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Articles - CfP Topic

Vol. 9 No. 1 (2023): Paradise Lost. Presentation of Nostalgic Longing in Digital Games

Reconfiguring Daoist Cultivation in a Video Game: A Case Study of AMAZING CULTIVATION SIMULATOR

October 27, 2022


With AMAZING CULTIVATION SIMULATOR (GSQ Studio, CN 2019) as a case study, this article analyses how this video game reconfigures the practice of self-cultivation, which has deep roots in religious Daoism, and how it was inspired by online novels in a contemporary context. The game draws on Daoist worldviews, the five elements, and cultivation methods which can be found in the Daoist scriptures. However, the
religious elements presented in the game are more aligned to reformed 20th century Daoism, while the game developers’ interpretation of cultivation follows secular and nationalistic discourses from the 20th century onwards. Those facts collectively mark the distance between the game and pre-20th century cultivation tradition, which is underpinned by the abundant Daoist texts. In addition, cultivating transcendent novels, mainly distributed online, provide readers with some cultivation narrations which are relevant but alternative to the Daoist cultivation tradition. The game borrowed features from such online novels, so that the content of the game is in fact a contemporary reconfiguration of  heterogeneous sources. The game’s popularity and commercial success not only suggest that players accept such reconfiguration of cultivation, but also concede that the game somewhat satisfies the contemporary comprehension of cultivation tradition. Through the media of video games, Daoist
cultivation tradition is stimulated but reconstructed in the contemporary context.