Official Chinese Media Says Emerging Form of Role-Playing Promotes Violence, Causes Concern

The role-playing murder mystery games known as jùběnshā 剧本杀 (literally, “script killing”) have been popular in China recently, and businesses providing such games and other “escape” activities are now a favorite among urban young people. However, a few businesses have begun to promote violence and paranormal behavior in their game content and scene settings, also attracting young people through commercial gimmicks, causing public concern.

State-owned media outlet Xinhua News recently visited the “immersive script killing experience store” in some cities in central China. In one store, the owner took the reporter through several themed rooms, which were decorated like farmhouses, cemeteries and other scenes. There were blood-red lights in the “cemetery,” and some props and fake corpses in the room. In another store, the owner showed the reporter scripts full of supernatural content.

The reporter also searched for information on “script killing” stores through Dianping, a local life information and transaction platform. Up to now, the result on Dianping shows that there are more than 2,000 related stores in Shanghai, more than 3,000 in Shenzhen and over 3,000 in Chengdu, among which the stores with “immersive experience” are at the forefront of the “popularity list.” By the end of 2020, there were reportedly about 30,000 offline “script killing” physical stores nationwide.

In more than ten “script killing” stores visited by the reporter, no notices such as “minors are not allowed in” were posted. According to the investigation by Xinhua News Agency, “script killing” is a new industry, and there are still loopholes and gaps in regulatory measures and management norms issued by relevant government departments.

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In an interview with Xinhua News, psychologist Zhan Fenglan said that it is very important to guide the content of “script killing,” and it is necessary to encourage positive content to players. Psychological drama, role-playing and other forms are also “script killing” in a sense. Positive “script killing” is of significance for player to release mental stress, enrich imagination and strengthen interpersonal communication. However, if the content is too horrible and stimulating while players do not have certain abilities to distinguish good from bad, for example, minors could become addicted to these games, which will cause confusion to players and cause psychological problems.