The first-person puzzler set in 1980s Taiwan was released last February to high acclaim, but was quickly pulled from Steam after negative remarks about Chinese president Xi Jinping were discovered by players.
Players soon stumbled across a talisman bearing the words “Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh” written in Chinese Seal Script, alongside other controversial messages in Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien. Chinese gamers responded by "review bombing" the game on Steam which gave it such a low rating on the platform that Taiwanese developers Red Candle Games issued an apology and, after its removal from Steam in China and attempts to patch out the offensive material, pulled the game entirely, citing "technical issues". Red Candle allege that the problematic talisman was a placeholder asset which was accidentally included in the final release.
However, the damage was done, and was not just limited to Devotion - the incident led to co-publishers Winking Skywalker and Indievent consequently terminating their relationship with Red Candle and the closure of the developer's Weibo account.
Over a year later, the game is being re-released, with limited physical copies available for pre-order, but interestingly this is only in Taiwan. It is unknown when, or indeed whether, the game will be available elsewhere.
Devotion is set in an old apartment complex in 1980s Taipei with heavy religious imagery, partially inspired by the developers' own childhood memories at a time of "economic boom, the growing entertainment industry, and the rising of popular culture". Players control a struggling screenwriter whose obsession with the scriptures of cult Mentor Heuh lead him to misfortune.
Despite the controversy, the game received high acclaimed, with one Eurogamer writer describing it as "one of the finest horror games of the past decade". It was been compared to classics such as Playable Teaser and Gone Home, and gamers worldwide are avidly hoping for its re-release to be extended beyond Taiwan.
All images courtesy of Red Candle Games