Back in February, the makers of the P.T.-inspired Steam horror game Devotion experienced a haunted house horror story of their own. The game came out, and at first, everything seemed to be going all right—great, even. Reviews were unanimously positive. Sales were good. Then players discovered a piece of in-game art that seemed to disparage the president of China. Where did it come from? The developers claimed the art was just a placeholder left in the final game by accident, but blowback was fierce, and after a few days of negative reviews pounding on Devotion’s walls like so much cold, bitter rain, the developers removed it from Steam. Months later, it’s still MIA.
The offending piece of art mentioned Chinese president Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh on a scroll next to the word “moron.” Winnie the Pooh is a mainstay in memes making fun of Jinping, so much so that last year’s film Christopher Robin was banned in China. Some players went on to theorise that Devotion’s entire narrative was actually an anti-Chinese allegory devised by Red Candle, the game’s Taiwanese development team; these players cited the long history of tensions between mainland China and Taiwan as the basis for the supposed insult.
Back in February, Red Candle denied these allegations, saying that the art was a placeholder left in by a single developer as the result of a frantic deadline, and that the goal of the game was not to “secretly project extensive ideology, nor is it to attack any person in the real world.” Red Candle still ended up removing the game from Steam, citing “technical issues that cause unexpected crashes” and a desire to “ease the heightened pressure in our community resulted from our previous Art Material Incident” by combing over the rest of the game for more unintended art. Those particular concerns sounded surmountable, though, like Devotion would just be getting a quick tune-up and be in and out of the shop in a handful of days.
Three months later, Devotion’s Steam store page is still nowhere to be found. The game’s Steam forum, which is still online, is full of threads asking when the game will come back, if there’s any way to get it now, and of course, arguments over Chinese politics. Unfortunately, Red Candle doesn’t have any good answers for the game’s fans.
“Regarding Devotion, there is still uncertainty to the future progression,” a Red Candle representative told Kotaku in an email. “Please kindly understand that it is not convenient for us to share details to the public at the moment.”
Red Candle’s previous game, Detention, remains available. After some initial review bombs related to Devotion, its overall score has returned to “mostly positive.” Currently, the top review references Devotion’s removal.
“Please, please return Devotion to the store so I can purchase it and support your work further!” reads the review. “We’re rooting for you.”