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Esports forced out of China after anti-Japan protests


Anti-Japan protesters burn a Japanese national flag during a protest over the Diaoyu islands issue, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan, in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on September 18, 2012. Thousands of anti-Japan protesters rallied across China over a territorial row on a key historical anniversary, as Japanese firms including car giant Toyota shut or scaled back production in across the country.


Peter Parks

The spat between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands, known in China as the Diaoyu islands, has now gone too far.

The intensifying conflict has now forced the cancellation of the Intel Extreme Masters gaming tournament scheduled to be held later this month in Guangzhou, China.

The Intel Extreme Masters tournament was set to take place during the Anime Comics and Game Show, anime being the globally popular Japanese style of sequential art and animation. Anti-Japanese protests, however, broke out over the weekend in response to Japanese territorial claims to the small group of islands. 

“We are terribly sorry to disappoint esports fans that were expecting to enjoy the event, especially all Chinese esports fans. Unfortunately, the circumstances that forced the cancellation upon us were entirely beyond our control, though we understand and respect the decisions made by the Anime Comics and Games organizers,” said Michal Bilcharz, CEO of the Electronic Sports League, a Germany-based professional gaming organization behind the Intel Extreme Masters Cup.

More from GlobalPost: Gaming and geopolitics collide in Iran

Organizers were forced to cancel because a large number of the exhibitors at the convention were Japanese and were not granted entry into China or had their visas revoked. 

The tournament in Guangzhou was to be the final circuit stop before the season finals in March. Esports League staff has begun searching for an alternate location to host the event. Hundreds of professional gamers from countries in North America, Europe and Asia competing in a number of games were scheduled to appear at the Guangzhou tournament. 

Gaming and geopolitics collide more often than one might expect. Last month, Blizzard Entertainment stepped up its own enforcement of US trade restrictions on Iran by cancelling the accounts of Iranian players connecting to World of Warcraft through virtual private networks. 

In 2010, an island claimed by both North and South Korea was shelled by Pyongyang. Former South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae Young came under scrutiny for a delayed response to the attack. 

When asked why the South Korean response took 13 minutes, the minister replied, “This isn’t Starcraft.” 

He was later sacked over his mishandling of the situation. 

The Iranian government has also helped developm politically-motivated video games, including "The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict," a computer game in development by the Islamic Association of Students, a government-sponsored organization.

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Whether or not the game will be a first person shooter or a real time strategy game, or something entirely different, is still unknown. However, if anything is to be gleaned from the title given to the game, players will more than likely implement Khomeini’s Verdict — a death sentence. 

Iran has also banned the distribution of several games, including Battlefield 3, for its depiction of a US military incursion into Tehran.