Protesters in HongKong are using the popular online video game, Grand Theft Auto V for a different purpose. The Hong Kong protesters discovered that their “in-game avatars” could dress like protesters, wearing gas masks, and yellow safety helmets.
This discovery went viral on LIHKG, a social media platform and discussion forum similar to Reddit, popular in Hong Kong.
GTA V is an action-adventure game that rewards gamers for committing virtual crimes. The game also allows players to interact simultaneously in “open-world” environments, with bank heists, carjackings, and violence central to its gameplay.
The online duels began after Hong Kong players discovered that their in-game avatars could wear black clothing, gas masks, and yellow safety helmets like protesters. They shared the discovery last week on LIHKG.
Then Hong Kong gamers began mimicking real-life actions of hardcore protesters. Throwing petrol bombs, vandalizing train stations and attacking police within the open-world of GTA V.
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Mainland Chinese gamers were also quick to notice. With many of them taking to Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, to call on other players to defeat their Hong Kong rivals on Grand Theft Auto V.
One Weibo user in a post said:
“Cockroaches expressed their desire to kill GTA and beat us, the war in this game may become more fierce and fierce. Are you ready?”
Referring to a derogatory term adopted by some police officers to refer to protesters.
Hong Kong protesters call for greater democracy
Other Weibo users also responding by posting screenshots of their characters dressed as riot police and guns, with captions “Ready!”
Protester avatars threw petrol bombs at riot police controlled by mainland gamers, who retaliated with water cannons and tear gas. The mainlanders, however, won.
They overcame the Hong Kong protesters by virtue of numbers, according to Mickey Chang, a gamer with YouTube channel Minilife HK.
The semi-autonomous city has seen anti-government protests for more than six months, with violence and anger on both sides. The protests started in June 2019 because the government introduced a bill that would have allowed the extradition of people across the border to face trial in mainland China.
The bill has been withdrawn, however, protests have expanded to include calls for greater democracy and an inquiry into accusations of police misconduct.
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