Fans of Disco Elysium in China Suspect a Theatre Production has Misappropriated the Game

Even alleged plagiarism is not *HARDCORE*
By Isabella Jiangcheng
Dec. 1, 2021 updated 04:58

A poster for the recently held 4th 1905 International Contemporary Drama Festival has stirred up controversy among the Chinese gaming community. The poster welcomes the audience to buy the ticket for Jile Disco, a ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ piece written and directed by young director Zhou Guanyu. But what caught people’s attention is the Chinese name for the drama, Ji Le Disco (“极乐迪斯科“). The name is, coincidentally, exactly the same as the official Chinese title of the award-winning game Disco Elysium developed by ZA/UM.

The plot of the drama also bears some similarities with the storyline of the game. According to a casting post published on Oct. 15th on the festival’s official Wechat account, Jile Disco is an original piece that aims to discuss the idea of “making peace with inner selves and acknowledge the fact that everyone is imperfect in their own ways”. The main plot goes like this: the protagonist, an old-timey disco star who lives in his imaginative world, had found a dead body in his room when he woke up from a drunken night. He also encountered three partners, a business agent, a police officer, and an ex-lover to aid him in finding his way around in reality.

The casting post is still online despite the controversy The casting post is still online despite the controversy

Fans of Disco Elysium are now expressing their dissatisfaction on Chinese social media, causing widespread retweets. They argued that the plots are almost identical, but also since the word “Jile” (Elysium) is not commonly used in the Chinese language, it is blatant theft.

Many players went to the theatre’s art director Rao Xiaozhi’s Weibo and left bitter comments that demanded an answer for the alleged plagiarism. Rao first took his account private, and then replied to the original post exposing the issue, saying that he had never heard or played the game Disco Elysium. And that he would be investigating the matter. But in the end, Rao asked the public to give the theatre a little space before proving their guilt. 

However, the player who exposed the issue in the first place explained to Rao on Weibo that the fans of Disco Elysium have been trying to reach the theatre for the past two months via the theatre’s official Wechat account and the director’s email. Still, they never received any reply from the theatre. Because of the silence, the fans had decided to take the matter into the public realm. The player also said that she had reported the issue to the game’s localization team, Whisper Games, asking them to contact the developer ZA/UM to help with the investigation. 

The theatre crew behind the production released a statement on Nov. 30th, saying that the team does not tolerate any form of plagiarism or breach of intellectual property. A formal investigating group consisting of industry experts is now evaluating the matter. The crew has also started the refund process for the pre-sale tickets.