Role cards (credit: TV Tropes)
The Werewolf game (狼人杀 in Chinese) has seen immense popularity in China in the past few years, proliferating online via game apps and live streaming platforms, as well as offline through social gatherings and schools.
For the uninitiated, the Werewolf game is based on the The Werewolves of Millers Hollow boardgame, in turn an adaptation of Mafia, a classic Russian party game. In the Werewolf game, each player is assigned a role that belongs to either of the two camps: the Werewolves or the Villagers, the latter including ordinary townsfolk and special characters such as Fortune Teller, Hunter, Witch, etc.
The game commences with the first night where all players close their eyes. A moderator calls for the Werewolves to open eyes and choose a target to kill. After this is done, the Werewolves close their eyes. The moderator then calls for the special characters to carry out their respective responsibilities. During the day, everyone ‘wakes up’, and the victim is revealed and put out of the game. Surviving players then discuss and vote for a player whom they suspect is a Werewolf. The player who receives the most votes is ‘lynched’ and the game goes into night-time again. The game continues alternating between night and day until all the Werewolves have been eliminated (a win for the Villagers) or when there are an equal number of Werewolves and Villagers (a win for the Werewolves).
Lying Man (credit: Zhanqi TV)
The popularity of the Werewolf game was kickstarted in 2015 by “Lying Man”, a reality game show featuring famous eSports personalities playing the Werewolf game. Produced by Zhanqi TV – a live streaming platform in China – the show enjoyed tremendous success at the onset, benefitting from a ready base of fans of these eSports personalities. These personalities are huge celebrities and influencers in the eSports world, and many of them rake in millions of dollars a year through tapping the huge eSports market in China, estimated to number to 100 million fans in 2016.
Panda Kill (credit: Panda TV)
It did not take long for rival streaming platform Panda TV to follow suit with their own version called “Panda Kill”. (Interesting tidbit: Panda TV is owned by Wang Sicong, son of China’s richest man Wang Jianlin.) This further pushed the awareness and popularity of the Werewolf game to feverish heights. It is only natural that these followers started to take the Werewolf game offline in waves by playing it at regional meetups and social gatherings. The Werewolf game is seen as an ideal icebreaker and bonding game, as game rules are simple and easy to pick up. Players can also improve on their speech and logical thinking through taking on various roles in the game.
As the user base of the game grew, many Werewolf game experts started coming through the ranks in regional tournaments and became mini-celebrities in their own right. They also organised and live streamed regular regional meetups, fuelling more interest from the general public.
JYClub Shanghai (credit: Qianlong)
As a testament to its explosive popularity, JYClub, a dedicated venue for players of Werewolf game, recently opened to much fanfare in Shanghai and hosted special games featuring many popular Werewolf game experts. It attracted tens of thousands of users during live streaming and earned a million yuan on opening day alone.
狼人杀 app (credit: iTunes)
A Werewolf game app boasting nearly one million paying users and hundreds of thousands of daily new users recently raised a few million yuan in funding. Even TV programmes like “Temptations of Dinner” had incorporated a Werewolf game segment.
No one knows how long the Werewolf game trend will last, but it is safe to say that it has succeeded in doing what many boardgames had failed in recent years: getting people to physically meet and interact with other like-minded peers in the good old-fashioned way.
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