Taiwanese video game developers are launching a new horror game based on Taiwan’s 38 years of martial law and traditional Taiwanese ghost stories.

"Detention," the first game developed by Taiwanese company Red Candle Games (赤燭遊戲), is set in Taiwan’s White Terror period, which lasted from 1948 to 1987 and saw thousands of people killed, imprisoned and disppeared.

The game’s plot follows two high school students trying to escape from a school. Among the game’s visual references to martial law are a hanging noose, government-related signs on the school’s bulletin board, and a teacher who is removed after encouraging students to read “improper” books.

During the 38-year martial law period under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and the Kuomintang (KMT), people who promoted liberal ideas were detained or even killed by the government. While exact figures are not known, an estimated 4,500 people were executed and 140,000 imprisoned. Signs that encouraged people to report other citizens to authorities could be seen across the country, including in schools.

A demo version of "Detention" was introduced to players on May 13 ahead of the final version, which is expected to be launched in August to coincide with Taiwan’s Ghost Month.

The game was introduced via Steam Greenlight, an international online platform that shares video games. According to the Red Candle, nearly 20,000 players around the world have already tested the game.

“We are very happy that our production can be seen globally,” Red Candle Games wrote in a post. “We hope to meet all players’ expectations and will try our best to improve the quality of the game.”

In addition to the White Terror theme, Red Candle also hopes to represent traditional Taiwanese culture in the game, including Taoism and several other customs. Rice, temples, amulets and shrines are used in the game as key items to "save" the characters.

In one of the scenarios, the characters must give ghosts bowls of rice. In Taoism, one should eat as much of the rice as possible before one's spirit leaves the body. Rice is usually placed besides the feet of the deceased as a sacrificial offering.

Esor, an online gamer, says that he likes the atmosphere in the game, which quickly engages the players. “The background music, with an oriental feeling, outlines the story so delicately.”

Another gamer wrote: “The story outline is very special. Since school ghost stories are more popular in Japan than in Taiwan, there are very few video games that are based on terror in schools.” She regards "Detention" as a breakthrough for Taiwanese video games.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang