Chinese Phrase Results in Review Bombing of Kerbal Space Program

The subtle nuance of language has resulted in a bit of miscommunication in the indie hit.


Kerbal Space Program is one the most positively reviewed indie games on Steam, holding at "Overwhelmingly Positive" currently, and has maintained such for a couple years since releasing in April 2015. Review bombing, a practice used to protest a game or company for whatever reason, is when a large collection of users tank a game's rating with low scores and Valve implemented a new tool to combat this poor practice. It hasn't stopped some from trying anyway, as Kerbal Space Program has found itself in the crosshairs because of a change to a line of Chinese text.

Reported by PCGamesN, the phrase "without reaching Mun you are not a good male" was changed back in June when complaints pointed it out as sexist. The issue here is that specific Chinese characters in the phrase are used in a gender-neutral manner in China. Meaning "brave or strong hero", the characters can apply to males or females and the nuance of this was ignored or misunderstood when criticizing the full phrase. Better yet, the original phrase was a reference to a Chinese proverb that embraces the gender-neutral way to use the characters: "you’re not a [hero/true man] if you never got to the Great Wall".

Language is complex enough for native speakers so there's no surprise when nuance and subtleties such as this are lost in translation. Not saying this is the string of events that led to this, but when you snatch up some text foreign to yourself and use some tool like Google Translate, you will likely miss out on a lot of details. Is this worth a review bomb? Maybe. Maybe not. The new tool put in place by Valve will show exactly what happened for anyone looking to see what the game's true merits are, but this review bombing will also bring the concern to the forefront. We'll update this story if the developers decide to act on this.

News Editor

Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at

From The Chatty
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    October 11, 2017 8:45 AM

    Charles Singletary posted a new article, Chinese Phrase Results in Review Bombing of Kerbal Space Program

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      October 11, 2017 2:54 PM

      Wait so what does it say now? People are upset it says man?

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        October 11, 2017 10:42 PM

        Yeah, the article is confusing

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        October 12, 2017 1:06 AM

        From the source article, it seems it was a gender neutral phrase that someone incorrectly translated and then complained about. The devs changed it, but the Chinese are pissed because it was a well known proverb that had been bastardised. Oddly the source article doesn't say what it was changed to.

        Kind of like how we all know "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" has fuck all to do with gender, so we'd be annoyed if it was changed to "one small step for a person, one giant leap for people". Doesn't really roll off the tongue.

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          October 12, 2017 3:27 AM

          That's not it. Thematically it changed from one slogan like "One small step for man..." to a different but related slogan like "Kick the tires and light the fires". The only people upset online in China are the Chinese equivalent of Gamergaters, having decided themselves the reason for the change was pure feminism or something.

          They're the assholes, not the Kerbal team.

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      October 11, 2017 3:02 PM


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      October 11, 2017 4:55 PM

      I’ll be discussing this with one of my students this week. He’s a 20 year old electrical engineering student, really into video games. Last week we talked about Blizzard and toxic online communities. I’m interested to hear his perspective on this translation business with Kerbal.

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