I Could Have Had A Career Built Around Busty Concubines, Sleazy Emperors and Scheming Eunuchs.

I’ve not had a peaceful night’s sleep since the lockdown started. I spent my nights, marinating in a stew of worry and regret, and guilt. Guilt for being so self-absorbed and for harbouring murderous thoughts about my audiophile of a neighbour, whose way of coping is to show off his eclectic music taste to anyone who could listen (which means me), through his very loud speakers. Hey man, I got the message — you’re Cool Dude because you listen to psychedelic rock, gangsta rap and jazz. Now can you turn it down before the last thing you hear is the maniacal howl I let out as I do the jig around your bleeding body?!

Ahem. Where was I?

One of the regrets that leave my eyes open and blinking in darkness is this: Why oh why, didn’t I possess the foresight of turning the obsession I once had with Chinese Palace Dramas into something I could monetise? If I had done that, I could have made money off people’s need to have some semblance of control and power during these uncertain times. Ah, woe is me!

Okay, jokes aside…wait was I even joking? Right. Lately I’ve been served with a bunch of YouTube ads coaxing me to download mobile games. Now that everyone’s stuck at home, it makes sense for the game providers to present their creations as effective boredom killers — things you fill your time with until your next armpit hair plucking session begins.

I don’t mind the ads. The kind of mobile game ads I’ve been getting at first seemed pretty PG-13. There was one that involved mind exercises that prompt you to move barriers around a tricky maze so that water can flow down the right pipes and gush into the area where an almost-dead fish is waiting to be rehydrated. I’ve never been tempted to download any of these games. Why dabble with quizzes that tickle the mind when I’d rather fill it with doom and gloom? Pass!

Then, I started getting mobile role-playing game ads that are not so much for the intellect but would, I suspect, do lots for the libido. The ads peddled games that featured chesty concubines with boobs so big I’m surprised that the unrealistically tiny waist could support them at all. They also paraded sleazy emperors who look like they have only one thing in mind — boobs. The games came with names like “Emperor and Beauties” and “Concubines with Killer Weapon Thighs”. (I made up the last one.) And the nature of the games? They mainly revolve around this premise: Choose your weapon of seduction, scheme your way from the bedroom to the throne as Trusted Head Concubine. And victory is yours!

Do I want to Be The King? Hmm…(Picture courtesy of Google Image. )
Finger, don’t click “Get”….don’t click it. (Picture courtesy of Apple App Store.)
Juicy story? I can tell you how this is going to pan out. (Picture courtesy of Google Image.)

The one ad that got me watching from the beginning till the end (and cursed me with more lowbrow mobile game ads that followed) had snippets that showed me what to expect should I be intrigued enough to download the game. A game with a name I’ve forgotten. Probably due to the fact that I was greatly distracted by the scene of a busty (of course!) concubine — the protagonist — attempting to poison another fellow concubine who’s pregnant. Now any Chinese Palace Drama expert knows that a concubine carrying a possible future emperor in her belly poses a huge threat. So in that scene, I was presented with these choices I could pick as the role-playing protagonist concubine:

A) Poison the fellow concubine’s food

B) Poison her bath water

C) Poison her dress

D) Poison her blanket

Didn’t manage to get a screenshot, so I have to rely on my vivid imagination.

Naturally, the ad was supposed to be a teaser to whet my appetite, so I had no idea how the story would go on if I were to pick one of the options. Was I tempted to be the proud patron of such a fine piece of work? It took me every ounce of restraint I usually reserve for new Netflix series whispering my name, not to begin my life as a virtual bedmate living in a harem. I know how the pit of a rabbit hole looks like; I don’t want to emerge from the lockdown with a brain the size of a bunny pellet.

The time I could have spent on satisfying horny monarchs and killing hussies getting in my way, is used instead on lamenting my life choices. I could have been on the other side of the picture — the one luring people to pick one out of four ways of poisoning the enemy. I could have created my own Chinese Palace Drama game.

Thinking of a game plot would have been easy peasy for me. I used to watch a healthy amount of made-in-Hong Kong TVB Chinese Palace Dramas back in the day. By healthy amount, I mean..the usual 10-episode-a-day kind of healthy. Bingeing was impossible for me, the dramas usually came in 40-episode VCD packs and the thought of watching all 40 in one sitting is making my eyeballs quiver in fear right now.

Unpopular opinion: Palace Dramas are better than K-Dramas. I’m ready to be pelted by rotten fruits.

After years of being a connoisseur of Chinese Palace Dramas, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that they are unabashedly predictable. I’m sure a palace drama playbook is readily available for the lazy drama writer who’s doing it as a part-time gig while he or she secretly writes an arthouse movie screenplay. So take it from the self-proclaimed expert here — a Chinese Palace Drama must have these ingredients.

The sleazy Chinese emperor who is not fit to rule because of his sex-addled brain. Instead of coming up with battle plans, he’s busy strategising ways of kidnapping commoners to fill his overcrowded harem with.

The long-suffering ageing empress whom the douchebag emperor sees as expired goods, despite his own raisin-like, shrivelling appendage. Ageism and sexism at their finest, I tell you!

The emperor’s son, the prince, who’s usually kind-hearted and ends up getting killed because you know, L.O.V.E is dangerous. Yeah, the fool of a prince who always falls in love with one of daddy’s many women and whose romantic side never fails to lead to him to his demise. Which usually involves his legs and arms being chained to horses dying to turn him into shredded meat.

And the protagonist, the hero concubine herself. She’s usually the innocent village girl who starts off doe-eyed and rosy-cheeked. Until she gets snatched up by guards and eunuchs to be presented to the emperor. She turns evil and puts on scary make-up midway through the series after discovering that love is cruel, friendships with other concubines are toxic and it’s better to be at the top of the palace food chain than to wait for the day when you get thrown into the cobwebbed palace that houses former concubines.

As the adage goes, rules exist to be broken. Somehow, I have the feeling that the Chinese Palace Drama playbook did land on the laps of the game creators. Look, people, hire me and I can break the rules or at least mix things up a bit. Instead of the same-old, same-old “sleeping your way to the top” storyline, I could go with these ideas for a brand new addictive Chinese Palace Drama RPG game:

Idea one: You know the abandoned place where all the once-favoured, dumped and rejected concubines go to? Why not have a game where gamers can simulate the role as a crazy but determined ex-concubine trying escape the prison she’s been thrown into after failing to quench the thirst of a pervy emperor. There will be obstacles, of course. Guards will chase after you and you’ll need to grab the koi fish from each pond and throw them at the guards, causing them to explode. I’ll call it Revenge of the Rejected Concubines or maybe…Concubines Crossing! No? Moving on then.

This game might just happen, y’know. Any collaborators?

Idea 2: How about a game where you have to be THE male concubine trying to get under the empress’ thick and heavy robes? Where you need to perform acts like belly dancing and bathe sexily while making bedroom eyes in a bathtub filled with petals to advance to the next stage? Seriously, why do women have to be cast in the role of the evil seductress all the time? Say what? This game actually exists? You’re saying that I missed the boat again? Damn you!

My inner curious cat compelled me to paw my way through the reviews for one of the many Chinese Palace Games — Emperors and Beauties. The reviews are mainly made of complaints about the tech and user experience. There was nothing juicy in the vein of “Oh! Can you please change the look of the concubine because she looks too much like my ex!” There were no feminists ranting about how these games treat women as sex objects that exist only to please men. It was not all complaints though. Someone did leave a compliment that read — “Nice game. Gives me freedom.” Freedom? Well, pushing aside the fact that our digital selves only have 4 life-altering options to choose from, I must admit there is a kind of freedom one can enjoy in game world.

Be it in a virtual battlefield or a virtual palace, you are freed from the moral shackles which could otherwise prevent you from exacting revenge on your nemesis. After all, in real life, you can’t simply poison anyone who gets in your way or plays loud music to assault your ears on a whim.

Speaking of which, I have an idea! How about a game where we get to hunt down noisy, inconsiderate neighbours and zap them into oblivion? If there’s a lesson I could gain from these Chinese Palace Drama game ads, it’s never miss an opportunity to turn your obsession into a money-making enterprise.

So hit me up, if anyone wants to collaborate. I already have a name — Nuke the Noisy Neighbours.

A writer. A fangirl. A human being trying to stay afloat during this chaotic time.

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