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Video games take tourism to new level

By HU YUYAN | China Daily| Updated: July 27, 2021 L M S

Developers collaborating with scenic spots to bring in influx of tourists

"It's such a nice surprise to see the buildings, clothing, props and characters from a video game in the real world," enthused a fan of Moonlight Blade, an online role-playing game developed by Tencent Games.

She was attending the opening ceremony for Tianyi House, a physical recreation of its namesake building featured in the wuxia (martial arts and chivalry)-themed game, at Red Stone Forest Resort in Furong town in Central China's Hunan province on June 22.

Red Stone Forest Resort is one of a growing list of tourist attractions that are joining hands with video game developers to marry the virtual with the physical to woo young people and test out a new approach to cross-industry collaboration.

The combination of games and tourism holds a lot of appeal for young consumers, Huang Donghong, deputy director of the Hunan Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, was quoted as saying by local newspaper Xiaoxiang Morning Herald.

The model takes tourism beyond sightseeing by creating tourist routes and immersive tourist experiences centered around video games, she said.

Hu Xiao, an executive with Moonlight Blade, told Xiaoxiang Morning Herald that the recreation of buildings from the video game appeals to the emotional needs of gamers and offers them an opportunity to experience the local culture.

Tencent's online resources including its video platform, animation platform and WeChat will be mobilized to help boost the popularity and tourist traffic to Red Stone Forest Resort, according to Hu.

The village of Zhuge Bagua in Lanxi city of the eastern province of Zhejiang is another example of collaboration between tourist attractions and game developers.

Legend has it that the village was built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) by the offspring of Zhuge Liang (181-234), a politician and a master strategist. It is home to a large number of residential buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), which are laid out in a bagua pattern (the eight diagrams in Taoism).

To maximize the value of its cultural assets, the village teamed up with Duoyi Network in 2019 in what was Zhejiang's first collaborative project between a game developer and a scenic spot, according to the Lanxi government.

The collaboration revolved around Duoyi Network's Shenwu game franchise, which incorporates the culture, structures, crafts and architectural techniques of the village.

"Zhuge Liang's wisdom is evident in the layout, the buildings and also the family traditions of the village. They give us an abundance of inspiration for developing our games," said Yan Haibing, vice-president of Duoyi Network.

Outside China, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the United States opened a virtual museum on Nintendo game Animal Crossing: New Horizons when it was forced to temporarily close its doors amid the COVID-19 outbreak last year.

Elements from video games permeate myriad aspects of people's lives, and cross-industry collaboration built on intellectual property derived from video games is able to help tourist destinations tap the huge fan base of video games, Lyu Huibo told China Culture Daily. Lyu is an analyst with CNG, a research institute specializing in the gaming industry.

Tourist attractions, with their natural and cultural assets, can also serve as a source of inspiration for game developers, Lyu added.