Lost in Transit Oration: Or, There are No “W’s” in Sensationalism, Let Alone 5 of Them

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I am sick to death of this story.  When I first read this on Kotaku, I didn’t think much of it; days later, it turns out that this story has gone viral and been republished several times over until finally now making its way onto the BBC.  The BBC.

I knew it when I first saw this that this is the usual run-of-the-mill apocryphal Chinese news story; never did I think that something like this could get republished over and over again without any fact checking.  You know, news the old-fashioned way.

So, here it is for you to see for yourself: this is the original story as referenced by Kotaku.  This isn’t the original source, but since every news outlet is quoting Kotaku, Sinopathic will bring you the entire news story that Kotaku referenced with the text translated into English.

Now that you have the story for yourself, please tell me why is this a reputable news story that was fit enough to be re-published on the BBC.  What are the facts?

  • What are the proper nouns used in this story? (hint: there’s only one)  Are there any other facts mentioned in this story, like: where do they live?  What is the name of the game he is playing?  Where did his son go to school?  What is the name of the company his son worked at?  What does the father do?  Where does he work?  Why is the only proper noun for the entire story “Feng (冯)”?
  • There are only two people interviewed for this story (and they share one name between them).  Who are these “online assassins” (as described by other websites)?  How did the father contact them?  How did the father pay them?  If this is a true story, then there must be some kind of precedent or similar story taking place.  Who does that story concern, and what do they think about this?
  • How does a reporter ever find out a story like this?  If he found out about this online, where is the link?
  • If the “online assassins” didn’t talk to Little Feng, why would they talk to other online players?  How does something so small and concealed become public knowledge?  If so many people know, why weren’t they interviewed?
  • I don’t play online games (I have a life – I play console games offline, you losers), but the kind of situation described in the news story in which a player is spawned/respawned in the exact location where a select group of people can then target him sounds implausible/impossible.  There’s a lot of people in China, and a lot of them play games, and just guessing (no facts, natch) but we’re talking about an online game with tens of thousands of people in a virtual world that is hundreds of miles across (if it’s something like WoW and other MMO’s – if only the facts could tell us).  How many people do you need to employ to make this “virtual manhunt” work?  How do these “online assassins” know exactly where Little Feng will spawn/respawn?  Aren’t respawn areas safe zones where you can fraternize with your fellow players – like how Little Feng supposedly found out the truth about his infanticide-inclined father?
  • Little Feng has been playing video games for a long time, ever since he was in middle school.  The article states that his parents didn’t care before because he continued to receive good marks and played only in his spare time.  Don’t his parents know what his work situation is?  Doesn’t he talk to them and relate the day’s events, like “Oh yeah, I sent out a resume but I haven’t heard back.”  It is conceivable that some Chinese family regard speaking out loud as heretical to the honor of one’s ancestors, but the father’s response appears to be inversely proportional to the problem at hand.
  • The reporter made a grievous error: Little Feng is described as a video game “expert with genius ability”; has the reporter never heard of “grinding”, the work component of the fun of playing MMO’s?  Grinding doesn’t not take talent or effort as much as it requires time.  Of course, the reporter is saved the embarrassment of proven to have poorly researched a story because the story itself was poorly written without any facts.  Touche; shine on you crazy diamond.
  • I know this is China, and there are 5000 years of history and tradition behind any one man – but hey “Mr. Feng”, couldn’t you have said “stop that” and then your son would say “okay”, and then you’d go have ice cream?  It may prove to be too “Western” and “decadent”, but you would get want you wanted.  Because you asked him.  Your son.  Who by all tenets of Chinese thought and tradition, does what you say.  The father.

This will probably be the last time I’ll ever get to say this, so here goes: “You suck, BBC News”.  They went even further and went and asked somebody really smart about a news story he knows nothing about:

“It’s not going to do much for family relations,” Prof Mark Griffiths, a gambling and addictions expert at Nottingham Trent University told the BBC.

“I’ve never heard of that kind of intervention before, but I don’t think these top-down approaches work. Most excessive game playing is usually a symptom of an underlying problem.”

Yes yes, it’s all a wondrous tapestry… Prof Griffiths is undoubtedly a smart guy who must pick up freak pussy like a madman, but what does his comments have to do with this news story in which a Chinese father and son reconcile their differences?  Does China know that England does not approve of Chinese “top-down” parenting techniques?  What would Confucius say about this?

As for Kotaku, well, maybe it’s a better idea to stick with reporting on imaginary video games that don’t exist, like “Half-Life 2: Episode 3″ and “The Last Guardian”.

From The People’s Network People:

Father Employs Top Level Players of Online Game to Pursue and Kill His Son’s [In-Game Character] to Deter Him From Playing

Written by Tao Ying

December 28th, 2012, 8.17 AM Originally published on the Sanqin Metro Report

Little Feng likes to play games and has always been quite good at it. Lately however, he has found that he has become an “online target” for other players to pick on; once he logs into the game, Little Feng has found himself to be quickly killed off by top tier players, and made into a proverbial “sitting duck” for others to pick off. Little Feng thought this to be strange, and for the life of him could not figure out how something like this could come to pass. However, in the end he found out that his own father conspired to “pull the strings” of this online manhunt.

A Systematic “Search and Destroy” by Top Tier Players

As soon as Little Feng has logged into the game world, his in-game character is immediately surrounded by several top tier players ranked much higher than himself and without a word of explanation is immediately killed. This is something that he had never encountered before in all of his years of playing online games; after spending a lot of time conferring with other online players, Little Feng at last discovers the truth: his father has specifically hired these online players to “deal” with him.

Says Little Feng’s father: “I thought that by doing this he would lose interest in the game and instead apply his efforts towards finding a job.”

Upon hearing his father’s explanation, Little Feng turned off the computer. As it turned out, all this time Little Feng has been sending out numerous copies of his resume [and applying for work], even attending many interviews with several companies. Little Feng once worked for a software development company for three months, but the job wasn’t up to his satisfaction. “I didn’t want to do that job, there wasn’t much room there for me to advance [my career],” said Little Feng gravely.

As for holing himself up at home playing video games constantly, Little Feng says that he does it not because he has to, but because he hasn’t been able to find a suitable job to his liking; as such, he’s just passing time by playing video games.

Father Relaxes Once Son Bares Feelings

Since junior high school, 23 year-old Little Feng has been player online browser games. Once he entered high school, Little Feng started to play online games with his fellow classmates. When it comes to video games, Little Feng is an expert with genius ability; among his friends he has quickly become the “video game expert”.

Because Little Feng’s grades in school have always been good and the fact that he only played games in his spare time, his parents never minded when he played video games. However, because his job situation hasn’t worked out lately and Little Feng had taken to sequestering himself at home and playing video games, his father thought the worst and “over-analyzed” the situation and believed his son to be addicted to video games; that’s when he hired people to “deal” with him and reduce him into a “beginner noob”.

“In fact, when this happened I just thought it was strange. I didn’t think that by playing video games for a few days it would give my father such a [big] misunderstanding. Work really isn’t something I want to put up with for the time being; I’d rather allow myself more time to wait for the right job to come along. [It doesn't matter to me;] video games are something that I could either play, or not.” After hearing Little Feng explain himself this way, Mr. Feng could finally relax and rest easy.

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  • https://soundcloud.com/starhawk-1 Little Wolf

    This story made me sick as soon as I read the headline. I didn’t even bother to read the details. I have a few suggestions for Little Feng’s father, to whom I would normally call a failure except he seems like a typical Chinese father. Maybe these ideas are too “Western” for him to grasp.

    1: Spend some fucking quality time with your son. Go camping. Or fishing. Or both.

    2: Buy a jalopy at a junkyard and rebuild it together. Repaint it. Change the upholstery. Rebuild the carberator, etc. When it’s finished Little Feng will have a car and know how to fix the damn thing. I’ve found that most Chinese can’t even change a tire. Teach him that the middle of the fucking road is not the place to change a tire. Off the side, boy! Off the side!

    In lieu of a car….a motorcycle can also be a good project.

    2: Go with your son to a scuba certification course. Most big cities have a dive club that offer classes. James Cameron got certified in a swimming pool 600 miles from the sea and never saw the ocean until 2 years later. So, not being near the ocean is no excuse.

    3: Build a birdhouse with only hand tools…..or a house for Fido. Teach him how working with your hands does not preclude working with your brain.

    4: Join a gym and lift some weights together. Keep track of your progress and make a competition. For an added twist, don’t join a gym. Devise schemes to sneak into the gym. (My own father hated paying to use a gym and was the king of getting us in without paying.

    Little Wolf: We don’t have to sneak in, Dad. I’ve got the 10 dollars for the non-member entry fee.

    Little Wolf’s Dad: So do I. Now go over there to that Fire Exit in 5 minutes and I’ll let you in.

    5: Start a rock band.

    6: Etc…etc

    I don’t know what that Prof. Griffiths is getting paid but this not rocket science.

    BTW…I also have never played a computer game in my life except that Spider Solitaire game that comes with every Windows program. Does that count?

    • http://sinopathic.com terroir

      I hope you got my drift in suggesting that I don't believe this news story to be true, and even if it was there's no facts given for me to accept it as such.

      That said: "Not being near the ocean is no excuse"? You are hardcore. I bet you wake up with the sound of the surf in your ears.

      And your dad snuck you in the gym? Did you spot him doing reps when you where a kid?

      • https://soundcloud.com/starhawk-1 Little Wolf

        Nah…not that hardcore. There is good diving right near Hangzhou at Qiandao Hu (1000 Islands Lake) and every few months I go diving with the sharks at Aquaria 21 in Shanghai. I used to dive at a quarry in the middle of Houston, Texas called Armadillo Reef, caves in the Bahamas where the water is clear like air. And all sorts of strange places. Actually, there are alot of divers that have never set foot in the ocean. I think you can go to the Beijing Aquarium and get a crash course for about 10 minutes and go diving. Have a go sometime.

        The gym sneaking didn't start until I was grown up and a weight-lifting enthusiast. But it was always a nice activity for us to do together and he always had to try and out-lift me. I don't know what his deal was. He was psychopathic about not paying to use gyms. He was also one of those assholes that switches theaters at the Megaplex and would spend entire days watching 5 or 6 movies from 1 ticket. What a friggin weirdo!

        • http://sinopathic.com terroir

          No women, no swimmin'.

          And the most fun films I watched were the ones I snuck into. Like the "Sixth Sense". But it was with my roommate, a fellow guy and wiener slinger.

          At least I didn't go see "Shakespeare in Love" by myself, like this guy I know. What the hell, do you walk out of the movie hugging yourself?

  • Germandude

    If I may jump in.

    terroir, in your article you stated: "I don’t play online games (I have a life)".

    Don't judge when you don't have the experience. You are absolutely underestimating today's online games. Basically, it comes to the following: How long do you play? What do you play? And with whom do you play?

    I was quite a gamer before. Studying actually meant loads of free-time to me. The point is that there are stupid games that don't require any skill but target on the lowest needs of humans. And those that require more. Communication with real people.

    Especially these days, with shitty weather, where I am not willing to go out much, I am playing online with friends from Germany and the US. Mostly people that I do know in real life (former classmates, soccer team members and such like). While playing, we are on teamspeak, a program, comparable to skype that allows us to constantly talk. In fact, it gives me the "feeling of home" a bit. U know? Saturday night, having a beer at home, chatting with friends, playing a game with friends. Just that we are seperated thousands of miles. Almost like the old days, just with more distance and no drugs involved. And that we play a game on a computer, instead of a board.

    The gaming itself is actually secondary to most of us, it's the thing we do together while talking about old times. We are spread all over the world after all and share one thing: the desire to have the good old times back again. Online gaming gives part of that back.

    Not all (actually only a few) gamers fit the stereotype of the 15 year old, 200 lbs, pimple-faced, pizza eating kiddo that has no life.

    Anyways, that's not what I wanted to say actually, but I felt I need to post it in my own defence (lol).

    You are right about the story with the dad hiring online assassins to kill the kid's avatars. NO DECENT INFORMATION. In fact to me it sounds like an execution plan on what parents should consider doing if the kids play too much online. To get them away from doing so. Online gaming addiction is huge in China and Chinese parents often don't know what to do with it.

    Just my take on some of the flaws regarding the method described. Without knowing the games at hand, it is possible to find out when and where the kid is playing the game. "Friending" another player in a game is common in most games. So you can actually see when your "friend" is playing and on which server. You can also use search engines on e.g. http://www.gametracker.com to see if player "BrooklynKillabiatch" is currently in-game. This however is not supported by all games or server hosts. I am just stating that in general, it is possible.

    Of course it's also possible that the dad "hired" assassins to kill his sons' avatars. In most roleplaying games however (let's take the World of Warcraft example, or Oblivion and such like), if an avatar is killed, it's only "dead" for a certain period of time. Then it's back to normal, or in some games, you gotta pay an additional buck to respawn. Imagine a guy that played an RPG for 2000 hours getting killed at lvl 80. Suicidal rates would skyrocket. (btw, I'd like to say that I NEVER played an online RPG)

    If the dad in this story had killed the avatar of his son through assassins, the most likely answer of the kid would be to play more, get better and get back to the higher ranked assassin to kill him. At least that's what most players would do. Got beaten? Next time I kill you!

    And a last point that sounds so odd to me in this story is that the far simpler way to get the son away from the game would be to restrict his time for using the computer. Since it's China however, I am not surprised that the father didn't have the balls to tell his son that after 2 hours, gaming time is over.

    • http://sinopathic.com terroir

      When I say that online gamers "don't have a life", it's coming from me. I'm console gamer. Offline.

      FANBOY fight! I thought it was funny. But maybe it wasn't so clear. Damn, I suck. For you I'll re-edit my case clearer.

      I think this story has reached mythic proportions in the West become of some kind of "Asians is magic" thing in which logic doesn't apply, and no one requests the confirmation of any details. By my translation, the story does not specifically say "MMO", but of course it is; everyone is China is playing terrible free-to-play MMO's.  I know there must be some kind of "friending” thing you mention, but then that would mean his friends are doing to to him.

      This is a morality tale told in China to deepen understanding between generations, became news by Kotaku, and then now has became a true urban legend that has been justified by the number of times it has been unquestionably republished.

      I still hate online games though. And the new F2P system of gaming, as well as the rise of mobiles and tablets, is killing video games.

      I predict in ten years the best video game will be a Pac-man you can play inside your eyeballs.

      • Germandude

        So what do you play on your PS 3? Fifa 2013? NBA 2k13? GTA IV?

        I have a PS 3 by myself and I just play it once a month. Playstation is usually singleplayer.

        There are good games for PC, especially when it comes to strategy games. If you have ever played the board game "Risk" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_(game) , you know what I am talking about when I am saying that that board game is a kid's game, compared to what you can do with computer games right now. I like to play the "Total War" series with friends. That's like Risk on steroids with far deeper gameplay. Or some shooters, that are virtual paintball arenas.

        Again, the playing itself is not the main thing to me. I do prefer to go out with local friends on weekends. Just that almost everybody is still on holidays and another wave of old-time friends have left to their homecountries or new destinations. Sadly.

        • http://sinopathic.com terroir

          I am no troll. Except when it comes to brand loyalty of video games. And secondly, religion.

          My Xbox 360 died. Died! So I don't play anything at the moment; maybe that's why this blog popped up. Nah.

          Yes, I know what you mean by the online chat thing – it makes keeping in touch much easier than skype or a phonecall. And you're killing zombies while you remininsce. It's just that to crack the Xbox, this meant no online capability. Piracy isn't very pleasant but this is just the fact in China, where console games are in fact not for sale (outlawed or banned, I dunno). I regret it now, but my thinking has been skewed so that I equate "console" with "offline", and "online" with "MMO's". Yeah, not correct, but that's what I was doing for the past 5-6 years. In fact, I've never actually played online… ever. I want to stay away from MMO's at all cost.

          My friends in high school were into "Risk", but strategy games are not my thing — unless you're talking about that brilliance called XCOM I'm missing out on.

          Please: name a soldier after me. Give "terroir" a good death, make him a strong sniper with oversight ability that loved his planet and served it well in day-glo armor with a Guile haircut.

        • Germandude

          Not possible! I am only playing games that somewhat have historical background, or current background. No future sci-fi stuff or killing medieval dragons.

          Next time I am playing with a friend, I will ask him to change his name to terroir, while he is a sniper. I will then unload 150 bullets from my machine gun into him and take a screenshot. I can send that to you if you'd like, just so that you see what happens if we ever meet in real life.

          I will not shoot bullets then though, only beers. Prost!

  • https://soundcloud.com/starhawk-1 Little Wolf

    The thing is….he was a true daredevil, flew an aerobatic plane, raced motorcycles, skydived, surfed monster waves, etc; so I doubt if the sneaking into gyms and theaters gave him much of a thrill. He was just a tightwad :) He was always devising clever schemes to get past the front desk. We got caught a couple times. Once by a really hot girl in spandex and a sports bra. I was really embarrassed :(

  • mr. wiener

    I find myself somewhere between Ll' wolf's "man up and be a real alpha male father" thingy about building a log cabin together and poaching some woodland creatures.

    And the Chinese father's more weasily "hire online hit men to murder my son's avatar and crush his heart" Obviously the first option is out of the question as Chinese fathers don't seem to know the first thing about male bonding with a son and have less interest. They all seem intent on working themselves into an early grave and leaving the tiger parenting to the mums.

    Speaking for myself if my dad thought I was wasting my life at something he'd have order me off it with plentiful hints of implied violence which would be faithfully followed up on if I'd failed to comply.

    Is the end of the article a state attempt at a happy ending with Chinese characteristic or is that really the way families roll in China? I'm still unsure.

    • https://soundcloud.com/starhawk-1 Little Wolf

      Good to see you here, wiener.

      Some of the suggestions I made were things the father and the son could learn together.(such as the scuba lessons) My friend's karate school had alot of father-son students and I watched several of them go from nerdy white belts to able and confident black belts together. There are plenty of things available to them, even in China and I don't have a clue why they don't take advantage of them. We're all on the same death clock and we all have the same 24 hours per day allotted to us.

      Your dad sounds alot like mine :)

      I will say…..things were probably easier for me. Growing up in southern California, (without the Internet) the weather, landscape and environment provides countless activities. You'd have to be pretty much of a zombie to get bored there. (That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people that sit around on their ass all the time)

      Having spent time in Sweden, I can see how Germandude would find computer games as fun recreation, especially in winter.

      Before computer games, we had Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and I even purchased the box set with the strange dice and all. But I never was able to figure out how to play it. I guess it all worked out for the best. (I'd like to try Madden Football sometime)

    • http://sinopathic.com terroir

      I think the "news" article is a Chinese parable to teach families about parenting, and not a fact-based hard-hitting investigative news article into the seedy underbelly of "avatar infanticide". Do note that the very last words of the Chinese article are "relax"… something that Chinese aren't allowed to do by nature or culture.

      So, I think this "news" article is employing sensational fiction as a device to teach Chinese parents that "hey, the kids are alright". In a way it is reinforcing Chinese values by saying that the father had already laid all the necessary groundwork in making the his son the upstanding moral character he is that is already hard-working under his own volition.

      One more thing: the son says that he never thought his dad would over-react like he did after just playing video games "for a few days". This meant his dad was able in the span of under a week to hire "online assassins" who were then able to carry out Chinese dad's "tough love".

      China got trolled by the Onion, but the West (BBC News) is trolled by the entire Chinese media.

      Good to see you; it isn't a real wiener roast unless you're around.r

  • MAC

    I don't know why this story should be assumed to be false just because it is missing names and all kinds of relevant details that would help make sense of it all. I mean, after all, that is true of many Chinese news stories about things that are verified to have happened. On the other hand, it could also easily just be made up.

    • http://sinopathic.com terroir

      Wow, Mac, I guess you've got your own conversation going on. Good luck, and I hope that one of you Mac's will win in the end.