A two-minute teaser trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was pulled worldwide after China banned it. Ironically, the censored trailer is titled ‘Know Your History.’
As explained on Kotaku, the pulled trailer briefly features footage from Tiananmen Square, where student-led demonstrators were massacred in 1989:
When the game was first announced last week, a trailer running for 2:02 was released to the world and hosted on the official Call of Duty and Xbox YouTube pages, along with major trailer sites like IGN and Gamespot.
On August 21, however, the videos on Call of Duty and Xbox’s YouTube pages were replaced with a much shorter, 1:00 version. This isn’t an additional trailer, it’s a replacement, which we know because…the original 2:02 video we embedded in our own story is no longer working, having been marked as “private”.
Nobody really noticed the switch when it took place, but Hong Kong news site Apple Daily and the South China Morning Post point out that it was definitely noticed in China, where the original trailer was swiftly blocked (it has since been replaced with the edited version) and a lot of people recognised the Tiananmen Square footage and began commenting online.
Chinese censorship of American media is nothing new. And to be clear, American companies either have to follow Chinese law or pull their products out of the country. But that’s not the real issue here.
American video game publishers and movie studios keep censoring media outside of China. Needless to say, this distorts historical depictions in popular media in a way that is favorable to the current authoritarian government. It also comes at the expense of democratic ideals that are shared in much of the West.
It’s notable that Hong Kong struggles to fend off China’s aggressive crackdown on democratic self-rule while American companies bow down to the regime. At what point do American companies draw a line in the sand and say enough already? Or is the bottom line that American companies will continue to do China’s dirty work as long as it is profitable?