Ideology Expression in Games: The Construction of 'Imagination Community' in the Incremental Online Mobile Game “Homeland Dream”


The game culture has developed rapidly and become popular in the first two decades of the 21st century in China. This phenomenon has made gamification a great marketing strategy for Chinese investors especially for the media industry. However, Chinese media companies are all 'state-owned'. Thus, conflicts are created by gamification in these companies between the state’s interests and private capital. On the one hand, they take the task as the mouthpiece of the highly integrated central government and directly 'upload' patriotism and spread “mainstream” value in their news stories. But on the other hand, they are tired of the little effect that this method produced in the process of communication.

In order to overcome this predicament, the Chinese media industry and Game companies worked together and co-produced the first all-free Smart-Phone “ideological education” game called “Homeland Dream” in September 2019 before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Co-produced by Chinese decisive news organization “People's Daily” and Chinese biggest Game maker Tencent Games, it adopted “building your own socialist country” as its basic logic and encourages the users to unlock more ideological government management strategies like “one country, two systems” and “reform and opening-up”. However, wrapped by gamification, young people get familiar with and even try to understand the policies. The game received 2.4 million downloads in a week and ranked No. 1 in the iOS App Store for five consecutive days. Graded 4.6, it is even more popular than Tencent ’s phenomenal MOBA game on the smartphone, “Glory of the King” (4.3 points).

This article will combine the long-term participatory observation and in-depth interviews, and adopt “Imagined Communities' by Benedict Anderson as the core concept to analyze this game from the following three aspects: First, compare the differences between 'Homeland Dream' and “Sim City” (a typical case of the similar type) and explore how it creates an 'imagined state entity” in reality by inserting interactive gaming element. Secondly, conduct in-depth interviews with the senior player selected from an age spectrum to show how this game utilizes gamers’ carnival emotion as a tool to consolidate imagined 'national community' in the context of the 70th anniversary of PRC. Finally, discuss the multiple purposes of creating the 'Imagined Community' in/out of the game 'Homeland Dream'.

For the news media, this game uses gamification to help to change audience's stereotype towards Chinese mainstream media and to amplify its communicative effect. For game makers, this game helps to attract investment from the state capital. And with an “official seal”, it helps to rebrand the game company and promote the recognition of commercial games in China. However, the shortcomings of the 'Homeland Dream' are also obvious. Co-produced by a media company, it is less a game and more a tool. Low persistency and no increase in additional income cause the game falling down from the alter soon after the the anniversary. But it still providing a new way for the government to promote certain ideology patriotism and spread mainstream values.