AI Game Mimicking Nosy Relatives Takes China by Storm
Every year in the runup to the Lunar New Year, young Chinese across the country mentally prepare themselves for the questions they will surely receive when they return home for their family reunions.
From queries about salaries to quizzing on marriage plans, the unavoidable interactions with nosy aunties and uncles can instill fear like no other, and has even prompted some to cut ties with the worst offenders.
But this year, a new AI-powered game is offering users a better way to mentally prepare for the daunting occasion.
The game, called “Epic Showdown: New Year Reunion,” allows users to converse with virtual relatives on a range of topics that often come up during awkward family reunions.
With just a few days left until the Lunar New Year, the game has exploded in popularity, amassing more than 1 million users since its launch in late January. As of Monday afternoon, the game is inaccessible due to technical issues caused by excessive traffic, the developer said.
In the game, users must field questions from eight aunties and uncles one by one at a virtual family reunion. Users can progress to the next relative by fielding their personal questions without provoking an angry response. The closer the relative, the harsher they are, with the game’s final bosses being the parents themselves.
The game was developed by a group of mostly university students in the eastern Zhejiang province. Shi Hongjie, the lead developer, told domestic media outlet Red Star News that he hopes the game can help improve communication between family members.
Wei Chenyang, 20, told Sixth Tone that the game manages to replicate real-life conversations with relatives and allows young people to vent their frustrations towards family members in a safe environment.
The game is the latest AI-powered chatbot from China to have familial ties as its focus. In recent months, chatbots mimicking arguments between romantic partners and conversations with departed loved ones have become popular while also causing controversy.
Below is a translated excerpt from Sixth Tone’s conversation with two aunties in “Epic Showdown: New Year Reunion,” edited for brevity and clarity.
Additional reporting: He Qitong; editor: Vincent Chow.
(Header image: Visual from VCG, reedited by Sixth Tone)