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Title: Dishonor of Kings: The Monetization of Aesthetic in Contemporary Digital Media
Authors: Zepke, John
Advisors: Keulemans, Paize
Department: East Asian Studies
Class Year: 2022
Abstract: There exists a literature gap on video games despite their increasing socio-cultural significance to society. Analyzing the commercialization of aesthetic, I critically examine the groundbreaking MOBA, Honor of Kings, specifically through its reinterpretation of the historical figure Sun Bin. Dominating Chinese mobile charts, Honor of Kings balances historicity with fictionality—or at least, developer Tencent attempts to navigate these opposing goals. However, the articulation of historical figures in modern, magical contexts creates problems for historical accuracy. To reflect changing consumer culture, Tencent adopts database production when recontextualizing legendary characters for domestic Chinese audiences. For example, Tencent dresses Sun Bin in cliched moé elements purely designed to attract consumer attention. The result is widely-panned historical distortions that render iconic characters like General Sun Bin unrecognizable. Extricating narrative elements from nonnarrative elements, I theorize Tencent’s emphasis on the aesthetic under its aggressive monetization models. Pronounced monetization underlies Tencent’s preference for the nonnarrative, precipitating the creation of hollow, ornamental characters.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:East Asian Studies, 1951-2022

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