Game Developer Yang Geyilang Talks About Cult Hit 'Chinese Parents'

By Bryan Grogan, October 23, 2019

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For the Record is a regular series where we ask local tastemakers about a cultural niche. This month we spoke to game developer Yang Geyilang about cult gaming hit, Chinese Parents

Indie gaming is on the rise in China. At the forefront of some of the trendiest online games right now is Coconut Island Games, which released the 2018 hit Chinese Parents. The game is a life simulator, focusing on the relationship between children and their parents, as the user aims to raise a successful and happy child via an assortment of life choices. 

Highly topical and relatable for Chinese users, as well as a rich experiential game for non-Chinese users to better understand parenting in China, the game quickly amassed a cult following. Yang Geyilang, co-developer and artist of the game, spoke to us a bit more about the process of making Chinese Parents

Image courtesy of Coconut Island Games

“We started the project in November, 2017, and finished the development on September, 2018.

“Before, me and my friend Liu Zhenhao worked in a big gaming company together, and after years of work we wanted to make our own game, so we decided to quit and develop 'Chinese Parents.' We realized that parenting in China is a hot topic, and we were also fans of simulator games like 'Princess Maker' and 'Tokimeki Memorial,' so, we decide to make a sim about Chinese parenting.

“Because there was no programmer on our team, Liu had to learn how to use Unity (the game engine). Meanwhile, I did the graphic design and collected stories from Chinese families on Douban, Weibo and some other websites to make the stories more solid. 

Image courtesy of Coconut Island Games

“Then we build a Taptap store page about our game which surprisingly raised a lot of attention, though there was no playable demo available. Later, we co-operated with Coconut Island Games. With their suggestions and help, we polished the game and added in more systems. 

“Considering that China is a big country with different rules in different cities, we thought that when compared with building realistic algorithms, it was better to build simple ones. So, in the game, the algorithms are very simple and the connection between your gaokao score and your final job is very weak. The score of the gaokao only influences a small amount of the jobs, for example, if a user becomes a doctor.

“We knew the game might be a success because it raised a lot of attention when we did the test in June, but, we didn’t expect it would become as popular as it did.

Image courtesy of Coconut Island Games

“Most of the game’s players have been very nice and have recommended the game to friends. However, we’ve also had some interesting negative feedback. For example, some Chinese players gave negative feedback because, in the game, they entered a top university like Tsinghua University, but in the end, they become an taxi driver, so they thought that we look down upon those who graduated from top universities. Another interesting bit of feedback we got was that before we released the English edition, there were some English comments saying that this game was political propaganda, even though those users had no idea what the game was about. It was nice to see that after releasing the English edition, lots of foreign players did enjoy the game and helped to explain to others that this game is not propaganda.

“We only hope that the English edition of 'Chinese Parents' can help people from other countries learn more about the life of Chinese kids.

“We are thinking about the sequel, and we may make it into a series if possible.”

To learn more about Chinese Parents, click here.

[Cover image via Coconut Island Games] 

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