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‘Mole’s World’ game fuels nostalgia among Chinese

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A photo illustration shows a user playing the ‘Mole’s World’ game on a smartphone in Beijing. AFP

‘Mole’s World’ game fuels nostalgia among Chinese

A re-issue of one of Asia’s most beloved video games is taking the Chinese internet by storm 13 years after its original release, fuelling a wave of nostalgia among the country’s young adults.

The mobile version of “Mole’s World” has shot to the top of the free downloads on Apple’s app store and has also been downloaded millions of times on Android phones, boosting the share price of its maker by 25 percent in the week it was released.

First available for PCs in 2008, the farming simulation game features a round-faced creature with a clown nose who captured the attention of a generation of gamers a decade ago.

Players who once burrowed into Mole’s World as children are now adults who are showing their virtual farms to co-workers during office lunch breaks.

“I play it out of nostalgia for who I was when I played it back then,” said Zhao Yiping, a 24-year-old postgraduate student and long-time Mole fan.

The game’s popularity has given developer G-bits Network Technology’s Shanghai-listed stock a nearly 25 percent boost, pushing the company’s value to more than 41 billion yuan ($6.41 billion).

G-bits has marketed the relaunch of Mole’s World heavily to young adults, enlisting Chinese pop-punk band New Pants to play in a promotional video.

It is part of a wave of companies using nostalgia to sell products to young Chinese wanting an escape from the stress and uncertainty of adulthood.

Several 1990s-themed restaurants have sprung up in major cities and fresh interpretations of old-fashioned children’s snacks such as White Rabbit and Want-Want have been released.

Boosted by Covid-19 lockdowns, China’s online gaming industry raked in 279 billion yuan in 2020, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre.

Videos of players showing off their proud achievements in Mole’s World have received tens of thousands of views on Bilibili, China’s equivalent of YouTube.

The game is “definitely a way to decompress”, said Wang Jingwen, a 25-year-old Mole’s World fan.

“People born after the 90s are now the ones holding up society and face a lot of daily pressure studying or at work,” she said.

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