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How Did Paper Bride Become A Modern Symbol of Chinese Folk Horror

By Cecil Gao
Oct. 19, 2022 updated 08:00

At this year's Ghost Festival, the Chinese Folk Horror game Paper Bride released the latest work of the series and quickly trended as No.1 on Weibo.

The Paper Bride series is said to be one of the most phenomenal Chinese games in recent years on short video platforms. With nearly 2 billion plays of related videos, the game has undoubtedly become a modern symbol of Chinese folk horror.

When the first Paper Bride was released in 2021, the game's review was not that positive. Many players criticized Paper Bride's production as too rough, and the cheap UI design and simply clicking-screen gameplay make many players feel like they are "playing a Powerpoint." But soon, PaperBride reversed the reviews with several unique advantages.

Elaborated Chinese horror style

The paper bride series tapped into the taboo of Asian necrogamy (i.e., marriage after death).

In some Asian regions, when a young man passes away before getting married, his family would pay a high price to find a dead young girl as his partner in the afterlife. The "bride" would not always be legal, and in some extreme cases, the girl could be murdered for the bounty or as a disturbing sacrifice.

 The series doesn't have the most exquisite art style, but the design and the theme can be very. With the dilapidated temples in the countryside and empty mansions, Paper Bride has a special atmosphere in its art style that can only be experienced by people who have experienced China in its rawest form.

Developers need to carry out two to three months of data collection before they start developing the game.Developers need to carry out two to three months of data collection before they start developing the game.

The game also featured horror contexts from Chinese folk rituals: for example, paper effigies are mainly used for funerals but always appear in the wedding scene in games. The black and white charons that lead souls to hell are worshipped as gods in the temples. These scenes, which defy common sense, seem even more bizarre and uncomfortable in the overall oppressive ritual atmosphere.

The game also intersperses a lot of opera, traditional music, chess, and temple fair-related content, which is used as wedges for puzzles or metaphors for the plot. For example, each game's main characters' surnames corresponded to famous couples in Chinese folklore, further increasing the sense of immersion for Chinese players.

Successful mobile game business models

Paper Bride's puzzles are generally considered on the difficult side but very rich in design and flavor, and it's clear that the developers are spending a lot of passion and energy on designing them.

However, the game is often critized for its puzzle design, mainly becaue of its business model. The player can get a hint by watching ads whenever they gets stuck. The first few chapters are quite easy, but the puzzles become more and more difficult as the game comes to an end. Sometimes players would feel the developers are deliberately making the puzzles too hard to solve.

According to player communities' feedback, most players choose to watch the ads rather than search for gameplay videos and then solve the puzzles.

Whether they were too eager to experience the story as soon as possible or didn't want to be tortured by the puzzles any longer, it brought great commercial success to the developers of Paper Bride. There are even discussions about what type of ads players saw under the official's social media.

In addition to the clever ads, Paper Bride has a very mature story creation process. Since most of the series' games are about posthumous marriages and young couples, the ending of each work is also much the same. Lovers get happily ever after the various supernatural events and difficulties, and the warm ending also touches players after so much frightening and difficult puzzles.

Such a mature creation process allows the studio to compress the development to a very short time, Paper Bride can release new works almost every half of a year. Some people are a little upset about the more homogenized stories, but most are interested in the new folklore horror and touching love. In the highly competitive mobile market, Paper Bride found its own niche and became the most surprising dark horse in recent years.