Confusion of The Three Kingdoms

Is anyone else confused by all the free to play MMORPGs that use the ‘Three Kingdoms’ theme? Just this month two more games set in this era of Chinese history were announced: Perfect World Entertainment’s Heroes of Three Kingdoms, and Aeria Game’s Kingdom Heroes.

Other MMORPGs already released with similar titles include Warriors of the Three Kingdoms and Three Kingdoms: The Battle Begins. And these are just the games with ‘Three Kingdoms’ in the title, almost every MMORPG with an Asian theme is set in or heavily borrows from the Three Kingdoms lore. But it doesn’t just stop at MMORPGs. Console gamers are no doubt familiar with the long running Dynasty Warriors series and perhaps even with the older Romance of the Three Kingdom series.

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To understand why so many Asian games share this setting, we must do a bit of research into the history of this era. Wikipedia, here we come! The Three Kingdoms period was a time of strife in China following the collapse of the Han Dynasty. Most Chinese historians consider the Yellow Turban Rebellion of 184 AD as the starting point of this period and the conquest of the Wu by the Jin Dynasty in 280 as the end point. 104 years isn’t a very long time, especially in the context of Chinese history, but The Three Kingdoms period has left its mark in the cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Memorable names like Lu Bu and Cao Cao and famous battles from this era have found their way into the collective imaginations of people across Asia, and to a growing extend across the West as well.

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If anyone deserves the credit for romanticizing this period and searing into humanity’s collective conscious it is Luo Guanzhong. Luo Guanzhong was a 14th century writer who authored Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a historic novel that chronicles the events of the era. As the name suggests, Mr. Guanzhong took certain liberties with the historic record and romanticized the story. In many ways, the Asian fascination with The Three Kingdoms is similar to the Western obsession with the tales of King Arthur, The Knights of the Round Table, and the whole medieval romanticism of  knights, castles, and chivalry.

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After reading a little more about the Three Kingdoms, I began to understand why it features so prominently in Asian games. The next time you play a game set in the era, take the time to read a little of the dialogue text and familiarize yourself with the locations and major personalities. Odds are you’ll continue to encounter them again and again in game after game. The scholarly among you may even want to read the novel though that is quite a daunting task; at over 800,000 words it is not easy summer reading.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with The Three Kingdoms. Have you played the Dynasty Warriors games on PS2? What about any MMORPGs that make use of the setting? Are you tired of quelling the Yellow Turban Rebellion over and over gain or are you still waiting for the definitive Three Kingdoms game?

By, Erhan Altay

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