bomb.”

The China Daily goes on to report that “The Big Battle” has become a huge video sensation in China.

As crude as the game may seem, it apparently has tapped into a deep well of Chinese feelings over forced evictions by local governments and developers.  As one Beijing college student said, “I love playing it because it pacifies your anger.  The demolishers deserve to receive the same treatment that they dish out to home owners.”

Why it might appeal to a public that has been complaining for many years now about their helplessness over government-sanctioned demolitions (chai 拆) is reasonably clear.  Less clear, perhaps, is why the official China Daily should give such full and prominent coverage of the game’s success.  It’s a healthy and hopeful sign.


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