Foreign Policy Magazine

Press ‘A’ to Study Harder

A new video game captures the anxiety of Chinese parenting.

MY SON IS HUNCHED OVER A TABLE stacked high with books, practice guides, and homework. Dramatic music blares as he studies for the intensely competitive gaokao; if he aces it, he’ll earn a place in one of China’s most prestigious colleges. If he doesn’t, he’ll be doomed to mediocrity. Fortunately, I’ve boosted his intelligence score while managing his stress levels and my parental satisfaction—and all of that is tracked by two bars at the top of the screen.

That’s because this stressful multitasking is taking place in a video game. Of course, for millions of Chinese parents, it remains a grueling reality—one rarely depicted in a national media that often portrays child-rearing

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