I’ll probably never get to play Devotion. A year on from the Taiwanese horror game’s abrupt removal from Steam, there’s still no sign of it returning to sale. That doesn’t mean Red Candle Games’ work needs to be lost to history forever, though. This month, the developers announced that Devotion – and predecessor Detention – will be preserved in the Harvard-Yenching Library collection at Harvard University.
Devotion didn’t stick around for long. Mere days after its launch last February, some players discovered scraps of art invoking Chinese president Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh. The honey-loving cartoon bear, yeah. I can think of worse things to be compared to, but A.A. Milne’s blonde bear is a touchy subject for the Chinese head of state.
After a lengthy review-bombing campaign, Devotion was removed from Steam – China first, then globally. Red Candle had their Weibo (China’s most popular social media site) account shut down, and began wiping Devotion from the internet. Indievent, the game’s Chinese publisher, had their business license completely revoked.
Fortunately, Devotion won’t be lost to time. Academic interests have taken note of the game’s rocky journey. Writing on their Facebook page (via our friends at Eurogamer) this Friday, Red Candle announced that Harvard University have taken Devotion into their care .
“This February, the Harvard-Yenching Library at Harvard University officially added both of our titles ‘返校 Detention’ and ‘還願 Devotion’ to its collection. It is an incredible honour which belongs to not only Red Candle but also our supporters/players worldwide.
“Harvard-Yenching Library, formally founded in 1928, is known as the largest Eastern Asian library maintained by any American university. As game designers, never have we thought that our works could one day be added to its prestige collection. While we truly appreciate the recognition, we had also taken this opportunity to rethink the possibilities that our games could achieve.”
As mentioned, that courtesy also extends to 2017 predecessor Detention. It’s a bloody good game, bleeding horror through the very real history of Taiwan’s White Terror – a 38-year period of martial law and government repression. In his Detention review, RPS departee Adam called it a melancholy kind of terror, the kind of horror that comes with “being in an impossible situation, of making terrible decisions, of seeing no way to improve your lot and then inadvertently making it a whole lot worse”.
Devotion will live on, then – if not in your Steam library, then in the dusty halls of academia. But Devotion’s burial didn’t exist in a vacuum. Last July, contributor Khee Hoon Chan dove into how the backlash against the game, its developers and its publishers shook studios across the region – a region that, at the time, was still reeling from the country’s nine-month freeze on new game approvals.
Red Candle ended by apologising to their community for the tough past year. It’s heartening to see the past 12 months hasn’t shaken them off making games completely, either, assuring their fans that they “will always develop games with the same passion.”