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This Video Game Lets You Be a Tiger Mom or a Driven Dad
Published on: 2019-02-27
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tpAs in real life, maintaining appearances is important in the game Chinese Parents. If your child misbehaves in front of your relatives, you may get upset about “losing face.” Moyuwan Games

050You want your children to do well in school. You want them to have nice friends and interesting hobbies and to not go out with creeps. You may even want them to be happy. But in this computer game, you can always start over with a new digital child if things don't work out as planned. A new game in China puts players in control of those most fearsome of characters: Mom and Dad. The mission? Raise a son or daughter from cradle to college.

051In a nation of famously demanding, scolding and, yes, sometimes loving mothers and fathers, the game, Chinese Parents, is a hit. Since its release in September, it has found a huge audience on Steam, an online marketplace run by the American game maker Valve Corporation. There are no official figures for how many people have downloaded the game, but it has provoked heated discussion online, while earning tens of thousands of reviews.

052All the joys and trials of raising children are here. Players choose between pushing their digital progeny to attain conventional success and allowing them some semblance of childhood innocence. They must give career guidance and endure (just barely) their teenager’s first dates. Everything leads up to the gaokao, the highly competitive college entrance exam that decides the fortunes of so many young Chinese people. Mr. Yang said he also hoped to make a smartphone version of the game that allowed players to see how their virtual offspring stack up against their friends’. Chinese parents love nothing more than boasting to their peers about how wonderful their children are.

053In Chinese Parents, a virtual child’s life unfolds over 48 rounds. In each round, players arrange courses and activities — piano lessons, swim classes, creative writing, coding and more. You can also buy gifts: ice cream, toys, even “Learn to Speak With Jack Ma,” a book featuring the billionaire co-founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. A child’s final scores determine what happens after she leaves home. There are more than 200 colleges, including vocational schools and elite universities, that might offer a spot. The socially adept have their pick of compatible mates. There are myriad career possibilities: taxi driver, celebrity author, e-commerce mogul, Beyoncé.

054“At the beginning, you think it’s just a 100-meter run,” he said, referring to life. “Then you realize it’s a marathon. And finally you understand it’s a relay race that never ends.”

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